Link building is alive and more important than ever!
Before, building any kind of link was sure to give you SEO benefits.
But now, only the best links get recognition in Google’s eyes.
Great links give your site authority and a lot of traffic.
The only catch is that you’ll need to really work on building high quality links instead of making junk ones.
A hundred links may only contain a few, really good ones. Most marketers tend to give up building links via outreach because they’re used to using shady methods to get more links in less time and getting more instant gratification. This leads them to believe it’s not really worth the effort to do it properly, because good link building takes time…
Smart marketers tend to optimise their link building tactics and as a result, get better conversion rates.
Want to know the secret to improving and optimising your outreach for link building to get awesome conversion rates?
You’ve come to the right place. Keep reading and I’ll show you.
#1 Don’t ask for a link straight away
Let’s start with writing up a really great outreach email.
Maybe you’ve just created an epic blog post and you’re looking to get links for it. An email outreach campaign can get the job done as long as you follow the rulebook:
- Use a polite tone
- Don’t be too pushy
- Don’t make it seem like you just want to get a link
Back in the day, you could potentially acquire 10, maybe 20 links for every 100 emails sent as long as you asked nicely and didn’t have any misspellings or bad grammar.
Today, you’d be lucky to get a dozen response. What happened?
Lazy marketers are to blame…
They started copying and pasting templates that were meant to be used as guidelines. Here’s an example from our link building guide:
I came across your incredible [INDUSTRY/NICHE] resource page (LINK) and wanted to give you a quick pitch for inclusion.
I’ve created a new piece of content about [TOPIC] that I think would be great for your readers.
If interested, you can check it out here (LINK).
Have a great day!
The result? Blog owners and businesses start getting spammed with similar-looking emails asking for links.
What do these bloggers do? Understandably, they treat it as spam and delete it right away.
Now, let me ask you this: Would you read an outreach email if the first few sentences contain a link right away?
Probably not. It’s an obvious sign that the email sender wants something from you.
People don’t like being used. This is a fact of life. More often than not, these people will delete your email as soon as they get suspicious.
So what do you do in these cases? The opposite. If bloggers are sending links right from the start, then do things a bit different. Don’t insert any links at all in your first email!
Here’s an example. Instead of “Hey, I’ve got a great dog training guide that will knock your socks off! [LINK]”
Why not this? “Hi, I noticed that most of your posts are about dogs. I did some research and found an obscure training technique that really worked well. If it’s not too much trouble, I’d like to know what you think about it. Can I send you the link?”
This gets the person to think that you’re sending something that actually benefits them, which in turn gets a response of something like, “Sure, why not. Send it over.”
While this does not guarantee a link, you’re more than likely to get a conversion if you have great content.
#2 Keep it short
Remember the lazy marketers who copy email templates?
Forget them. The person I want to talk about are the marketers who go the extra mile.
Good marketers are awesome because they put their effort in everything they do.
But sometimes this attitude presents a certain disadvantage when it comes to creating emails.
More specifically, sometimes the email can be too long.
Think about it for a second. A typical reader won’t have 10 minutes to spare reading a thousand-word email.
They’ll likely look at it, see the length and promptly press the “delete” button.
The bottom line here is you shouldn’t try hard to make a connection.
Keep it simple and straight to the point. Save the story for when you get a reply.
A good email outreach would be around 4 to 6 sentences, or under 200 words. Try to keep this in mind when crafting your next email.
Too long, didn’t read!
#3 Don’t ask them to do too much
Would you refuse a person who asks you to take a picture while you’re out in the streets?
Probably not. But you would certainly say no when that very same person who asks you to do a photo session that lasts for an hour.
My point is that the more you ask of your target, the less they’re likely to agree.
Sure, you’ll need to insert the link somewhere in the conversation, but how do you do it?
Would you send this “Hey there. Here’s a link to my content. I’d appreciate it if you could put this up anywhere in your website.” and expect a positive response?
Probably not. It’s too much work, really.
The blogger will have to do a lot of things.
They will have to read your content, do some digging in their old blog posts AND find a suitable spot from where they could insert your link.
Sad to say, but this is the reason why you have a low conversion rate. The only way to get a chance is to make it easy for them to link to your content.
Here’s a few ideas for you:
- Find content within the blogger’s website that will make a perfect fit for your link. Write up some additional text to make the link fit in their content naturally.
- Send an embed code if you’re promoting infographics.
- Offer the blogger future content that can prove to be very useful, highly informative and engaging. Make sure your link fits in this content.
- Offer to edit and improve past blog posts as leverage for posting your link. Send the finished text in a format for easier posting.
These are just a few examples you can try out. Make it easy for them to say yes!
#4 Make sure you’re emailing the right person
One surefire way to get zero conversions is to send your email to the wrong person.
This may sound stupid, but it does happen.
You could be sending dog training links to bloggers whose niche is home improvement.
Or, you could be making subtle mistakes with your targeting.
How does this happen? For one, you could be targeting the wrong bloggers when you use your marketing tools.
You’ve written an amazing guide on how to do social media marketing the right way.
Now, you’re doing a search for the appropriate sites to send your link to.
You type in “marketing” and get sales bloggers, paid advertising sites and SEO companies. The only problem is, these aren’t the best fit for your content.
Sure, you’ll get a few responses when you send 500 emails, but most of them will just delete your email.
Why? Because it’s clear that you don’t have an idea of what these bloggers do and what they write about.
While it’s true that this tactic may sometimes be used to get links in a niche that’s somewhat related to yours, you’ll have to explain why you’re doing this and how they can benefit from it.
To get a higher conversion rate you’ll need to target sites that are most likely to respond to your link request.
Take the time to weed out the irrelevant contacts and you’ll gain a higher conversion rate in terms of bloggers who will want to link to you.
Use tools like Hunter.io to find people’s emails.
#5 Read the guidelines
Think guidelines aren’t important?
An outreach email that says something like, “Hey there. I’d love to brainstorm some ideas with you on how we can promote our products better.”
The recipients immediate thought will be, “Why would I want to help someone with their campaign idea? It’s their job.”
Simply put, it’s the incorrect approach. Come up with an idea before you actually start sending the emails – this could be anything from a guest post topic to a product review angle.
There will be times when the blogger will actually want to talk things out or share their ideas with you. In this case, it’s best to have an idea of what they’d want in order to convince them to participate. Think about what matters for them and start from there.
Keep in mind that what matters for them doesn’t always concern payment. Some bloggers are just looking for an opportunity to get some awesome content for their blog, while others will want a product they can review.
Focus on your target’s wants and you’ll have an easier time convincing them to participate.
#6 Make a phone call
In this age of instant communication and emails, will a phone call really work?
A cold call to a blogger before sending out any kind of email will most likely be a bad idea.
But a well-placed call after a few emails exchanged can really prove to be helpful.
Consider these situations:
- A phone call can be the push you’re looking for if the blogger is undecided.
- You can answer any questions or concerns in real time.
- A call is much more personal compared to an email, which can build a trusting relationship early on.
- You set yourself apart from the other marketers when you make a phone call.
Keep in mind that a phone call requires careful judgment and it should be done at the right time.
Granted, there are some bloggers who prefer to deal solely via email, but it can’t hurt to try. A phone call can be the deciding factor in convincing a blogger to work with you.
#7 Always. Be. Testing
There’s always room to improve your email outreach.
To see how well you’re doing, you should always be testing and measuring key metrics.
Email clients such as Mailshake allow you to track vital elements in your email campaign, i.e. opens, response rates, etc. and even enable you to do some split testing.
You wouldn’t want to go full automation though, because outreach still requires some sort of personalisation, or that “human touch”.
You can achieve better balance by testing out key factors such as opening sentences, sign offs and subjects. These elements can be replicated for all your email without affecting the human aspect, and yet they can be effective in improving open and response rates.
If you don’t want to use an email client, you can record your tests in a spreadsheet. The important thing is to make sure you’re keeping track of tests, whichever way you do it.
By keeping track of what works and what doesn’t, you’ll eventually get the winning formula.
Keep in mind that not all bloggers will respond to the same formula, so keep on working, tweaking and striving towards success!
Optimising your outreach for link building campaigns is important if you want to make the most of your time.
The higher the conversion rate, the more traffic your site gets and the more revenue it makes.
Now that you’ve read my tips for improving your email outreach for link building, it’s time to stop thinking and start improving!
It’s truly possible to get double or even triple your current conversion rate if you follow my advice. This alone can make a huge difference in both marketing performance and your site’s success.
A user’s mobile behaviour can be made up of four distinct ‘mobile moments’:
- I want to moments
- I want to go to moments
- I want to do moments
- I want to buy moments
These micro-moments, well documented by Google are key to understanding how the behaviour of a user on a mobile device differs from that of a person rooted to their desktop machine. Is your website geared for these mobile micro-moments?
I want to moment:
How many people watch TV with their mobile device? According to a 2015 survey it’s 87%. Optimising for ‘second screening’ should be a key consideration for brands. The synergies are obvious, if a user is watching TV and want to know more they will reach for their mobile device. Outside of the TV analogy, a user may want to visit your business – are you visible on Google Maps?
I want to go moments:
This is where mobile visibility on Google is essential. With 82% of people using their phone to find a location, making sure your map pack uses your correct address is essential. In tandem with the “I want to” moment your website is the shop window to the mobile consumer and first impressions count.
I want to do moments:
As well as the map and first impressions the ‘I want to do’ moment should really convey to the mobile user the experience the consumer will enjoy should they choose your brand or business. If you’re a hotel, say, – sell the experience and make sure the experience your customers will receive is optimised for small screens as well as large.
I want to buy moments:
More and more people are using their phone, not only to browse products they like the look of they will also be using their mobile device to transact. Indeed, with the rise of subscription services like Amazon Prime the mobile experience has become embedded into the consumer buying cycle. Your eCommerce experience should be seamless, cross device and, where possible, even more optimised for mobile to make the experience truly frictionless.
Mobile offers the opportunity to influence purchasing behaviour across the consumer buying cycle from the Zero Moment of Truth (I want to) to the Ultimate Moment of Truth (buying or receiving a product). With more people using mobile devices to access websites now than fixed terminals your website’s design should truly be mobile first. So, if you have commissioned a new website and the web designers show you how it looks on a computer screen, they should probably think again and think more mobile.
Digital has disrupted B2B sales and marketing completely over the last decade or so. Indeed, the old perception of a distinction between the roles that ‘marketing’ and ‘sales’ play in getting new clients has been completely blurred. Like B2C marketing the old, interruptive ways of reaching new customers are no longer as effective. Whilst there still may be a role for cold calling, trade shows and even show rooms, the web has democratised information and if a potential prospect wants to find out some information about a product or a service the first thing they’ll do is Google it. The benefits of being in mind when someone Google’s a product or service should be obvious. How you achieve this mindshare is a different story. We wanted to share our insight and experience as to how we do it in this ultimate guide to B2B content marketing.
Part 1. You’re the expert… so tell people!
The eminent business executive, author and consultant Steuart Henderson Britt once said: “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.” In a content marketing context, if you’re in business you need to tell people about what you do as well as why and how. There are lots of ways you can do this and here’s what we would recommend as a starter for ten.
I blog, therefore I am
Every WordPress website comes with an easy to use, intuitive blogging feature – use it! The written word is a way for you to tell people exactly what you do and how you do it. It also gives you a chance to show off your credentials.
The importance of having up to date and fresh content on your site has been well documented. You’ll also be surprised at how much of an expert you are and how you can use this content across the web to get those all-important eyeballs on your site.
If you’ve completed some work for a client and the methodology you employed to solve that client’s problem really worked, tell people. Expertise and Thought Leadership in an industry are great signals for a potential customer. Being special and different will make you stand out from the crowd and put you in a great position.
The accepted wisdom for a case study format is generally:
- The problem or challenge
- The solution
- The results
Producing case studies will show how you have thought about and solved a problem and made a difference to a client’s business.
As an extension of the blog theme, white papers really give you the chance to show off your credentials. Whilst a blog post can be more overtly self-promotional, a white paper should be more of a technical and in-depth document and backed up with evidence.
In essence the white paper should pose a problem, explore and potentially solve it. It should have an inherent value to the reader — white papers are classic Thought Leadership pieces and should show your expertise. Given the nature of the medium they are also great lead magnets. In essence, you are offering to exchange your intellectual property for a prospect’s permission to be marketed to. Gathering opt-in email addresses is a great way to get qualified traffic to your website.
Permission based email communication is a great way to keep in touch with your customers and prospects. If you are producing great content, than sending out an email to tell people about it is a great way to syndicate it. The point about permission is a very important one, in light of the impending GDPR legislation – so always get an explicit opt-in. We would also recommend using a good Email Service Provider (ESP) to send these emails so you can manage un-subscribes and segment your lists. Here’s some more tips on effective email marketing.
The end of the start
Content Marketing for B2B businesses is a huge topic and there is admittedly a lot more to consider than the points we have addressed above. We shall be re-visiting this topic in a lot more detail where we shall delve a little deeper into the science behind producing content and the strategies involved in our next post.
Part 2. B2B content Marketing – a deeper dive
In this section, we shall cover in far more detail the points you will need to consider to successfully execute your content marketing strategy. The points we have considered before are more of a manifestation of the strategy and the channels. In this section, we shall discuss in much greater depth how you create the content, which will be distributed via these channels.
Think about what you want to achieve
Many businesses fall into the trap of thinking they should just ‘do’ content marketing without really thinking about why. We are big advocates of creating personas for us and our clients. Addressing the needs of a person, or a business will help you shape your tone of voice and the pain points you can help with.
Let’s create a fictional business to give this some context.
Let’s say Dan is an energy broker. He wants to get business leads, he knows who his sweet-spot audience is by looking at his customer base. Dan can surmise that he wants to deal with a large SME who has 200 staff in one location. He deals, generally, with manufacturing businesses that are energy hungry and are always looking to minimise their costs. Dan also knows that given the size of the business he wants to talk to that they, generally, have an Operations Manager.
He can now create a persona…
Name: Peter Smith, 44
Title: Operations Manager of a £30 million + plastics manufacturer in The North East
Micro concerns: Cost Efficiencies
Macro concerns: How Brexit will affect his and his colleague’s jobs
The manifestation of this exercise is a solid content marketing idea: “How manufacturing businesses can reduce energy costs now, and post BREXIT”
Dan’s secondary market is a care home provider, typically based over multiple locations. Dan knows, from experience, these institutions are also power hungry but most of the gas and electricity usage is in the evenings.
Name: Jocelyn Brown, 55
Title: Joint MD (with her husband)
Micro concerns: Cost Efficiencies
Macro concerns: Reduction in funding from government for social care
Content idea: “Future proofing multiple location energy usage long term”
Where are they in the funnel?
We know decisions in B2B are rarely taken ad-hoc. Often multiple stakeholders are involved in making purchasing decisions and, many decisions need to be backed up with a business case. You can shape your content strategy based on specific stages (gathering information, ready to buy) or all of them, depending on the perceived needs of your specific personas.
This sounds complex, but it isn’t really. If a potential buyer is in the ‘I want to be educated and informed’ stage your content should seek to do just that.
Let’s return to the persona’s we created earlier and the fictional Energy Broker prospect. Peter may not have been asked directly to explore the energy market and the potential impact it could have on his business but the chances are he will find it interesting and relevant if you pose a series of questions and answer them.
If Peter has been asked directly to explore cost efficiencies by changing energy supplier, he is now further down the funnel. In this case, it might make more sense to talk about how frictionless the experience of swapping supplier can be, as well as the long-term benefits of buying in advance etc. to avoid an increase in costs further down the line.
In both the scenarios above specific pieces of content could be produced or could answer both.
House style and tone of voice
Our biggest of advice here would be, do not let your junior members of staff loose with your brand identity. Everything you put on the web will be judged, and each pair of eyeballs that lands on the content you produce is a potential lead.
Our first step would be to start with a lexicon for your business. These terms can be formed from your keyword research or could be terms, which you believe, set you apart from the crowd. To return to the Energy Broker scenario earlier, Dan might think of himself as an ‘Energy Broker’ but the market and his customers will call him an ‘Energy Consultant’:
It’s easy to fall victim to this mistake. For instance, an ‘Integrated Marketing Agency’ could call themselves that or a ‘Full-Service Agency’ but, in reality, their potential clients could be using terms like ‘Marketing Agency’ or ‘Marketing Consultant’ – a bit of customer research at this point will be invaluable.
In terms of look and feel of the material (like white papers or infographics), you are putting out there you will need to make sure that the obvious brand guidelines for your business have been followed. Remember, PDF’s presented as lead magnets on your website are part of your website and the look and feel should be the same as the rest of the content on your site.
Part 3. Creating a calendar
It’s important to create a calendar and, even if you don’t stick to it, it will help shape your focus. If content is put out ad-hoc it will come across as such, your calendar should take into account of your audience’s potential buying behaviour as well as your internal resources, which will dictate what type of content you should create and syndicate.
For the purposes of creating our calendar, lets put us back in the shoes of Dan, our energy broker:
Here, our fictitious energy broker is thinking strategically about how his services can reach people at the right time to make his company be perceived as the expert voice. He is using content he can create easily (energy news round up’s) and that is genuinely interesting to the target personas he has created (ways to save, market size etc.)
Part 4. How to monitor success (or otherwise)
You have now started your content marketing program – great! Now what happens? If you have asked your boss to put the budget into your content marketing project you are going to need to demonstrate some results. We tend to assess the efficacy of our content marketing efforts using the metrics below:
- Meaningful web traffic – Traffic on its own is a vanity metric. To us, a ‘successful’ visit will be deemed as such if it is a deep and meaningful one. What is a deep? A ‘deep visit’, we consider being someone who has been on our website for three to four minutes or more. A meaningful visit is someone who has come on to our website and consumed one or two pieces of content.
- More qualified traffic from your chosen vertical targets – IP sniffing technologies, like Leadworx or others, can tell you what businesses have visited your site. If you know that more and more of the types of business you want are consuming relevant content on your site, you’re obviously doing the right thing. Sites like LinkedIn can be used to make educated assumptions about the people within a business that could be consuming the content on your site. These visits could be passed over to a business development manager as a potential business lead. Adding business leads to a sales departments pipeline is always going to be a huge KPI for a B2B marketer.
- Size of your email database – If your email database is going to get larger (organically) through the interesting content you are creating and syndicating, this is an obvious and tangible metric that can be reported on and should be a key KPI in B2B content marketing.
- Goal completions in Analytics – This may potentially be more of a vanity metric but if you know your website is leading people from point A, to point B and resulting in C, you know you’re doing the right thing.
- Social Listening tools – Use social listening tools, like socialmention.com, to see how other people are using the content you are producing, then monitor this over time to see how it (hopefully) increases.
The key thing you need to do is always look at the numbers and if the numbers are going in the wrong direction, kill it, fast. Like all digital marketing activity, you need to be highly agile and iterate all the time depending on what is or isn’t working.
So, if you are syndicating content on LinkedIn hoping to reach a certain target persona and it’s resulting in more web visits from your competitors perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board with your personas. Similarly, if you are producing content and distributing via social (maybe on LinkedIn Pulse) and you are not seeing an uptick in web traffic perhaps you are focusing on the wrong channel.
If you have skipped to the end of this document here are our top five golden rules for a successful B2B content marketing programme:
- Create buying personas – Addressing specific pain-points will help your potential customers and make your voice an expert one in a crowded marketplace.
- Have a plan – To fail to plan is to plan to fail. Your plan should include your content calendar, where you are now and where you want to be.
- Have a content leader – You need to be perceived as an expert voice. Emoji’s and typographic errors are probably not going to paint you as an expert in B2B.
- Automate – Use technology to get your content in front of the right people and let other people spread the word for you.
- Iterate – Look at the numbers and scale quickly if something is working. And, fail fast if the opposite appears to be the case.
We have kept this guide quite high level, as we know our intended audience is time-poor and likes to read compendiums. We’ve done our research, you see, and wanted to produce a concise guide that could be read within ten minutes and is easily actionable. Of course, if you would like to talk in greater detail about any of these points please get in touch.
Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, consumers are the product – and why it’s great for business, but maybe not for long…
The recent news about Cambridge Analytica and the Facebook data breach has left many users of the social platform aghast at the (perceived) insidious uses of their data. Though companies allegedly using data to swing elections anonymously and with impunity may seem scary, what surprises us the most, is backlash from the platform’s users. Users of Facebook have and will always be the product and for businesses it’s great.
The never-ending feedback loop
Every action on Facebook by a user and will go on to help them to continue to map a very detailed picture. Every like, comment, share as well usage patterns will build up the psychographic persona of a user which will, ultimately, be monetised by the platform. Some users maybe aghast at this fact but the opportunities for businesses to target, with pinpoint accuracy, exactly the type of consumers they want to reach are immense.
One company, many products
Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and the launch of their Audience Network (an Ad serving platform, like Google’s DoubleClick) means that businesses can tap into all of the targeting capabilities afforded by Facebook’s data and algorithm’s in one place. The economies of scale, ease of billing and, from a marketer’s point of, reporting is very compelling. Most pertinently, from our perspective, we find Facebook advertising really works.
Facebook’s where your parents are
What is becoming apparent to us though is that coveted (from a marketer’s perspective) younger millennial appears to be leaving Facebook in droves. The Coca-Cola’s and McDonald’s of this world will always want to go where this key demographic is, brands follow the money and the money, for the big blue chip FMCG brands is with the young. If brands can only target middle-aged people we can expect to see a lot more case studies selling funeral plans than Cannes Lions for creativity.
Facebook’s share price and, some could say business model has always been predicated on endless growth. More users, naturally means more money. Arguably, Facebook saw the writing on the wall as far ago as 2012 with their acquisition of Instagram. Anecdotally, many Instagram users claim not to ‘do Facebook’ whilst happily using a Facebook product and, presumably, be happy to be targeted by the same algorithms, that led them to leave the core platform in the first place. Facebook’s problem now is that they have to try and find more growth from an ageing population.
Ride out the storm
We personally believe that Facebook will be able to recover from the latest news and it won’t be terminal to their fortunes. They, undoubtedly, will have more clever acquisitions up their sleeves and will continue to diversify their business. What the recent news may reinforce though is that the shine is starting to come off the core platform. We believe, personally, that the Facebook star is really waning, not because of the data leakage or the targeting algorithms but because the shiny new digital success story is now populated by the middle-aged.
Choosing a PPC agency is a minefield…
Throw a rock and you’ll end up hitting one…
So how do you choose a PPC agency? You first need to ask yourself some questions:
Look at your business first – where is the digital skills gap?
You have identified the need for some external help in the growth of your digital footprint, but what are your skill sets internally? If your budgets are relatively small, or the products you wish to sell are limited is this work something that can be self-taught? There are a myriad of training companies out there (we found the Institute of Digital Marketing were excellent), so could an employee be up-skilled to handle some basic AdWords campaigns?
If time, or the complexity of the tasks involved looks overwhelming, its time to seek some help. AdWords can be a way to gain digital traction, quickly. Whilst an SEO program can be the result of months, or even year’s worth of work, AdWords can get qualified traffic to your site pretty much straight away. We like to think of AdWords as the original growth hack.
How do you like to work with consultants?
Trusting an external consultant takes a leap of faith. We know your business is your baby. Like your baby, you would only allow the people you trust the most to look after it. If you are worried about handing over the digital keys to your business to a 3rd party, you will need to set a framework with the agency to make sure there is total transparency.
Would weekly meetings or calls make you feel comfortable? Be sure to mention this to the agency you want to appoint so the ground rules are set early on. On the flipside, if all you want to see a progress report with next steps and recommendations on your Google Adwords campaigns, tell your agency. As suppliers we find both parties setting the ground rules early on helps for a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship. Remember, as a client you only want to work with an agency that adds value to your business. What may surprise you is that agencies, generally, only want to work with clients who add value to their business too. ‘Value’, in this case, extends beyond just being paid, so perhaps ask your prospective agency ‘what value will our business add to yours?’ — if you’re happy with the response they have obviously thought about your business and are serious about how you can help them long term, and outside of the obvious prism of money.
Credentials and recommendations
At the risk of teaching your Grandmother how to suck eggs…always look for evidence. An agency that purports to be a PPC specialist, ask for case studies. Then ask for a current client whom you can speak to. Any agency worth their salt would be happy to share their successes. As an agency, we find that most of our business is generated from recommendations and referrals. Also, we like to help our clients as much as we can too, it’s like a virtuous circle of reciprocity.
In terms of credentials, we would say always look to appoint an agency who is a Google Partner. To be a Google Partner, the PPC agency will need to have taken the appropriate exams and studied the right courses. They also need to manage a minimum amount of spend per month with Google and also meet certain performance criteria with the campaigns they manage.
Think about the whole the picture
AdWords or any paid advertising should only ever be a part of a wider strategic picture. For instance, your SEO and PPC should dovetail. PPC is often used to ‘fill the gaps’, for instance if getting to page 1 for a highly competitive term will take a considerable investment in terms of content production and link building it may be far more effective to use PPC. Or, does your PPC need to compliment (or even complement) your social media activity, what about your other more traditional forms of advertising? What we’re saying is a PPC agency that thinks about your AdWords activity in a silo is probably not the right partner. Similarly, from a suppliers perspective, if a client seems reticent to share as much information with us as possible for us to do our best work, we would have to ask some tough questions about whether the client was serious about making PPC work for them.
Transparency is key – think long term
Any good relationship is worth nurturing and takes time and effort for both parties. At the crux of all good relationships should be honesty. From the supplier’s side if mistakes happen, they should be rectified and owned up to. Before choosing an agency maybe ask your prospective supplier what the biggest mistake was that they made and how they rectified it.
Your supplier should also be alive to the fact that the longer-term trend in digital is about client’s filling their digital skills gaps. The general trend, for larger SME’s, is that digital specialists are taking over management of things like PPC and other forms of paid advertising. A good agency will be aware of that fact and want to share their knowledge with you. Digital Marketing shouldn’t be like the dark arts and a good agency will have a healthy pipeline of prospects anyway, aware that churn happens. Breaking up is hard to do, but breaking up with an agency shouldn’t be, and setting the mutual expectations and medium term strategy from both sides (supplier and client) should prevent any nasty surprises further down the line.
The use of data intelligence is not new. But, the advent of so much data due to digital touch points being used to interact with brands has given marketers a rich seam of new marketing intelligence to mine to build up a better picture of their consumer’s behaviour. We think the best use of data is still the work Dunnhumby did for Tesco in the early 90’s with the clubcard. At a stroke Tesco managed to glean information which would impact on their supply chain, buying and, of course, their customers. They managed to give rewards for information from consumers and effectively created CRM as we know it. Tesco did, and still do, have deep pockets — but how can SMEs use data to make better decisions? We’ll show you how you can start a big data strategy for free.
Google Analytics and Big Data
Google Analytics is a rich seam of anonymised data that will give you a deep insight into how your web audience interacts with your website and, by extension, your business. First of all you need to set some goals. Then think about what success for your business looks like – is it a sale or are conversions measured in a different way for your business? You need to develop different goals for each business objective. Next identify your KPI’s – and make sure they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Realistic and Timely). Next set your targets (financial or other) and your target customer segments. Once you have completed this exercise you will be on your way to starting to measure.
How we do it
When starting an analytical project on behalf of a client we often start with the audience. Who is using your site? Where are they and how does behaviour differ on site? How does behaviour differ for new and returning visitors? What goals (if any) have different audience segments completed? Identifying these different factors will set you on your way to learning who your sweets pot audience is.
Next we like to focus on Acquisition. How do you currently acquire your customers? How does he bounce rate and page views differ for these different channels? For an eCommerce client or any company that spends money on digital advertising, Acquisition is a key tool for revenue attribution and where your marketing spend should be focused. Be wary though as ‘last click’ attribution can be a blunt instrument, we prefer to look at Multi-Channel Funnels as this will tell us how one attribution is impacted by another. Conversions are rarely linear. If a consumer is going to buy a new car they may look on Auto Trader, then visit a car show room and then buy a car from a different show room or even a private seller. Who should be held responsible for the sale here, Auto Trader or the second show room? They could be equally as responsible so this fact needs to be considered as part of your marketing intelligence.
Next we like to look at site behaviour more deeply. Which pages are viewed the most? And, what do people do on these heavily viewed pages? This information will help you with your on-site strategy, as well as what would help to resonate with people through your social media strategy and even the tone of voice within your digital advertising. If a page resonates with a particular type of customer — why not use this data to inform your broadcast approach to acquire more of these types of people?
There is a lot to learn about Google Analytics, sometimes the amount of data one can access and report on can be overwhelming. We would encourage you to start with the basics, set some goals and try and learn more about your customers. We use this methodology all of the time to develop a deeper understanding of our and our client’s customers. Google Analytics is free and intuitive, if you are a digital novice and want to start learning more about your customers to make informed decisions, it’s a great place to start.
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What is digital display advertising?
Display advertising has been around since 1994 and was one of the first ways that digital publishers started to commercialise their website. Like most related to technology, we have come a long way since then. Display advertising can now be bought using Real Time Bidding and audiences, or potential audiences can be targeted using Demand Side Platforms. However, there are certain ways to make your digital advertising effective and these rules are as applicable now as they were 24 years ago.
How can I make display advertising work for me?
Firstly, like all digital communication your display advertising should be integrated with the rest of your messaging. Your online identity should not live in a silo – the thrust of your campaign should be aligned with your wider marketing objectives to support and enhance the specific campaign activity. It sounds obvious but if you’re running a sale, your digital display should be pushing this sale in the same way your press advertising is.
Secondly, define your audience. This is where your personas will be indispensable. There are many ways you can target display, for instance the Google Display Network but, to use a 1994 example, an advert for men’s deodorant wouldn’t work as well on a website geared towards women’s interests.
You also need to think carefully about what you want your digital display to do. Is it branding, engagement or lead generation? The strategic decision making that goes into your campaign rationale will have a direct impact on your messaging, the type of banner you produce and the landing pages you direct people to on your site.
Regardless of what you want people to do after seeing or, more pertinently, clicking on one of your ads there are some golden rules around copy that you should follow. Firstly, you need a clear call to action – tell people what you want them to do. The copy you have used should also be informed by keyword research, using direct and concise language. Next, the design of your ads should be as good as you can afford to make it and fit the context of the banner’s dimension you are using.
Like all digital marketing you have the ability to make decisions, which are rooted in science. Split test your ads – you can split test on lots of different metrics but the obvious ones to look at are the pictures – which one works the best in driving your desired outcome? Next, what about the text – how well does the text you are using make people click on your ad? How about your all to action? You should try different ones and see which works most effectively. Is it ‘buy now’ or ‘more information’? There’s only one way to find out…
Don’t be a pain…
Finally, remember to frequency cap. There’s nothing more annoying than an ‘ear worm’ radio ad is there? Well let’s apply this to a digital context. Have you ever been to an eCommerce website and then be followed by ads around the web for a product you have no wish to buy, or even worse, have already bought?
How we react to bad remarketing…
This kind of digital marketing is called re-marketing. It can be highly effective at getting potential consumers who are already aware of your brand to convert. However, to avoid this potential consumer from having a negative experience of your brand we would recommend frequency capping your ads so the maximum time an individual can see one of your ads is four times.
There’s a lot to know about digital display advertising. Done well it can be great lead generation tool for your website or business, done badly it can be an expensive waste of time. Like all digital marketing, your decisions should be backed up with a solid strategy, rooted in extensive research and as part of a wider mix of digital solutions to address specific target markets and where in the funnel these people are.
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We talked recently about how personas can be used to help identify where your target audience might be. We find the creation of a ‘person’ often cuts through some of the digital noise and allows us to truly recognise how messaging should be shaped. Creating a persona or several personas for your brand will allow you to both identify a digital media strategy, but also the tone of voice your message will take. We find this exercise is crucial in both attracting and also converting audiences on behalf of our clients.
So, where do you start?
First, think about your business, what you sell and the typical sales cycle. For an eCommerce company with many products this might be trickier than a B2B business that sells services, so start with the sweet spot. If you know your eCommerce business sells lots of high visibility jackets to cyclists – creating your persona is going to be easy! We could easily find out where a middle-aged man in Lycra hangs out online and what his assumed affinity categories are going to be. If, your products and services are more diverse you’ll need to do a little more work and ask a few more questions first.
Are people talking?
If you have an online footprint, what are people saying about you on the web? There are lots of great tools out there to help you identify where your name has been mentioned in social media and more widely on the web. Check out people who have mentioned you on Twitter or Facebook, this will give you a clue to what kind of people are already using your product or service. For smaller businesses with a larger competitor, try this exercise with the name of the company you aspire to be.
Once you have this assumed background information your persona should be starting to take some shape. You now need to understand your persona’s preferences and habits. Clearly the digital footprint and behaviours of our middle-aged man in Lycra are going to be far different to an urban millennial female; they might both have a need for a high visibility jacket, but where and the tone of how we reach them would be markedly different.
Now you need to understand how your might find your business using the 5P’s Customer Search Insights Model.
- Person – Age, sex and social.
- Place – are they urban or rural, local or national or international?
- Product – what did they arrive on your site looking for?
- Priority – What’s their priority – where are they in the funnel?
- Purchase – Did they make a purchase and if so, was it online or in a shop?
Over-laying the data gleaned from Google Analytics above with evidence from your other research will give you lots of clues to the type of characteristics your person (or persons) will have.
Putting it all together
To continue with our high visibility analogy we could perhaps deduce there are three distinct highly lucrative markets that are searching for a jacket at different times of year.
- Meet Jane. Jane is 37. She has two children, an active lifestyle and her six-year-old daughter has just learnt to ride a bike. She wants a high-vis jacket for her and her child, it’s September, the nights are getting darker but she wants to ride in the evenings to enjoy the rest of the good weather before winter.
- Meet Colin. He’s 45, just bought a road bike (and some Lycra) and wants to use his new bike to get to and from work. He got his bike for Christmas so he will be riding in the dark.
- Meet Sophie. She is 27, works in advertising in London and uses her bike every day to get to and from work. Her friend was knocked off her bike recently by a truck so is very worried about safety on her bike.
Now we have met our target audiences we can get to work with developing a plan to reach them. All of them want to buy the same product but the choices we make in terms of where and how we address them through digital channels are going to be very different. Sophie and Jane are probably as different as Colin and Sophie in terms of what and how they consume online and what drives them to convert. Not all audiences are created equal, so the plan we create needs to be as equally diverse.
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The death of email has long been prophesied and has never seemed to materialise. Social networks, OTT technologies like What’s App and the iMessage have changed the way we communicate Peer 2 Peer but email is still the primary channel for businesses reaching consumers and businesses talking to other businesses. After all the advent of TV didn’t kill the radio. Email done well can be your key revenue-generating channel, done badly it can cause serious damage to your reputation. Below we have listed five key points to consider when developing an effective email strategy:
To develop an email marketing strategy you need email addresses. Not any old email addresses, the email addresses you send to need to have explicitly opted in to receive communications from you. For a B2B business this can be from a sign-up form for newsletters or collected from trade shows, or call centres. For B2C businesses we would suggest that the emails you collect should be from your opted in customers, or from newsletter subscribers. And, once you have this data, make sure it is managed regularly. A good ESP (Email Service Provider) like MailChimp will regularly clean unsubscribes and hard-bounces. Our golden rules are:
- Never buy lists
- Never share lists
- Never assume an opt-in
- Have a process for un-subscribes (automation)
If you sell to businesses, do all of your customers buy the same product from you? Probably not. Similarly, do all apparel eCommerce websites sell identical products to identical people? If so great, if not, segment. Create different lists within your email database and create a strategy for each. In both a B2B and B2C context you could segment by spend, product category or demographic. Develop a contact strategy for each segment based around relevance. Like your Mum always used to say ‘If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’.
Be clear whom the email is from
Never send emails from @noreply or @sales – a sender’s name is one of the biggest drivers in the email opening prioritisation processes. Remember, without opens you can’t get clicks and without clicks you can’t get sales. Our advice would be to personalise a piece of email communication as much as possible, both in the sender name (from you) and in the body of the email. Remember the advice of Seth Godin (the Godfather of permission marketing), the objective is to turn strangers into friends and friends into customers. No one wants to be a friend of ‘sales@’.
Test, test, test
The old accepted wisdom on the best time and day to send emails is between Tuesday and Thursday and between 10 – 12pm and 2pm – 4pm for B2B and between 7pm and 9pm for B2C. However, the advent and proliferation of mobile devices has completely disrupted these assumptions. More emails are now opened on mobile devices than desktops. The split will obviously vary between B2C and between B2B and types of customer you want to engage with. The only way to know how you can truly increase the open rates for your business is to try. Split test on send time, on headline, on message copy and design. A good tip we find is that ‘click-bait’ subject lines tend to work best. Ask a question and answer it in the email, then truly answer the question by directing people to some engaging content on your website.
An off the shelf ESP will allow for an incredible level of insight. As well as the split testing features mentioned above, you will also understand what time of day people open your emails, where they are and even who they are using the assumed geo-demographic information inferred by the ESP. Analysing these reports after a period of testing will help you not only shape the content that resonates with your email audience, but your email strategy itself. The reporting features will instruct what content, at what time and day should be sent to maximise your business objectives.
The points above are non-exhaustive. You also need to consider your email design, testing on different mail clients as well as a whole host of data storage questions brought about by the impending GDPR legislation.
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A digital strategy will be different for every business. However, there are some fundamental questions you, or your digital agency should be asking in order to arrive at the plan as to whether you are looking to drive enquiries or sales or whether you are looking to speak to businesses or consumers. This list is none exhaustive but follows the Digital Marketing Institute’s framework, and, in our experience works pretty well.
The DMI framework is based on three principles:
To initiate, start with the customer and work towards your digital goals. This can often be the hardest part – building a customer profile that is based on market reality and not market aspiration is the best way to do this. Your business may aspire to be a market leader and you may have plans to turn over millions in the next five years, but if you currently turn over thousands your customer profile will be different. Route your target customer in reality and not aspiration.
The second principle, iteration, is one of the unique strengths of digital marketing. Unlike analogue channels, the web has democratised marketing. AdWords auctions are not purely based on budget size but a whole host of other factors, such as relevance, customer experience and the opaque ‘quality score’ which favours the customer experience over budget. As we explored recently, Google wants its users to have the best experience of its service. In a nutshell, iteration allows a business to dip their toe in the water and change the approach based on empirical evidence quickly.
The third principle, integrate, is all about tone of voice. The way you broadcast your business to the market should be channel agnostic. Digital should not operate in a silo, your website and your web based marketing should work in tandem with your other broadcast mediums so the experience your customers get of your brand is Omni-channel.
So, what about those questions then – Let’s start with your customer:
Who is the sweet-spot customer? What do they look like and where do they ‘hangout’ online? Remember your customer profile here and market reality. You might want to sell to the CFO of a multi-national but if your customer is another SME your choice of channel and messaging will be very different.
We now have our target customer, how do we speak to them? Google Analytics is a gold mine of free Cookie based inferred information – use it! If, by looking at your analytics dashboard you can infer that your customer is a certain age and in a certain location you can make informed choices about the channels you would use to address them.
How do you measure up? How does your business stack up against your competitors, more widely in your sector and in industry trends? Be honest, Rome wasn’t built in a day and a digital strategy is a never-ending process – remember you need to iterate all the time.
What’s your current situation? How good is your website? Is it geared for conversions or just looking pretty? How do you rank against your competitors in natural search? Do you use email marketing, if so what is the size of your email database?
Can you create a customer search insights model? For instance if you sell clothes online have you considered the ‘Five P’s’ – Person – age, sex, social group, Place – city or rural, Product – type of apparel the audience might want Priority – Do they want a winter coat now? And, finally Purchase – where in the funnel are they?
The questions don’t, or shouldn’t, stop there. By asking some or all of the questions above you, or your digital agency, should be able to create a cohesive plan aligned with your wider business objectives and rooted in market reality. So, if your digital agency is not asking these questions, should you be asking questions of them?
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