The integrated agency might be for you

May 19th, 2017 by Simon Bollon


Looking for a media agency? Let’s talk digital. Or PR. Or social. Actually, let’s just start at the beginning and talk about all of them. Actually, let’s just talk about your business, needs, objectives, proposition, vision. Then we’ll decide collectively where to go next.

That’s a cut down version of most of the pitch and new business opportunities we come across.

Our inbound enquiries are mostly from people looking for niche services, believing that the channel in discussion is the natural environment for them. Or because they are already doing one or some of the broader services within the communications mix.

Around half the time, the services potential clients enquire about are not the work we ultimate undertake for the client in the first stages of our relationship.

We are a strategy and implementation agency. We believe that strategy comes first and only once a solid, purposeful strategy is developed should the implementation take place. Too often clients are ‘doing’ social, PR, media buying or search without one cohesive strategy of what, when and why – they lack cohesive long-term views and fail to marry short term actions with the bigger picture. The allocation of resources and budgets therefore lacks strategy and justification.

I’m not one for bashing agencies but we believe that the smaller, siloed specialisms will find the coming years tough. The very biggest clients will continue to utilise the specialists as strategy sits internally with large marketing teams led by strategically minded CMOs (or similar titles) meaning the agency role is one of implementation with ownership sitting within the marketing departments. It makes sense. But I think those services are then often commoditized.

However, in smaller, mid-market, privately owned, growth or challenger businesses (broad brush, not 100% accurate and yes, the core of our client base) the reliance on agencies is growing. The shifting digital landscape has made it more challenging to navigate and importantly, to know what to expect as a return. It is the responsibility of the agencies to use knowledge, data and experience to drive budget allocation, determine likely returns and guide clients through phases of activation by channel.

It is not appropriate for a media agency to guide on share of budget as their expertise is in one area. The same applies to a digital agency. They have no data, knowledge or experience that can guide them on how offline media might be best used to acquire customers. Nor can they justify their services versus another channel.

For that reason, we work across paid, owned and earned, with core disciplines in media, digital and PR. Finding, engaging, converting and retaining customers. We blend services and allocate budget and activity appropriate to a client’s vision, objectives and KPIs.

Hey, it’s not right for everyone, but its critical to many.

Further, this approach allows for real client intimacy. We can provide completely unbiased direction, deliver a much stronger consultative approach and ultimately work on a PRF model where everyone wins.

For us, working across all of the services means we are able to focus on our strengths as a strategically focused agency, relying less on a focus of monetising at the point of implementation.

There is a better way. An integrated way. A strategic way.

It’s why we just won Best Small Integrated Agency.

The Value of Brand Bidding in PPC Strategies

May 5th, 2017 by Nathan Fletcher



Imagine this scenario…

You manage to get ten search marketers in a room, get them talking PPC and raise the subject of ‘brand bidding’. One would make their case and after that, I’m certain a strongly-worded debate would arise.

One question would be raised first: should you be occupying as much space in Google SERPs as possible when someone searches for your brand term, or should you rely on organic search to generate free – rather than paid – brand traffic? It’s a double-edged sword that has partisan supporters on either side, making it ever more important to consider how brand bidding is applied to each bespoke PPC strategy for a client.

To some, it may appear senseless to pay for brand traffic that you can get for free through organic rankings. For others, brand bidding is essential to integrated PPC strategies that engage users at multiple touchpoints of the consumer journey.

For us, our approach usually sits with the latter.

In my opinion, the benefits of brand bidding can certainly be fruitful. Protecting your brand and occupying as much space in Google SERPs as possible when someone searches for your brand is key, alongside the ability to control your brand messaging made easier by the introduction of expanded text ads into Google AdWords last year. And let’s be honest, the combination of SEO and PPC is always going to grow a clients’ overall search traffic and increase the potential for on-site lead gen and/or sales.

The two go hand-in-hand, no matter what some might say.

Take an example PPC ad for one of our clients, Express Bi-folding Doors. By occupying extra space when someone searches for a relevant brand term with a quality, tailored brand advert, we can dominate Google SERPs and increase the overall number of leads generated on-site, whilst at the same time enhancing the client’s brand awareness.

Soaking up traffic by targeting users who already have some level of brand recognition can always be an efficient way of generating leads, creating a missed opportunity for search marketers who don’t bid on their brand terms.

This is ever more important in the competitive marketplaces that often inhabit Google search spaces.

Express Bifolding Doors PPC ad

Of course, there are arguable drawbacks to brand bidding in PPC strategies. There’s no doubt that by bidding on branded keywords you’re paying for traffic you could be getting for free through organic search, whilst fierce bidding wars can be sparked between competitors that drive brand keyword CPCs through the roof.

If you’re a small technology business and Apple start bidding on your brand term for example, you’ve got little chance of ranking in position one. Everyone loves an underdog, but they rarely ever win when budgets come into play. This isn’t the FA Cup of PPC, everyone’s in it for the long run.

But to me, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks when it comes to brand bidding. Brand keywords are great for driving CPAs down across the board and delivering a solid ROI, which is even more satisfying when 10/10 quality scores are achieved and your paid clicks become even cheaper. Plus, there are a wide variety of brand keywords that are worth applying, a combination of which will help your PPC strategy bring in the most relevant, pre-qualified traffic.

  1. Standard Brand Keywords – e.g. [apple]
  2. Concatenated Brand Keywords – e.g. [apple iphone 7]
  3. Brand Website Keywords – e.g. []
  4. Brand Review Keywords – e.g. [apple iphone reviews]

Bidding on these types of keyword can be extremely fruitful for an account and if managed correctly, can easily generate solid returns for a business.

If challenged, I’d suggest that if you’re making money and/or generating pre-qualified leads from your brand keywords, why not continue to bid on them? Yes, you may be able to generate the traffic for free via organic search, but brand keywords are likely to be fruitful for a business regardless of the price you’re paying for them.

This is emphasised by the ability to shoot straight to the top of a Google SERP, rather than working overtime to rank in position 1 organically, which in reality could be argued to be position 4 or 5.

So to me, the benefits of brand bidding – sitting very much at the centre of integrated search strategies – far overshadow the negatives that some search marketers may raise.