The Value of Brand Bidding in PPC Strategies

May 5th, 2017 by Nathan Fletcher


PPC

 

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. [www.apple.com]
  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.

The Wall Street Journal’s SEO is Probably Bricking It

February 20th, 2017 by Mike Bates


he sign of 'The Wall Street Journal' out of its building

I don’t know if the Wall Street Journal *has* an SEO on staff, uses an agency, or just crosses its fingers and hopes for the best. If I was working on their SEO, though, I guarantee I’d be looking at my reports with a very uneasy smile on my face for the next few weeks. You see, their SEO might just have been scuppered by a business decision.

We know that the revenue from display ads alone is rarely enough to keep a publisher afloat, creating the need for sponsored posts, e-commerce, and other means of monetizing their content. The WSJ has, apparently, done the math, and thinks that if it maintains its current readership and enough of these convert to paying to maintain access to the site, they’ll make the same, if not more, money. It’s a bold move, not least because this decision could make it much harder for them to maintain the traffic volumes this plan requires.

Wall Street Journal backlinks

If you didn’t know, to feature in Google News decks and rank well, a publisher needs to accept Google’s First Click Free rule. This means that if a user is referred to the site by Google, the first 5 articles they view each day should be free to access. This is regardless of whether the news site in question ordinarily charges a fee for online access. It’s this scheme that the WSJ has chosen to leave, technically falling foul of Google in the process.

At the very least, they’re already being flagged as being behind a subscription in SERPs, which lets users know they’ll have to pay for access. Let’s face it, though, you don’t have to be an expert to know that users are far more likely to opt for the free article that’s next to it.

Wall Street Journal PewDiePie article

But why does Google care? Well, ultimately, they like making money. To make money, Google needs you to use their free search platform, all the while clicking on a few ads. If it kept driving users towards pages that provide no content, and ask for money up front, it’d probably see a drop in user numbers. Their entire business model relies upon them keeping search users happy, and hunting for the content they want via Google.

It’s for reasons like this that quality assessment exists. Google pays people to use their search platform and report on the UX. They report back on the quality of the results and pages presented, and the companies behind these pages, and Google tweaks away accordingly. One of the most important criteria is also one of the easiest to achieve: does the page actually do what it is supposed to do?

Google guidelines on low quality pages

Now that the WSJ pages provide you with a single paragraph and a prompt to buy access, their pages no longer achieve this. Their articles no longer provide a ‘satisfying amount of [Main Content] for the purpose of the page’, and the subscription box makes the main content ‘difficult to use due to ads, other content/features, etc.’

Worse still, it makes assessing the quality of the page content itself impossible for the quality assessor. How can they give the page a high rating for expert, authoritative, and trustworthy content if the assessor can’t read it? If the page content can’t be reached and assessed, and the site does not fulfil the user’s search intent, WSJ’s quality score can only be poor. So what’s to stop rivals with better quality ratings leapfrogging them (besides the 123 million backlinks)?

Google is in a tricky place – by rights, other pages that provide similar, high quality content and fulfil user needs should overtake the WSJ in search. Google wants to keep users happy, after all, and free news sites of comparable quality will be more than happy to take the WSJ’s share of ad revenue and subscriptions.

Google might well be worried about letting them get away scot free, too. If nothing happens to WSJ’s search presence, what would happen? Wouldn’t other major publishers also like to get a bigger slice of the subscription pie? If everybody moves to a model that demands users pay up front, Google will only be able to provide results from a dwindling pool of (potentially less reputable) news sites.

The Wall Street Journal’s move to a pay-up-front model therefore means new opportunities for competitors, and potential losses for itself and its advertisers. Suddenly, ad space on their site has less reach, earned coverage has dropped in value vs placements with its competitors, and if organic visibility drops too, these changes will only become more pronounced. Whatever happens, it will be interesting to watch, and learn, from – I for one am keeping a close eye on their performance going forwards.

And to their SEO team, if they’re out there, here’s a backlink from We Are Boutique – you might need it moving forwards.

Nathan’s Social Takeover Roundup

January 30th, 2017 by Nathan Fletcher


30.01.17

So that’s it, my first social takeover is over after a hectic but exciting week at the We Are Boutique house. Here’s a quick roundup of what we got up to this week alongside some digital knowledge bombs for good measure.

Digital Meetings A-Plenty

At the beginning of every week, the digital gang catch up to talk strategy and action. Collaboration is key to the progress we make each week, so it’s always useful to circulate ideas and share our love for digital!

Did someone say ‘nerds’? No?

Anyway, here we are discussing our clients’ accounts earlier in the week – I promise there was no posing involved in the taking of this photo…

digi meeting 24

 

Tom’s Boutique-versary

In other news, Tom celebrated his 3-year Boutique-versary this week, so congrats to him. Since he joined way before my time here, he’s won us many-a-pitch and grown his beard out to become even more of a likeness to Henry VIII. Here he is looking after my ‘Quality Score Cowboy’ outfit whilst I was out of the office. Talk about a power pose…

Tom dressed as a cowboy

 

A Belated Christmas Present

And finally on Friday, the Boutique boys and ladies were treated to paintballing and spa trips by boss man Bollon – something kindly arranged as part of our Christmas celebrations!

The girls had a relaxing time at Rudding Park Spa, whilst us boys got battered and bruised firing paintballs at each other. We didn’t get too competitive, honest…

 

Digital Knowledge Bombs

Google Tests Local Inventory Ads

As reported in The Drum, Google has upped its local retail game in Google SERPs, as it is now testing local inventory ads on mobile devices. Rather than just showing local business details for relevant search terms, Google is now testing ads that show specific products available in your local proximity.

I wrote in a blog a few weeks back that digital marketing and local retail is converging, especially on mobile, and this seems to emphasise that point. As users continue to use mobile devices to influence their purchasing decisions on-the-go, this update by Google could be huge in terms of combining search marketing and local retail for good. It certainly seems to be a step in the right direction in terms of using search marketing to drive footfall to stores, which is likely to change the way local retail businesses use Google search in the future.

Google business

*via The Drum*

 

Google’s 2016 ‘Bad Ads’

This week Google released its annual ‘Bad Ads’ report, detailing how many ads it took down in 2016 and the reasons behind their disapprovals.

Surprisingly, Google flagged up a total of 112 million ads for “trick to click” violations, which is 6 times more than in 2015. I expected there to be a great deal of ads disapproved throughout the year, but this statistic surprised me, I must say. The usual culprits – ads for illegal products, misleading ads, profiting from poor sites etc., all cropped up in Google’s report, but it was the ‘bad ads on mobile’ issue that interested me the most.

It’s become widely known that Google rolled out a mobile-first index in 2016, whereby it crawls mobile websites BEFORE its desktop counterpart – a huge shift in search marketing that has impacted both PPC and SEO. Therefore, it’s interesting that Google is penalising search marketers for bad ads on mobile, as the shift towards a mobile-first narrative in digital marketing seems to be in full flow.

You can read Google’s report here.

Note: 1.7 billion ads in total were removed in 2016!

 

Anyway, thanks for having me. The social takeover is now in Simon’s capable hands. So long, guys!

This week’s Boutique-Up

January 13th, 2017 by Louise Trent


13.01.17

We’ve reached the end of my social takeover week so here’s a bit of a roundup of this week’s goings on with a splash of industry news.

Boutique goes blindfolded

boutique do a blindfolded team building task

Simon kicked the week off with a teambuilding exercise where we had to solve a puzzle whilst blindfolded. Having received a selection of shapes and being told what colour they were, we needed to establish which pieces and which colours were missing. Apparently the aim is to see how we approach new tasks and communicate with each other. Either that or an excuse for Simon to watch and laugh!

N.B. Our team won! ;)

Bullseye!

Exciting news guys; our breakout room now has a dartboard. Let the games begin…

dartboard in the boutique office

Ready for our close up

Jim the photographer came to the office to take some more shots of our new pad and they look pretty darn good! Expect to see these dotted around our documents and social feeds.

collage of new office photos

 

Industry standouts

Facebook begins testing mid-roll advertising

Facebook has released news this week that it is going to start testing ‘mid-roll’ ad formats, which means that advertisers will be able to insert ads into videos that people have been watching for at least 20 seconds. This is a new opportunity for Facebook and its publishers to make extra revenue from advertisers. Facebook publishers include the likes of The Guardian, National Geographic and Buzzfeed.

It will be interesting to see whether this new format works as, after 20 seconds, it’s likely that consumers will be rather engaged with the content they’re watching and these ads may prove to be an annoyance. Watch this space…

 

Instagram introduces ads to Stories

Instagram has also just released the inclusion of ads within the recently added Stories feature. Instagram Stories was only released in August 2016, but has already received 150 million users per day.

There are already around 30 advertisers testing this new feature including Asos, Nike and Airbnb, with ads initially being measurable by the ad’s reach. Over the next few months, it’s expected this will be extended to measure by site visits and other metrics.

 

Over-targeted marketing

Liquor-producing French brand, Pernod Ricard released a statement this week that it will be reshaping its luxury ‘mindset’ for future marketing campaigns.

CRM director at Pernod Ricard told The Drum that they were going to move to target “consumers of luxury” rather than “luxury customers” and went on to say, “Initially we said we are looking at ultra-high net worth individuals or super wealthy billionaires, which is great but they are very difficult to find and they are not necessarily faithful,” he said. “But what we do know is that many of us are not just luxury consumers but consumers of luxury… even if it’s just once a year for a special birthday or anniversary or even every Saturday night on a romantic date for example. We find those consumers everywhere.”

This new tactic means a shift towards a focus on people’s interests and passion points as opposed to their demographic, creating a story about the brand and linking to memorable experiences rather than product-focused advertisement.

SEO IS LIKE VW BEETLES

December 23rd, 2016 by Glenn Parkin


Ruby the VW Beetle

 

Well, we have gone a full week and I have managed to not talk about my favourite thing in the whole world… sorry Mrs P, but it’s Ruby the Beetle. It got me thinking about what I have been through recently with her restoration and how it is similar to SEO. Stay with me…

Ruby only has a small engine and getting anywhere is slow-going but it’s the quality of the journey – same with SEO – it’s a process that takes a long time.

With SEO you need three main things:

  • On-page technical work
  • Content
  • Outreach

With Ruby, she needs:

  • Solid technical work
  • A reliable engine
  • A full tank of super plus unleaded…

The on-page technical work is making sure your site is perfectly formed and runs as best as it can, going through the numerous checklists we have here at Boutique to make sure everything is as good as we can possibly get it.

Back in November I had the stressful time of getting Ruby through her MOT after the restoration, so a lot of effort was put in to go through the checklists to make sure she was tip top and everything was totally roadworthy.

The content of a website is essential; it has to be trustworthy so both Google and your visitors believe in it, and authoritative – you need to be an expert in your specialism to really provide both Google and your visitors with the best information they can get. You need to show you are an absolute expert in your industry and give unrivalled advice and knowledge to your visitors.

The most important part of Ruby is her engine so when it came to restoring this I had it rebuilt by an expert in air cooled engines. Now I have the total trust that when I go for a cruise, she will get me there!

And then there’s outreach – this is getting your content out and published on the web and shared with the main influencers in the industry to drive traffic back to your site, gaining valuable backlinks.

Ruby likes nothing more than a full tank of super plus unleaded; this gets her out on the road, cruising to shows and it means she gets shared with others who appreciate and love her as much as I do!

GP’s lesson of the day:

SEO is like VW Beetles. 

Social Takover Roundup & AdWords’ click-to-message ads

November 15th, 2016 by Rory Dunlop


woman using mobile phone to shop

Hey all. Hope you enjoyed my social takeover last week. For those of you that were unaware of the goings on in the We Are Boutique social world, here is a quick recap:

Monday morning was made that little bit easier after we realised the office was still full of goodies from the previous week’s Boutique Bash. The jelly boobs were one of the many highlights…

We got involved in the Mannequin Challenge. After some ‘stiff’ competition we managed to come up with our own Boutique version of the latest craze that’s taken the country by storm. If you haven’t seen it take a look:

 

Trump got elected!! I know, tough news to take. But at least it ended up snowing that day! So every cloud has a silver lining. Or in this case, has snow coming out of it!

Sesame Street celebrated its 45th So as a small gesture, the team at Boutique attempted to draw their favourite Sesame Street characters. Emily and magic Mike’s drawings were then taken to the public to pick a winner.

twitter screenshot

With so much going on in the world it wasn’t a bad week for a social takeover! But while we’re on the subject of communicating with people through our different social channels, I thought it’d be interesting to talk about another form of communication that’s been on team digital’s radar recently – this time through Google AdWords.

Click-to-message ads

This is a relatively new form of advertising that does exactly what it says on the tin – giving customers the opportunity to communicate with a business through an SMS app, to initiate a conversation about their product or services. According to Google, ‘nearly two thirds of smartphone owners use messaging more than five times a day to communicate with others’ so it’s no surprise that Google has introduced click-to-message ads to bring the efficiency and effectiveness of messaging to search ads.

Google click-to-message ads

It’s a great opportunity for a business to capitalise on ‘warm leads’ that might be a little more impulsive than your average online shopper, spending a couple of early commutes to work researching their next online purchase. Or in general, to cater to customers that prefer that personal/informative approach to selling, rather than having to do all of the research themselves. Either way, Google has cleverly offered the ‘message extension’ to appeal to the ever increasing online mobile shopper, that prefers to use SMS to learn more about a product or service.

As well as businesses like hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and insurance companies using the handy extension to communicate with customers, interestingly, recruitment agencies are starting to use it too. In fact, one in particular has shaped their entire business model around the idea.

A company called ‘Job Today’ who specialises in using mobile technology to help people find a job in 24 hours by the use of instant communication, has said that ‘they are reducing barriers, by connecting people to employers in minutes and making opportunities available to everyone’ – http://jobtoday.com/en/

Job Today

Job Today homepage

Mobile users have more flexibility than ever to choose how they want to connect with businesses, and companies like Job Today are managing to tap into that flexibility – now operating in four different cities after starting in 2015.

It’s no surprise that the increasing use of mobile phones has changed the way consumers shop and subsequently how advertisers communicate with customers using their mobiles. In a recent report carried out by emarketer, they worked out that the average adult spends 2 hours and 29 minutes a day on their mobile phones (which includes non-voice time with tablets and mobile phones) – a staggering 11.8% increase over the last year.

It’s statistics like this that make the Google mobile extension a tool to help businesses communicate with their customers in a much more modern/effective way. So, get on it!!

Crazy Idea: Target Consumers, Not Bots

October 31st, 2016 by Mike Bates


artificial intelligence robot

Search is constantly evolving; this much, we know. The last two months have been a rocky road for SEOs, with Google pushing an (unannounced) update to quality assessment alongside a local search algorithm update at the start of September. Then, at the end of the month came the much-vaunted real-time Penguin rollout, changing link-spam assessments so that they are now calculated and adjusted in real-time rather than at (lengthy) intervals.

Now, not content with having moved the goal-posts several times in two months, there are rumours of further changes to core ranking algorithms shaking up SERPs. Clients can sometimes fail to understand just how often these changes roll-out, and how much expertise is required to keep abreast of these shifts and their implications for strategy, especially as their effects upon each client will be different.

No area causes as much confusion as the question of keywords, especially where future-proofing is concerned. The common refrain, “how do I rank 1st for [term]” can only ever receive a complex answer, and to be frank, the truth often only confuses matters further. The fact of the matter is, if you’re tracked as ranking 1st, this absolutely does not mean you’re ranking first for everyone, nor appearing for your key demographics.

The Problem with Keyword Tracking

SEO used to be simple: you grabbed a fist-full of cash and bought a load of anchor-text rich links. If you had more money than your competitors, bought the right links, and targeted the right terms in your anchor text, you ranked first.

Now, it’s different, and the fact of the matter is that keyword tracking no longer accurately represents the true nature of search. Google adjusts search rankings on the fly, depending on a range of factors. Most noticeably, given the Mobilegeddon update in May, the difference between mobile and desktop results are often marked. Imagine I own the ‘Art of Dog Grooming’ – I take my smartphone and computer and search for ‘dog grooming’ on both. This is the result:

Dog grooming google search resultsDog grooming google search results

I rank 2nd on desktop, but I’m not even in the top three on mobile. Not only that, but on both I’m below a local pack containing three competitors. I’m doing good on desktop, less well on mobile. But it isn’t so simple: on mobile there are also three paid ads present, which do not show on desktop.

Keyword tracking software is going to say that I rank 2nd on desktop, 4th on mobile. In truth I’m below nine competitors on mobile, and five on desktop. So far, the software has a lot to answer for.

Not only this, but a user’s search history is used to inform future results. Your cookies and Google account both tell the search engine what you’ve done before, how you responded, and what works for you. If I sign out of Google and clear my cookies on desktop, my ranking changes yet again:

dog grooming google searches

Suddenly K9 Creations has beaten me. Simply removing my history information from the search changed my position by a place. So which ranking position am I? Is there such a thing as a ‘real’ ranking position, and can a keyword tracker help me find it?

The Issue with Bots

As Google becomes increasingly intelligent, prioritising user intent, experience, and site usefulness, the fact is that these algorithms all rotate around one person: the user who is making that search, in that location, at that moment. Each search results page that is generated is influenced by this user and their unique context.

So why isn’t the bot going to give us an accurate measure of our search performance? Because bots are not particularly convincing humans, and approach search engines without all the online baggage that makes you who you are.

Imagine the blandest person you ever met. They have no age, no gender, they came from nowhere, and they have no interests or hobbies. This is who approaches Google with a search term when a keyword is being tracked.

In short, this simulates the first time a person goes online in their entire life, which (let’s face it) is a pretty limited market segment, and certainly not who you want to target your entire campaign towards. This data is, at best, an indicator of where Google calculates a site’s ranking BEFORE personalisation. Useful, sure, but an accurate reflection of your site’s search performance? Doubtful.

So what can SEOs and Clients do?

It’s quite simple, really; target your products and message. No company has a product that actually targets every conceivable demographic, so why target everyone? Find your audience, then optimise for them. Google has said it time and again: optimise for users, not for Google.

There’s no point in making sure you rank first for bots with no personality: these users simply do not exist, and they aren’t going to put money in the till. Instead, create content and offer services that appeal to your core demographics. This is the way to achieve sustainable, profitable growth.

This is where SEO, PR, and Media all combine. You wouldn’t blow a £100k media budget on adverts without targeting them towards your audience, so why should you spend your digital & development budget on chasing somebody who doesn’t even exist?

If you have access to experts in demographic analysis, efficient targeting strategies, and reputation management, then use them. It’s this network of skills and information that integrated comms agencies use to inform better marketing strategies across the gamut of audience interactions, and it’s this wider strategic view that drives everything we do at Boutique.

The Future of Digital Marketing

Nowhere is the need to cater to real people clearer for a digital strategy than in Google’s current drive towards intelligent assistants and integrated technology. Google Home and Google Assistant aim to provide real-time solutions through a conversational interface for people it grows to know over time. A tracking bot’s complete lack of personality means it can never accurately reflect the use-case of this type of technology.

Google assistant

So how do you ‘rank’ for a voice interface that only returns the single ‘best’ response? By giving Google exactly what it wants: information.

Moving forwards, if voice search continues to grow, keywords may become less important while needs-fulfilment and relevance continue will only rise in significance. You need to make sure that your site makes it clear to search crawlers where you are, what you do, who your service users are, and why you are right for that demographic.

We already know that Google Home pulls data from rich snippets for its answers, so making content clear and appropriate for this format becomes paramount to success in this emerging search market. Content needs to be semantically clear in its use and content, while the site itself needs to be well-maintained to ensure this data can be chunked efficiently into useful and actionable snippets. It’s about making it easy for Google to know what you’re offering, and why it would want to put that towards an appropriate audience.

Content may well have been king for some time, but there’s only one way voice search is going to push things: technical SEO is coming back to the fore.

Brighton SEO – Inspiring and Actionable Papers for Better Search Marketing

October 6th, 2016 by Mike Bates


Brighton SEO conference

It’s been a full month since this year’s second round of seaside and search at Brighton SEO, and that means two things. Firstly, I’ve swapped the southern coast for the murky canals of Leeds. Secondly, it’s become clear which papers have moved from ‘inspirational on the day’, to inspiring lasting change in my approach to SEO.

Hannah Smith’s Art, Virtual Snowballs and the Feels was an early peak, reminding us that content for content’s sake may work for some sites, but that to gain meaningful customer engagement we need to treat our users as people with feelings. The watch words: Relevant, Resonant, and Different are a fantastic way to think about your content, and help you refine ideas to improve your chances of success.

Art, virtual snowballs and the feels – BrightonSEO from Hannah Smith

And success is central to what we do as marketers. Too often you see undue emphasis upon the ‘Different’, aiming for off-the-wall strategies in an attempt to achieve viral exposure. The good ones remember to keep these relevant to the brand and its audience, but Hannah reminded us that only the best can make content that satisfies these criteria and resonates with their audience.

Nobody is going to share your shocking content that is aimed at them if they don’t feel anything when they see it. Success doesn’t just mean ‘going viral’: often the most valuable results are the meaningful engagements from existing and new users. Sure, shares feel good, but what use is an additional barrage of bounced sessions and one-time users?

The next biggie was Mark Thomas’ thrill-ride through the glamorous world of log files. It was good to see such an un-glamorous area of SEO given the airing it deserves (albeit in a small room buried in a distant corner of the Brighton Centre). In a marketing world where ‘Content is King’, a reminder to indulge in some light Log File Analysis was very welcome indeed.

It may be worth reading Mark’s write-up of his April Brighton SEO paper alongside this, which is a handy guide to making your log files Excel-friendly. Needless to say, I was left inspired to indulge my inner geek, and wondering just how many of my contemporaries have actually used a command prompt in the last 6 months.

It’s definitely the less sexy side of SEO, and clients are rarely excited when you say ‘I’d love to see your log files’ instead of ‘burn QR codes into ham and distribute it for free via carrier pigeon’, but it’s necessary and valuable work. So don’t be proud, grab a Linux distro and get involved.

Finally, and falling roughly into the same basket, are Christoph Cemper’s 7 More things you Didn’t Know about Links… (video, so headphones in!) and Will Critchlow’s keynote; SEO Split Tests You Probably Should be Running. These both served as enduring reminders that we shouldn’t take everything Google announces at face value, nor should we follow ‘best practice’ without testing its effect ourselves.

Just because something worked well for another business, doesn’t mean it will have the same effect upon your site: there are over 200 ranking signals, and they all conspire to make each site a unique case. Work with your site to ditch received wisdom and become data-driven, this is the truest form of best practice.

It’s easy to lose track when you’re being pumped for fresh content ideas, and fighting through statistical noise to establish causality, but we’re search engine optimisers. Think about the meaning of that word: optimisation. Optimisation must be led by data, which in turn can only be gained through experimentation and analysis.

So, whether you’re deploying content or working behind the scenes, keep tracking your KPIs and logging your data. We’re optimisers, so let’s keep learning and sharing knowledge so that we can optimise our approach to search marketing.

Mike sitting in a giant chair

The Importance of ‘Local’ In Search Marketing Strategies

September 29th, 2016 by Nathan Fletcher


person using phone to navigate maps in city

In the last few years, digital marketers have become ever more aware of the benefits of harnessing the ‘local’ elements of their PPC and SEO strategies. With Google users increasingly mobile, reactive and on-the-move with varying mobile devices, it has become imperative for SEM pros to focus on ‘I-want-to-go moments’ – those moments in the brain of a digital user that encourage an actual, tangible in-store-visit.

It’s therefore important for digital marketers to adapt to this local search environment and cater to the needs of users applying the ‘local’ to their individual consumer journeys. This is more pertinent considering that a significant uplift in ‘near me’ and ‘local’ searches has become apparent in recent years, as users become more aware of digital opportunities in their geographical proximity. Reaching consumers at multiple touchpoints of the consumer journey is gaining ground in the digital arena, as influencing consumer routes towards a purchase becomes increasingly complex.

Consumers are changing their attitudes and behaviours towards digital marketing, relying less on brand loyalty and more on spontaneous choices. Digital marketers need to adapt to this in order to make a real impact.

And I’m sure that most of us have used Google to make purchasing decisions at some point, so if we are really going to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes when outlining a digital marketing strategy, it makes sense to advertise to the local, spontaneous needs of digital users. Search marketing certainly has a direct influence on consumer intentions to visit a store, especially as new media becomes more sophisticated and adaptable to users.

And true to form, Google folk are very much aware of this.

In come Promoted Pins, a new, local touchpoint of digital advertising. Advertisers will now be able to pay for advertising ‘pins’ in Google Maps, making ‘local business’ imperative to the make-up of Google Maps. Likely to instigate an increasingly concrete connection between digital marketing and direct in-store foot traffic, this will offer a new way for SEM pros to communicate the ‘local’ elements of their marketing strategies to potential customers.

local search marketing google maps

Directions to a Promoted Pin are as close as we’ve got so far to actually driving users to a store, linking the local strategies of digital marketers to the local needs and behaviours of Google users.

And building on Google ‘Promoted Pins’, in-store foot traffic beacons are set to be another huge update, mapping the direct relationship between search activity and store visits. But to what effect?

Google will estimate ‘store visit conversions’ by mapping a user’s location history to their search activity, allowing digital marketers to evaluate the benefits of their ‘local’ search marketing more effectively. This will be anonymous and aggregated, so a conversion will not be tied to an individual user click, but it will offer a new mode of tracking the consumer journey that is likely to alter the way PPC and SEO pros report and strategise on their accounts.

With the introduction of Promoted Pins and in-store beacons, digital marketing and in-store visits could soon become increasingly synonymous.

And by offering new ways to harness consumer micro-moments, whilst focusing on the impact of ‘local’ touchpoints in the consumer journey, these Google developments could be a leap towards understanding the increasing complex digital user. By exploiting the fact that 84 percent of consumers conduct local searches at some point in their individual consumer journeys, the potential for this is certainly growing.

What’s clear is that three out of every four people who search for something nearby using their smartphone end up visiting a store within a day, and 28 percent of those searches result in a purchase.

(WordStream, http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2016/06/01/google-maps-local-search-ads).

So, why would digital marketers not want to get the most from this? It’s a no brainer to us at We Are Boutique!

And as advocates of the consumer journey, the digital gang at We Are Boutique are excited to see how Promoted Pins and in-store foot traffic measurement will feed into ‘local’ strategies and impact upon the power of paid and organic search. Micro moments are fundamental to the effectiveness of search marketing, as influencing the consumer journey in a single search moment is something that can push a consumer towards a sale or meaningful action on-site/in-store.

Digital marketers must therefore be at as many touchpoints as possible in order to reach consumers at every possible moment of purchase intention. It will become even more fundamental for digital marketers to be in the right place at the right time… on purpose!

WhatsApp-ening with Facebook??

September 1st, 2016 by Louise Trent


Facebook and WhatsApp

You may or may not have heard the recent news that WhatsApp has changed its privacy policy to announce that its data about its customers will now be shared with Facebook… unless opted out in your settings within 30 days.

Facebook settled a whopping $22billion deal with WhatsApp to buy the company back in 2014 and it seems this announcement marks the first big step to make use of the additional 1 billion bits of data.

Facebook will now be able to access your profile information such as your phone number (but don’t worry… not your messages!) to then match up with your Facebook profile to enable more focused targeting on Facebook and Instagram. In addition, businesses will also be able to send you direct messages on WhatsApp such as order and delivery information.

As you can imagine, a number of people are feeling an element of betrayal considering WhatsApp founders promised that the upcoming deal with Facebook wouldn’t affect their privacy on WhatsApp. In their company blog post in 2014, WhatsApp posted:

Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible: You don’t have to give us your name and we don’t ask for your email address. We don’t know your birthday. We don’t know your home address. We don’t know where you work. We don’t know your likes, what you search for on the internet or collect your GPS location. None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we really have no plans to change that…

Although some brands are seeing this as a real marketing opportunity, others are understandably hesitant to be one of the first to start contacting their customers through WhatsApp at the risk of looking, well, a little creepy! The job will now be for Facebook to effectively match up its data with WhatsApp’s to ensure that anything it does target using this new information is even more relevant to the user than before, otherwise those brands who would be willing to dip their toe in these murky waters are likely to be cautious of the backlash!

Not only that, but the Information Commissioner (ICO) has announced that it’ll be looking into the deal and says it’ll be transparent about what the deal means for its information.

Eek… watch this space. Good luck Zuckerberg!