Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Using Brand Stories To Connect With Your Customers

How can you ensure that the brand story you tell is one your customers will respond positively to?
The answer…well, there are of course enormous differences from one organisation to the next. Nevertheless, there are a few key strategic guidelines to follow, which can help in all instances.

In fact, proceed in accordance with the following five steps and you may find it difficult to go wrong:

1.  Show your customers, don’t just tell them
First of all, it is not simply enough to tell your customers X, Y and Z about your business. After all, you could just be saying it for the sake of winning them over. Instead, you need to think of appropriate ways and means by which you can show them, rather than tell them. Or in other words, demonstrate what your brand represents, how you do what you say you do and what it is that makes you different. These days, evidence speaks louder than all the words in the world.

2.  Focus on long-term stories
It’s also a good idea to ensure that the brand story you tell is long-term or on-going in nature. The reason being that if it is only relevant and/or convincing for the time being, it may not have little value for your business. As with most marketing, the focus should be on the long-term benefits for your business, as opposed to quick-fixes. What’s more, you should tell the type of story that you can and will continue to tell and update along the way. Think of the kinds of evergreen qualities that sell and the kinds of stories your customers will want to keep up to date with.

3.  Be authentic
Or in other words, don’t think you can get away with faking it. Whatever type of story you decide to tell or persona you choose to assume, it needs to be authentic.  Which is for two reasons – first of which being that most consumers can spot fakes miles away. But even if they don’t, you cannot expect to keep up a voice, attitude and fa├žade that go against who you really are and what you really do. Sooner or later, the whole thing will come crashing down - hence it isn’t worth bothering with in the first place.

4. Grab their attention
You cannot expect your customers to delve too deeply into your story if there isn’t something to hook their attention early on. Attention spans these days are minimal at the best of times. Which means that no matter how deep and compelling your story is, you need to ensure you grab their attention as early on as possible. First get them hooked, then move on to the details.

5. Study their habits
Last but not least, the better you come to understand what makes your customers tick, the easier it will be to create compelling stories. Study their habits, get involved via social media and discover the kinds of subjects, voices and anything else that engages them. Not to mention, the kinds of things that generate discussion, or perhaps send them in entirely the wrong direction. This way, you will have nothing less than a blueprint for the creation of not only a great brand story, but the rest of the content you publish across the board.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

4 Ways to Avoid E-Commerce Annihilation

Nowadays, it’s often said that in order to be able to survive as a retailer, you need to get involved in the ecommerce revolution. But at the same time, it is hardly difficult to notice how the ecommerce field is already utterly and completely dominated by a few leading brands. Put simply, no matter what you want or need, chances are you’ll be able to easily pick it up from a leading name online.

All of which seems to leave little space for smaller online brands, considering the David and Goliath struggle they usually face. But as far as the professionals are concerned, not all hope is lost. Quite to the contrary, as there are some ways and means by which focusing on what matters can assist any online store avoid complete annihilation by the ecommerce giants.

1. Don’t Count on Low Prices Alone

It is worth bearing in mind that most consumers value other elements of the service package above low prices. Amazing customer service, extremely reliable delivery times or just a brand with a story and ethos they can connect with. Surviving as a small ecommerce business means focusing on what it is that makes your brand both different and awesome from rivals.

2. Be a Service Provider, Not Just a Vending Machine

What this basically means is the way some online stores seem to exist like glorified vending machines, while others are exceptionally rich in engaging and useful content. The difference is that the large majority of web consumers respond significantly better to the latter. Therefore, it is crucial to make all efforts to build and market your businessand brand around so much more than products alone. You have to become an all-round service provider and an online authority your clients turn to for more than purchases alone.

3. Get to Know Your Clients

Loyalty schemes are both effective and important, with eMarketer recently revealing that next to 55% of web consumers admit that their spending habits are influenced by such programs. Nonetheless, it is once again crucial to go beyond the norm in order to be as competitive as possible. Provide regular e-mail updates, carry out surveys, request thoughts, reviews and opinions, find out what their priorities are.

4. Stay Social

Last up, you need to use every scrap of information you come across regarding your customers in terms of the content you create and your effort to maintain relationships. One of the most crucial pieces of the puzzle is that of staying social – making the most use of your social media channels and building one comprehensive online presence. It is not like the CEO of Amazon has the inclination or the time to get directly involved with customers via Twitter or Facebook. As a much more personal and small business, it’s very much something that you can do and hence should be doing.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Google and Bing Unite to Take Down Piracy Sites

Though it is entirely against the law, piracy is nevertheless big business these days. The majority of people that participate in P2P file sharing aren’t out to make money, but simply to allow others to access their music, movies and so on in a way that infringes copyright law. At the same time, there are always those who make quite a bit of money from building and operating huge P2P file databases that are often making a killing in advertising revenues.

Suffice to say, it is a problem many artists, businesses and authorities all over the world are attempting to tackle. The only issue being that as it’s as simple as firing up your computer and accessing the website in question, that is precisely what millions are doing every day.
Nonetheless, this can all be set to change in the very near future as both Google and Bing have signed up to a new code of practice, after discussions with the UK government and representatives of the entertainment industry. Put simply, the two major search engines will start a process of demoting websites involved in piracy, in order to reduce the exposure of such websites.

The agreement was reached with the music and film industry in talks organised by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The initiative also received the support of UK telecommunications regulator Ofcom, which is constantly looking for projects and programmes that can actively prevent users from accessing piracy websites.

One of the biggest issues having always been the way the websites themselves plead innocent, given the way they don’t in fact share or host any files directly. This simply makes it easy for users to share their own files illegally.

The project will be watched closely by the minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation, Jo Johnson, who underscored the importance of collaboration in order to crack down the escalating piracy problem.

“Search engines play a vital role in helping consumers discover content online,” said Johnson. “It is essential that they are presented with links to legitimate websites and services, not provided with links to pirate sites,”

“I am very pleased that the search engines and representatives of the creative industries have agreed this code. I look forward to this valuable collaboration benefiting both the UK’s digital and creative sectors,”

Additionally, digital and culture minister Matt Hancock stated that the United Kingdom must fulfil its responsibility to set the right example and to also ensure that users and businesses are sufficiently protected.

“Pirate sites deprive artists and rights holders of hard-earned income and I’m delighted to see industry-led solutions like this landmark agreement which will be instrumental in driving change,” he said.

“As we build a more global Britain we want the UK to be the most innovative country to do business, and initiatives such as this will ensure our creative and digital economies continue to thrive.”

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Creation Vs Collation: The Value of Unique Copy

When it comes to website development, pretty much anyone can source fresh content from elsewhere and publish it on their own website. Which is, more often than not, exactly what the majority of website owners do. From news pieces to relevant articles to videos and images, you have to ask: how much of all this content did you create from scratch, on your own?

If the answer gravitates towards very little or none, don’t be too upset – you’re quite far from in the minority. Nevertheless, you can definitely do with changing this somewhat, given the way original copy is significantly more valuable than redistributing existing copy.

Naturally, the former of the two is quite trickier to come up with – especially if you’re not brimming with ideas or inspiration. However, making the effort and investing plenty of time and effort into some original copy can help deliver much more impressive results when it comes customer loyalty and engaging than simply sticking with content collation.

So, bearing this in mind, here is a short overview of a few simple guidelines for creating outstanding and entirely original content, in order to offer your website visitors something that will boost their engagement:

First up, updating your website blog regularly is one of the most efficient ways of keeping your website topped up with fresh content at all times. When it comes to actually creating blog posts, rather than just republishing article pieces and news stories, add your own voice into the mix. Or, put simply, bring relevant stories and articles to the attention of your web visitors, but do so in an editorial manner.

Another great way of providing more unique copy to your site is to invite other people to offer their stories and insights. When it comes to informative resources, blog posts and interesting news stories, adding some new voices into the mix can be extremely valuable.

Telling an interesting story is found to be one of the most effective ways of promoting a real sense of engagement with a target audience. Rather than just bombarding your readers with facts and figures, more often than not it could be more beneficial to tell them a story. Given the fact that you’re (or at least should be) 100% original and unique, this should also results in completely original and unique content.

Another great way of creating unique copy is to get into the habit of writing and publishing reviews. But instead of just rewriting the reviews of other people, carry out your personal research and share your findings, thus inviting feedback from your readers. Even if they don’t agree with your views, it’s guaranteed to bolster discussion and engagement.

Last up, if you can get into the habit of frequently posting Q&A sessions with people of relevance to your line of work, go for it! It’s usually as simple as asking a bunch of questions to a person of interest with respect to what you do, in order to be provided with the kind of solid gold copy that can work wonders for your site.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

When Can I See Content Marketing Results?

As much as you probably hate hearing “It depends” in a response to “When will I start seeing the results of my content marketing?”, the simple fact of the matter is that marketers hate saying that even more. Unfortunately, sometimes it is indeed the only true answer.

But if the questions won’t ease up until you receive at least a ballpark estimate, then the answer is more often than not six to nine months. Naturally, there will always be brands that see results before this time and others who will need to wait longer than nine months. Put simply, it depends.
In a time when we have all grown quite used to instant gratification, this answer could be a hard number to swallow. But as common sense usually dictates “Nothing worthwhile is easy.”

What Factors Impact the Time Between Execution of Content Marketing and Its Results?
Two different categories of variables will affect the timeline of content marketing – those you have control over and those you have no control over.

What CAN I Control?
The time and budget you’re willing to invest
Your Goals
Your strategy
How frequently you publish content
How you measure success and failure
How well you promote your content
The level of quality of your content

What CAN’T I Control?
The marketplace
The economy
What your competition is doing

As you could see, while there is a handful of factors you cannot govern, there are many more things that you can. To increase your chances of success and to have a more predictable timeline, you will need to establish a plan for each of these elements.

Here Is What to Do:
1. Choose your specific goals. You are certainly free to use industry standards as a starting point, but no brand is exactly like yours, which simply means that no brand will have the same precise objectives. Choose the goals that will make the most sense for your brand.
2. Evaluate your resources. Be realistic about how much money and time you are able to dedicate to content marketing. If you need to outsource, then do it. Don’t try to bite more than you can chew.
3. Determine your strategy. Again, you are free to research and study the best practices, but your strategy will need to be your own. What has worked for another brand will not necessarily work for you. Think about your specific resources and goals.
4. Consider measurement criteria. Know what defines a win and what constitutes a loss. Any vagueness will make it very difficult to optimize your campaign.
5. Set the publishing frequence. Ensure you post often enough to keep your audiences interested, but not so often that there is no way for them to keep up. Try to engage them, but don’t overwhelm them.
6. Get the word out. All of the best content in the world doesn’t mean anything if there is nobody that knows about it. Post on social media platforms, use PPC campaigns where necessary and create relationships with industry leaders who are able to promote your content to their specific audiences.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

How Will the Face of SEO Change in 2017?

The beginning of the new year usually raises a variety of questions as to precisely what will happen in the SEO field over the next 12 months. SEO’s landscape has changed dramatically over recent years, but it remains every bit as crucial and powerful as it ever was. The major search engines are obviously not going anywhere, which means the same could be said for SEO.

So as far as the professionals are concerned, what are the predictions for 2017 when it comes to SEO?

1. Better Mobile Websites
The first and most crucial priority seems set to be to a large extent similar to that of 2016. That being, to offer increasingly sophisticated and improved mobile websites for the growing mobile market. The only difference this year being that just satisfying mobile clients with a basic responsive webpage will just not be enough. Instead, the future of you webpage’s SEO prowess will depend on enhanced and improved mobile focus.

2. Intensive Analysis and Measurements
Along with SEO techniques and tools in general, available methods of analysing and measuring the success of SEO strategies are becoming more sophisticated than ever before. Which in turn means that one major SEP trend in 2017 will lie in meticulously and consistently monitoring each effort made, as and when it is made. This way, no time and efforts are wasted on SEO strategies that are unlikely to deliver results.

3. Increase in Long-form Content
Along with long-form keyword phrases and keywords, long-form content also represents a major element of modern SEO. Along with meeting the requirements of the search engines, long-form content also instils a sense of authority and trust among website visitors. It means having to put a bit more effort into producing the content, but what you get in return more than justifies the outlay.

4. Responding to Customer Experience
While SEO might traditionally have been entirely objective – focusing on statistics and numbers – SEO in 2017 will see much more focus on the overall user experience, but instead using actual user encounters to build effective strategies. The reason being that nowadays, the longer users stay on your site, the more pages they view and the more often they come back, the better the rankings you can expect as a result.

5. Regular Audits
Last but not least, just revisiting an SEO strategy every six months or so to determine its effectiveness is simply not enough anymore. The trouble is, the fact that rankings volatility has been reduced as of late has led many web developers and business owners into a false state of security. They create an SEO strategy that seems to be working and leave it to its devices. Nonetheless, the only way to stay ahead of the curve is to carry out an audit strategy on a monthly basis, in order to be able to eliminate anything that you might be wasting your money and time on.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

HTTPS Sites Now Account for One Third of Page-One Rankings

According to the results of a new study carried out by Moz, more than 32% of all results to make it to the front page of Google are websites that use the HTTPS protocol. A blog post was published this week which highlighted data gathered the over the past two years, ever since the August 2014 announcement from Google that HTTPS would become a light ranking signal.

Suffice to say, the findings should definitely serve as food for thought for those working in search engine optimisation when it comes to making the decision as to whether or not shifting to the secure HTTPS should be considered.

For those unfamiliar with exactly what HTTPS is all about, perhaps the simplest description of all of in a comparative sense was provided by Jim Yu:

“HTTP is the standard form used when accessing websites. HTTPS adds an additional layer of security by encrypting in SSL and sharing a key with the destination server that is difficult to hack.”
And as for the announcement made by Google back in the summer of 2014, here’s what they had to say about HTTPS:

“We’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now, it’s only a very lightweight signal, affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals, such as high-quality content.”

Google would go on to make the promise that the importance of HTTPS in their views and actions would continue to grow, in order to work towards a safer worldwide web for the future. Given the results published this week by Moz, it looks like they weren’t kidding.

As of right now, evidence seems to suggest that sites using the HTTPS protocol account for no less than a full third of all the results that turn up in the first page of Google’s SERP rankings. Dr. Pete – the chap responsible for the study – was adamant to point out however that while it may immediately come across as an algorithm change, it could also simply be that more webmasters and developers than ever before are following Google’s advice and using the HTTPS protocol.

“They’ve successfully led search marketers and site owners to believe that HTTPS will be rewarded, and this has drastically sped up the shift.”

To be frank, if there’s anything your web business can be doing right now to up security standards for the sake of the customers, it’s something you absolutely should be doing. Not only for their physical protection from harm, but also because it immediately illustrates and demonstrates the strongest regard for their welfare on your part.

Which is, in no uncertain terms, becoming one of the most important deciding factors when consumers decide who they do and do not do business with.

Claiming to tick all the right boxes in terms of security is one thing – proving it is something else entirely. In the case of HTTPS, it’s a small transition that could add up to a big difference in more ways than one.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

How to Instantly Improve Your Local SEO

It’s probably safe to say that most people these days are aware of the importance of local landing pages. As part of a wider web marketing strategy, local landing pages are known to have a direct and enormous impact on everything from bounce rates to conversions.

But at the same time, evidence has also shown that so many are getting things entirely wrong with their own local landing pages. It may take some time and effort to bring things up to speed, but those willing to do so may well note immediate and impressive improvement.

Individual City Pages

For example, if you are in the habit of using the same template for each local landing page with the relevant city or town slotted in where appropriate, it’s a habit to think about breaking. Not only does this kind of duplicate copy wreak havoc with your SEO performance, but it also gives your visitors the impression that you couldn’t be bothered providing them with a targeted, individual city page. Which is, when you think about it, pretty true. Take the time to create unique pages of genuine value and interest for each area you operate in and your visitors are guaranteed to respond favourably.

Unique Content

Just to reemphasise that point once again, unique content when it comes to individual local landing pages does not mean spun or rephrased versions of your other landing pages. Once again, this is the kind of thing that is absolutely guaranteed to turn off those who coin on to what you’re doing. You might get away with it with Google, but most probably not with your customers…who are quite a lot more important.

Answer Their Question

Think of the question, problem or need that’s in the head of the customer when they arrive at your website. Put yourself in their position and think about exactly what you would want and expect by way of an answer or solution. Then, make absolutely sure that your landing page gives them what they need. And just in case it doesn’t, you absolutely must ensure that your contact details are presented prominently, completely and accurately.

Caution with Links

It’s important to be cautious when it comes to the links you use or choose not to use on your local landing pages. The reason being that the more links you present pointing to other sites and pages, the more likely it is that new arrivals will get the impression they have not in fact landed on the page they require. Links in abundance can be distracting and discouraging, taking attention away from your key message and points of importance.

Local Content
Last but not least, always take things one step further by injecting some genuine local content of relevance into your localised landing pages. It could be something cultural that will strike a chord with the local community, perhaps testimonials and reviews from those living in this specific area, images of you doing whatever it is you do in the area in question or really anything else that generates a sense of authenticity. Which is in every respect the keyword you should be working in accordance with – ‘authentic’.