Saturday, 24 November 2018

Yes, You Do Have Time for Creative Writing

Some writers insist that their busy schedules get in the way of their creativity. Rather than focusing their efforts on quality content, they’re instead left with little to no time to write anything at all. Hence, the copy they come up with isn’t exactly their best work.

The thing is though, if creative writing is part and parcel of your profession, you need to make time for it. Irrespective of how busy your schedule may be, there are countless avenues to explore for freeing up a little time here and there.

Three of which you’ll find outlined below:

1. Cut Down on Social Media Time

If you’re anything like the vast majority of people these days, you’re probably spending far too much time on social media. Even if it’s only a few minutes here and there, it can quickly add up to several hours per week. Hours wasted doing nothing productive whatsoever.

It’s not a case of quitting social media entirely, but instead focusing on a strategic cut-down. Particularly during your working hours, when these kinds of distractions should be avoided entirely. As important as it is for you to stay connected, you can always check those non-business messages a little later. Facebook isn’t going anywhere, so there’s no rush!

2. Always Carry a Notebook

Why rely exclusively on technology to enable your craft? It can be far better and more enjoyable to go back to basics, carrying a notebook and making use of any spare time that comes your way. If it takes you 30 minutes by bus to get to work, that’s five hours a week you could dedicate to creative writing. All without the usual distractions creeping into the equation.

It’s also worth remembering how therapeutic traditional writing can be. Rather than straining your eyes staring at a screen, give the paper option a shot and see how it works for you. You never know when and where inspiration might strike – Harry Potter started out with nothing more than a pen and a napkin!

3. Schedule Creative Writing Time

Last up, if creative writing is part of your job, surely it’s worth bringing it into your schedule. If it’s a genuine priority, don’t simply cast it to one side until time permits. Bring creative writing into your schedule, ideally getting into some kind of effective routine.

If your current schedule is already full, think about which duties are more or less important than creative writing. Even if you simply slot 20 minutes of creative writing time into your lunch break, that’s more than one and a half hours per week. Or, more than 75 hours per year. A small price to pay to get those creative juices flowing and ensure your talent doesn’t go to waste.

In a nutshell therefore, it’s always possible to find at least some time to dedicate to creative writing. It’s simply a case of weighing up your priorities and focusing on what really matters.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Five Steps for More Engaging Infographics

The fact that infographics are so uniquely powerful and influential really is a godsend. From a business perspective, being able to pack so much concise and relevant information into such a small marketing material is no less than fantastic. Not to mention the fact that close to half of all people are known to respond better to visual information than plain text alone.

So you understand and acknowledge the power and potential of outstanding infographics. But how to go about creating them?

Well, the good news is that regardless of what line of business you happen to be in, there are certain standards and conventions to stick with. In fact, work in accordance with the following five guidelines and your next infographic could be your most successful to date:

1. Identify your message and stick with it

As is the case with any good story, you need to first consider what your overall message is. Just like when penning a blog post, consider the purpose of the infographic and the relevant theme. Once you’ve made these decisions, you need to make sure you stick with them from start to finish. The closer you remain tied to the primary message and theme, the more convincing and engaging the infographic will be.

2. Work hard on your headline

If you want anybody to bother reading the content of your infographic, you first need to create a compelling headline. Once again, this is no different to the usual standard with any other kind of content creation. The key lies in providing the reader with a good idea what the infographic is all about, though without giving too much away. The idea being that they are compelled to continue reading the rest of its content from top to bottom. If you can create a sense of intrigue, you’re golden.

3. Keep it simple

The more complicated an infographic appears at first glance, the less likely anyone is to bother reading it. It’s a bit like when you come across an unbroken passage of text, as opposed to a passage punctuated by imagery and other breaks. Whether it’s too many visuals, too much text or simply too much of everything crammed into a small space, clutter and crowding can be extremely off-putting. Focus on the basics and keep things simple.

4. Light-hearted visuals

Although there are exceptions to the rule, most infographics benefit from visuals that are relatively light hearted. As you’ve probably noted by now, infographics tend to contain visuals that are somewhat cartoonish, entertaining and highly simplified. They very rarely contain complex, formal or distracting visuals of any kind.

5. Push and promote

Last but not least, perhaps the single most important rule when it comes to creating effective infographics is to push and promote them as vigorously as possible. It’s best to look at infographics in the same way you would view a press release. It represents a marketing material in its own right, but nonetheless needs to be marketed to have any real value. Always keep shareability in mind when deciding on the content for your infographics and do your best to get the process of sharing underway.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Confirmed: Speed Matters More than Ever

If there’s one thing every Internet user today has in common, it’s growing impatience. Even if some have at least a little more patience than others, impatience among web users is growing like never before. For the most part, it is taken for granted that both your website and all of its internal pages will load in full at the snap of a finger. If they don’t, your prospects turn around, head elsewhere and perhaps never return.

Now, it’s natural for those on the business side of the equation to simply throw accusations at impatient customers, arguing that it’s unrealistic to expect flawless performance at all times. Unfortunately, the customer is always right. Or at least, the customer determines whether and to what extent you will succeed, therefore you need to do what they want, when they want it.

According to one of the more recent studies carried out by Kissmetrics, almost half of all consumers now expect websites and internal pages to fire up in no more than 2 seconds. In addition, approximately 40% stated that they will happily walk away from a website (perhaps permanently) if they are forced to wait more than 3 seconds for it to load.

But here’s the real kicker – it’s not only about the huge increase in bounce rates slow loading times tend to trigger. Instead, research has shown that even when customers wait those extra few seconds and stick around, slow loading times can have a remarkable effect on conversion rates.

…and not in a good way.

Extensive surveys have shown that when page loading times are delayed by as little as one second, it can lead to a quite extraordinary 7% reduction in conversions. In the case of Amazon – which is admittedly rather on the large side compared to most online businesses – it is estimated that approximately $1.6 billion is lost every year, simply due to slow page loading times. It’s not as if your own business is likely to incur these kinds of heavy losses, but still – can you really afford to throw away 7% of possible conversions, simply due to basic issues with page loading times?

The answer…of course you can’t!

From a website developer’s perspective, the most frustrating thing about poor page loading times is the way in which they can usually be addressed relatively easily. While it’s not to say that there will not be some time, effort and expenditure involved, it often takes little more than a few simple tweaks behind the scenes to get things up to speed…literally. Whether it’s your current hosting service provider, your site’s coding, issues with its content or anything else across the board, there are various ways and means by which you can and therefore should work to improve its performance.

Given the fact that so many businesses are still allowing themselves to fall behind the curve by operating sluggish and inconsistent websites, this is actually a comparatively quick, easy and affordable way to get ahead.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Negative SEO: Protecting Yourself

Statistically speaking, your likelihood of being directly affected by negative SEO is actually relatively low. Nevertheless, it does exist, does happen and does have the potential to wreak havoc with your business.

In the simplest of terms, negative SEO refers to anything done by outside parties to either harm your rankings or redirect traffic elsewhere. It’s sometimes used to hijack traffic for material gains, though can also be used for no reason other than to destroy your reputation and business. And as it can be very difficult to reverse once you’ve been attacked, the best approach is to keep your eye out for anything suspicious and protect your business on an on-going basis.

Perform Regular Link Audits

For example, link audits represent an important SEO tool in general and can be very helpful in detecting negative SEO. You basically need to keep a constant eye on the links pointing toward your site and those your site features. Should any turn out to be spammy, fraudulent or invalid, your SEO prowess could take a hit.

Monitor Site Speed

Never forget that these days, Google pays close attention to the speed and overall performance of your website when determining its SERP rankings. Which is precisely why many negative SEO attacks target overall speed and performance, which can and often do make a big difference in terms of rankings.

Check for Scraped Content

This basically refers to the all-too common process of content being directly lifted from your website and published word for word elsewhere. The attacker may then subsequently claim that the copy is their own, which will lead to your site being penalised for duplicating their content. If not, the fact that the copy is repeated any number of times in various locations could automatically affect your rankings.

Check Google My Business

The occasional negative review tends to be both inevitable and potentially beneficial for your business. However, if it seems as if you are unfairly and inexplicably attracting negative press from all over the place, it could be that someone is trying to do your reputation damage with fake reviews. All of which is precisely why it is important to keep tabs on your online reputation at all times.

Upgrade Your Security

Last but not least, the single most effective way of protecting yourself from the kind of negative SEO that happens directly on your website itself is to upgrade the security of your site. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t always blatantly obvious when hackers have made their way through some kind of back door and done their bidding with your coding. Quite the opposite, as with negative SEO it’s more a case of sneaking in, wreaking havoc and making it as difficult as possible for the changes to be detected. So for obvious reasons, it simply makes sense to protect yourself to the highest possible extent.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Five Ways to Wreck Your SERP Score with Google

It seems the one constant in the whole digital marketing landscape over recent years has been the importance of SEO. Or more specifically, achieving solid SERP performance. And as far as the immediate outlook is concerned at least, it doesn’t look as if things are about to change anytime soon.

That said, the one thing that has changed beyond recognition is the list of errors and oversights that can get you in trouble. Reaching the top spot with Google has never been more difficult – doing yourself a disservice has never been simpler. Which is exactly what a surprising number of online businesses are doing right now.

To just look at things from a slightly alternative perspective, here’s a rundown of five guaranteed ways to wreck your SERP score with Google:

1. Anything black hat

First up, there’s really no sense in listing the various examples of black hat SEO techniques you should be avoiding. The reason being that all black hat SEO should be avoided at all costs. Even if it’s the kind of thing you’d once get away with, or genuinely believe you’ve hidden sufficiently from view. These days, there are no short cuts to positive SEO whatsoever – trying to find them will only ever land you in hot water.

2. Duplicate content

As time goes by, the rules in terms of duplicate content are also becoming more and more severe. Bad enough when there’s duplicate content within the same site, even worse when the same content appears in different locations. Whatever your excuse, Google sees duplicate content as nothing more than lazy and of poor quality for web users. Even if you don’t agree, you still need to abide by the rules.

3. Too much guest blogging

You know how guest blogging can be a great way of an invaluable and abundant backlink? Well, as far as Google is concerned, too much of a good thing is bad. Just to clarify, guest blogging should in no way be considered black hat or inadvisable. It can actually be enormously beneficial and positive. Nevertheless, any kind of duplicate, poor-quality or spun content used for guest blogging is exactly the kind of thing that could reflect bad on you. Both in terms of your reputation and your SERP score.

4. Site performance issues

The problem with this particular consideration is that it didn’t use to be a consideration at all. At one time, you could get away with a website that wasn’t particularly speedy, reliable or easy to navigate. These days, all these things and everything else to do with performance are taken into account and considered accordingly. Which in turn means that even if your site’s content is no less than outstanding, it could be rendered redundant if site performance isn’t up to scratch.

5. Poor security

Last but not least, there’s nothing quite like being kicked when you’re already down. It’s not as if getting hacked isn’t bad enough. Nevertheless, evidence of hacking suggests that your website may have serious security issues – something that doesn’t go down well with Google. The long and short of it therefore being that as far as security is concerned, there’s no such thing as overprotecting your website.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

A Monthly Checklist to Keep Your Blog On Track

Give your business blog appropriate time and attention and it will reward you for your efforts. By contrast, neglect it and it may bring you nothing but bother.

The problem being that while so many business blogs start out great, their respective ‘owners’ sooner or later begin letting things slip. It becomes less of a priority, quality begins to slide and the benefits it once brought to the business slowly but surely disappear.

Which is why it’s a good idea to perform on-going health checks on your blog, just to ensure it and you are doing your jobs properly. It doesn’t have to be difficult – simply get into the habit of working with the following monthly checklist and you’ll find it much easier to keep your blog on track:

Interpret Data

First of all, owning and operating a blog – even a successful one – isn’t enough. If your blog is successful, you need to find out why and capitalise on whatever it is you are doing right. If it isn’t successful, you need to know what you are doing wrong and change things accordingly. Or if it’s ok but could certainly be improved, the same applies. Reviewing analytics and working with the data you collect should represent one of the most important core duties in the operation of your business blog. If it doesn’t, you are effectively grasping blindly in the dark and have no idea how or why your blog is performing as it is.

Rank Entries

When dealing with data, take a good look through your most successful entries for the month or year to date, in order to rank them in terms of performance. It’s crucially important to keep a log of your successes and failures in terms of entries and headlines, in order to determine what your target audience members do and do not respond well to. Focus on things like number of shares, time spent on each article, number of clicks, bounce rates and so on. This way, you’ll have yourself something of a blueprint mapping out the most successful posts/titles for your blog.

Itemize Content
Variety is the spice of life – something that applies to blog management just as much as anything else. In order to ensure that you are providing your readers with sufficient variety, it’s good to get into the habit of itemising content. For example, establish headers like video tutorials, infographics, podcasts, lists, opinion pieces and so on, checking each month that each category has been given sufficient attention.

Strategize for Next Month

Last but not least, once you have taken care of all of the above, you will have all the information you need to develop a near guaranteed winning strategy for next month. The worst thing you can do with any blog is to simply make things up as you go along. The more strategic you are and the more you base your strategies on the data you collect, the higher the likelihood of next month being even more successful for both your blog and your business.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Writer’s Block? Where to Look for Blog Post Inspiration

Every now and again, even the most committed and capable bloggers struggle to find inspiration. You’ve every intention of publishing another quality post, but can’t for the life of you decide what to write about.

The problem being that this is usually the point where many bloggers simply throw out a load of old garbage to fill the vacant space. An inadvisable move that could compromise the quality and appeal of the entire blog.

If struggling to pull inspiration out of thin air, the solution can often be found in a slightly more strategic approach. That being – knowing where to look to take inspiration from others.

So if you find yourself struggling to come up with solid topic ideas for your next post, here are four places you’ll probably find all the inspiration you’ll ever need:

Other Blogs in Your Niche

First up, there’s nothing wrong with seeking inspiration from the blogs of other businesses within your niche. However, the key to making it work lies in taking inspiration from a specific topic and doing something brand new with it in your own words. Simply ripping off your competitors wholesale is not the way to go about things. Feel free to sign up to as many mailing lists and newsletter subscription services as you like for regular inspiration in your mailbox every week.

Social Media

Whatever line of work you’re in, social media is the very best place to find out what’s generating conversation among your target audience. Industry blogs and resources are one thing, but what’s making waves at ground level? Browse relevant groups and pages on the platforms of your choosing and you’ll soon discover the hottest topics to steer your posts in the right direction. And while you’re at it, feel free to join the conversation and boost your reach at the same time.

Colleagues and Employees

Unless you’re a sole-trader of some kind, all the inspiration you’ll ever need could come from those in the immediate vicinity. Simply chatting with colleagues and employees can open the doors to all the inspiring ideas in the world for your posts. Not to mention, the benefits of seeing current topics, trends and discussions from an entirely different perspective. Even if you’re entirely bereft of inspiration, your colleagues and employees could be anything but.

Your Existing Content

Last but not least, repurposing old content is a great way of dealing with writer’s block. The key in this instance being to take one of your better prior posts and approach the subject with a slightly different spin, or from an entirely different angle. You could turn a factual piece into an infographic, an instructional piece into a video tutorial or a popular blog post into a podcast. While it’s important not to simply copy your own work verbatim, there’s always plenty that can be done to extract maximum value from your existing content.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Google Latest Algorithm Tweak Shouldn’t Shock Anyone

These days, most online business owners keep a fairly close eye on their SERP rankings. Assuming they count on search engines to send traffic their way, their prominence or otherwise can make or break their businesses. The problem being that every now and then, many businesses bear the brunt of a sudden yet perhaps dramatic fall.

Falling down the rankings just a few positions can transform solid performance into near-zero performance in an instant. Particularly in the wake of major changes to Google’s search algorithm, it’s normal to see thousands of casualties on a global basis. But what many fail to realise is that outside these major changes, minor tweaks are made to Google’s indexation system all the time.

Hundreds of them every year, in fact.

So it’s technically no surprise that a couple of weeks ago, a fair few businesses and SEO analysts alike noticed slight changes to their respective sites’ performance. Nothing major, but the apparent algorithm tweak generated such huge discussion online that Google stepped away from tradition and broke silence on Twitter.

“Each day, Google usually releases one or more changes designed to improve our results. Some are focused around specific improvements,” wrote a Google spokesperson on Twitter.

“Some are broad changes. Last week, we released a broad core algorithm update. We do these routinely several times per year. As with any update, some sites may note drops or gains. There’s nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well. Instead, it’s that changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded.”

The obvious issue being that while they may have confirmed the change, they didn’t go into any detail at all regarding its nature. Neither did they offer any pearls of wisdom as to how to go about repairing the damage where necessary.

“There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well other than to remain focused on building great content,” Google stated.

“Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.”

So once again, we find ourselves with countless businesses and website owners wondering why they’ve been punished. Or more importantly, what to do to reverse the damage. The thing is though, these kinds of changes really aren’t surprising at all. Nor should they be interpreted as punishments.

As Google stated, a fall in the rankings doesn’t mean you’ve been punished to some extent or another. It simply means that something to do with your rivals’ websites that wasn’t previous awarded due credit has now been rewarded. So it’s not a case of repairing the damage – it’s a case of taking your own SEO strategy to the next level.

Google’s rules have never changed…at least as far as their intentions are concerned. Serve you niche with a quality, content-rich and well-optimised website to feature prominently in the rankings. Fail to do so and your competitors will outperform you.

Make it happen with a quality, long-term SEO strategy and you can ensure you stay one step ahead of both Google’s algorithm tweaks and those you’re looking to outperform.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Essential Marketing Stats from Mid-February

It’s time once again to share a few interesting and important digital marketing stats from the past couple of weeks. Whatever the size and nature of your business, you’ll hopefully find some kind of value in the following:

Right to be forgotten of interest to millions of Brits
First up, a recent study carried out by Mediatel found that up to a third (34%) of people in the United Kingdom are interested in exercising their ‘right to be forgotten’. What’s more, less than one in five companies are confident that personal data is handled and used responsibly, with 58% of consumers expressing concern regarding how much personal information is stored about them in general. If accurate, millions of Brits could issue requests to be forgotten over the coming years.

Mobile apps driving stronger retail sales
According to Criteo, retailers that offer their customers mobile apps are seeing around half of online sales take place via mobile devices. While mobile devices are known to account for around 40% of online sales in Europe in general, the figure for the UK is much higher at 53%. Customers in many regions and demographics are demonstrating growing preference to dedicated mobile apps, above and beyond purchasing through mobile browsers. The biggest increases in mobile sales have been noted in luxury, fashion and health & beauty sectors.

Too much personalisation is a bad thing
Personalised emails and marketing messages can be extremely powerful. However, take things too far and you’ll be interpreted as creepy, sending your customers in entirely the wrong direction. A recent study found that around 75% of consumers find all types of personalisation at least a little unsettling, with 22% having said they’d refuse to use a brand that takes personalisation too far. On the whole, around 50% of respondents said they’d had at least one creepy experience with personalisation.

Replying to online reviews is a must
New research from Harvard Business School shows that if looking to boost your brand’s overall rating, replying to reviews is an absolute must. Specifically, it was found that when hotels on TripAdvisor respond consistently to customer reviews, they in turn attract on average 12% more reviews and a star-rating boosted by 0.12 stars. Given that even the smallest of differences can have a huge impact when dealing with such huge competition, the findings of the study could prove highly significant.

Global internet user population surpasses 4bn
Last but not least, we’ve now officially passed the 4 billion global internet user threshold for the first time in history. That is, according to a new report published by We Are Social and Hootsuite. This would mean that more than half of the entire global population is now online in one capacity or another. The study also found that the average Brit now spends around six hours online every single day, with more than 95% of the UK population using the internet.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

A Fresh Roundup of the Latest Facts, Figures and Stats

It’s the moment you have all been waiting for – our latest list of interesting and perhaps even useful statistics from the world of digital marketing.

65% of consumers are fed up with irrelevant communication

First up, it seems you aren’t the only one who’s well and truly fed up with pointless messages. A recent study found that a full 87% of younger consumers said they’d be encouraged to shop with a company that personalises its special offers and discounts. At the other end of the scale, 65% of shoppers said they’ve had enough of retailers and businesses in general sending them generic and useless messages.

46% of consumers have used social media to ‘call out’ brands

Naming and shaming companies in the face of a negative encounter is apparently becoming more popular than ever. A recent study by a Sprout Social found that a whopping 56% of millennial audiences have taken to social media to publicly vent their frustrations about businesses they’ve dealt with. On the whole, 46% of consumers have done exactly the same.

Consumers are switching to ethical utility brands

Environmentally friendly attitudes and policies are apparently winning over more consumers than ever before. Along with 16% of shoppers saying they’d abandon a utility service provider if it was involved in some kind of scandal, 10% said they would definitely switch providers if a competitor proved to be more ethical in general.

Email click-through rates fell last year

Though it may be too much of a general statistic to hold any real value, a new report from the DMA found that email click-through rates last year experienced a notable decline. Compared to the year before, click-through rates fell from 1.8% to 1.6%. Nevertheless, the overall open-rate remained at around the same 14.2%.

Two out of three luxury shoppers prefer to use mobile

Anyone involved in high-end ecommerce should probably take note of the fact that the majority of luxury shoppers apparently prefer to shop via mobile devices. A full two out of three luxury shoppers preferring mobile, according to Content Square.

Brands can benefit by avoiding or condemning Trump

Last but not least, analysis of brand sentiment scores before and after political statements and messages would seem to suggest that negative sentiments towards President Donald Trump can be beneficial in a business sense. Both Intel and Under Armour have recently seen significant jumps in their respective brand sentiment scores – both occurring almost immediately after the company’s publicly took a strong stance in one way or another against the Trump administration.

Since Under Armour’s CEO Kevin Plank revealed that he is to leave Donald Trump’s manufacturing council, the brand’s sentiment score has stood at a positive 89.4%.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Content Marketing: Why Is It So Effective?

By this stage in time, you don’t need us or anyone else to tell you how important content marketing is. You may or may not be using it to its full potential, but still…chances are you know it’s a big deal.

But have you ever stopped to ask the big question: why is content marketing so effective?

With so many other approaches to digital marketing out there, why does content marketing top the table?

Two very important questions, for which there are thousands of deep and unnecessarily convoluted answers. In truth, the explanation as to why content marketing is so effective can be summed up in just two words:

Value and influence.

Content of Value

The basic principle of content marketing is one that focuses on value. Whatever kind of content you produce and regardless of who you are reaching out to, you need to provide them with something of value. This is the only way they will look beyond your content to the brand behind it, slowly but surely building a sense of trust. And they build a sense of trust because content of value has influence.

Which in turn means that effective content marketing increases influence, which is just about the single most important thing a business can have plenty of.

When you think about it, the most successful businesses the world over are built on influence. Overtime, they increase their influence to such an extent that their target audience members practically eat out of their hands. The greater their authority and influence in their niche, the more power they have to grow, evolve and vastly extend their customer base.

You really only have to think of two brands to get the idea. One being a household name, the other being some random name you read on the packaging of an equally random product that you had never heard of. Which of the two would you be most likely to trust? Which would you be more likely to become a regular customer of? Or for that matter, give their product a try in the first place? More importantly, which would you recommend to your friends, family and colleagues?

The answer is almost always the same – the company or brand with the greatest influence.

Influence Through Value

There is a direct correlation between creation of value and greater influence. That being, the more value you provide, the more your influence grows as a result. Once again, it’s a case of thinking about which brands and even individuals in your life have the greatest influence over you. The brand you are loyal to instinctively, the people you look up to and so on. Chances are, the reason these companies and individuals have so much influence over you and the decisions you make is because you value them.

You may value what they do, what they stand for, the products they provide you with or anything else at all. Value breeds influence, which in turn breeds loyalty, which in turn breeds even greater influence.

So to answer the question once again, content marketing works because it is just about the only approach to contemporary digital marketing that focuses on value above and beyond everything else.