The Art of Storytelling In Content Marketing

Storytelling is an ancient art and its principals are used across many domains, yet in marketing and communication in business it is so much more than simply telling a story.

Storytelling has now become an essential content marketing technical used by marketers from all backgrounds to inform and inspire their audiences with strategically relatable content. Its place in content marketing is crucial for businesses that want to make a difference in these times of content-heavy and social media times.

Empathetic storytelling

Good stories help us understand our world and the lives of others. When we hear a good story, we think about what we have in common with the characters, such as their ideas, motivations, and experiences. Over 92% of consumers say they prefer stories in messaging – hence the pressure on marketing teams to tell a good story. When we hear a story we relate to, chemical responses happen in the brain, heightening our focus and allow us to connect. So, a content marketer can use these natural responses to create content centring on a consumer’s values and connecting their company to a target audience through trust and awareness.  This then often leads to a fully connected customer and often an interaction and sale.

Here are some tips to help you start creating your storytelling content

Focus on your audience’s needs

At the centre to your storytelling needs to be the understanding of your audience and their needs. Remember to use insights and methodologies market analytics to help understand your audience’s goals and values – you then need to communicate this understanding back to your audience to make them feel important and unique.  So instead of feeling like you are selling to them, your audience thinks you are communicating and helping them. This builds trust and an ongoing relationship.

Stories have a conflict

In fiction and storytelling, conflict is the basis of the plot. If you understand your audience’s issues then you can provide the solution – you are the answer they have been looking for.  By identifying and illustrating these struggles, you can also establish your expertise in the marketplace. You can display a higher level of knowledge than your competitors by focussing on a complex conflict that you can provide the solution to. Remember it’s not about selling your product – the focus needs to be on the conflict and with your clever storytelling, it guides the audience to come to a conclusion without you showing them.

Story structure

Remember learning to write prose in English classes at school? You were taught that stories should have a beginning, middle and an end. This still applies to your content, as well as features like using pace to drive your consumer through your story at the right speed. Spend too long on a setting a scene and your audience will lose interest, too fast and you’ll overwhelm them.

Story format

Finally, think about the best format to put your story in – a video can make a meaningful impact on an audience, whilst a podcast can relate context or more complex insights. Or think about trying something different like blog posts or live webinars to help share your story.

What are you waiting for?

For content marketers it is no longer about simply pushing products – instead, with just a few steps, you can use empathetic storytelling to illustrate their audience’s unique conflicts in a format that makes sense and take a big step in building a stronger more engaged consumer base.

How You Continue To Use Your Bought-In Mailing Lists After GDPR

If you buy business email lists, you can be forgiven for thinking that you can no longer use them after Friday 25th May 2018, when the new General Data Protection Regulation came into force. But you would be wrong…

Much rubbish has been stated suggesting GDPR is the end of cold email marketing.

It does mean some big changes, most notably the tightening up of how people consent to their personal data being used. But this does not rule out cold B2B email marketing or using bought-in business mailing lists to generate sales.

After 25th May 2018, a person must actively consent for their data to be processed and used by the actual company using it. This means that mailing list companies can no longer sell data that is “fully opted-in”. To opt in, people have to opt in directly with the company using the data. Unless your company name was mentioned when the person’s email address was collected, you can no longer rely on consent as a reason to process personal data.

But consent is not the only reason to process personal data. There are six lawful bases for processing data under GDPR legislation. You need to show compliance with one reason.

The most useful for business-to-business direct marketers and email marketers is known as Legitimate Interests.

Legitimate interests might be your own interests, or the interests of the third party receiving the data, or a combination of the two.

Latest guidance from the Information Commissioner says that legitimate interests may be the most appropriate basis when:

“the processing is not required by law but is of a clear benefit to you or others; there’s a limited privacy impact on the individual; the individual should reasonably expect you to use their data in that way; and you cannot, or do not want to, give the individual full upfront control (i.e. consent) or bother them with disruptive consent requests when they are unlikely to object to the processing.”

Crucially for marketers, direct marketing is described in the GDPR as an activity that may indicate a legitimate interest.

You need to carry out a simple legitimate interest’s assessment and document this assessment. Then update your Privacy Policy to state that you are relying on Legitimate Interests as a lawful basis on which to process personal data. And finally communicate that you are using Legitimate Interests to the people whose data you are processing.

Legitimate Interests is not a new concept and data brokers and email list providers have generally always relied on legitimate interest as a basis for collecting and processing data. What is new is that GDPR requires us all to document how we are using data and to communicate this to users and data subjects. Which on balance, seems quite reasonable.

The new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) rules that if your mailing list is opt-in, consent to opt-in to receive marketing communications must be be “freely-given, specific, informed and unambiguous”.

The good news is that ICO guidance also states that:

“You don’t always need consent. If consent is too difficult look at whether another lawful basis is more appropriate.”

Credible list brokers and email database providers all build and maintain their lists on the lawful basis of “legitimate interest”. If you have a business interest in contacting a person, you may contact them without gaining their prior consent to do so. This applies across mailing, telemarketing and email, with some key restrictions.

NOTE: There are no restrictions on postal mailing. Direct marketing with envelopes and stamps is swinging back into fashion. It is expensive compared to email marketing but compares well with other forms of digital advertising.

Email marketing for business-to-business marketing is only restricted by your own list of individuals who have unsubscribed from receiving emails from your company.

This is a key point of difference between consumer email marketing which definitely does require consent. The reason for the difference is that email marketing is governed by a different EU directive, known as the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). PECR states that it is permitted to send emails offering business services to business people at their business email addresses, but if they ask you to stop emailing them, then you must remove them from your list and must not email them again.

So the bought B2C opt-in mailing list is dead. But email marketing for business-to-business communications lives on.

Let’s look in detail at this Lawful Basis For Processing Personal Data…

Consent is one of the six available lawful basis’, but Legitimate Interests is a more suitable reason for B2B sales and marketing.

You must have a lawful basis in order to process personal data in line with the ‘lawfulness, fairness and transparency’ principle.

However, in order to be a legitimate interest, the direct marketing must be legal: as it is legal for businesses to market to individuals at other businesses by post, by email, by text and by phone (as long as the number is not registered with the CTPS), many businesses will be able to use legitimate interests as their basis for processing personal data for direct marketing purposes.

Here’s what you must do if you decide to use legitimate interests as your basis for processing personal data for direct marketing purposes:

As with much of the new Data Protection Regulation, much of the work that you need to do revolves around writing policy documents.

1. Carry out a legitimate interest’s assessment. 
Assess each part of a three-part test and document the outcome so that you can demonstrate that legitimate interests apply. The three tests are:

Purpose test – is there a legitimate interest behind the processing? In the case of direct marketing, yes there is a legitimate interest for your business in using direct marketing in order to promote itself.

Necessity test – is the processing necessary for that purpose? You need to demonstrate that the processing is necessary for the purposes of the legitimate interests you have identified. This doesn’t mean that it has to be absolutely essential, but it must be a targeted and proportionate way of achieving your purpose. In the case of direct marketing, yes, it is necessary to use direct marketing to promote your business.

Balancing test – is the legitimate interest overridden by the individual’s interests, rights or freedoms? With regard to business-to-business marketing the Information Commissioner says: “business contacts are more likely to reasonably expect the processing of their personal data in a business context, and the processing is less likely to have a significant impact on them personally”. In the case of direct marketing and email marketing to business contacts, the legitimate interest is not overridden by the interests of the individual, who as a business person with decision making and budgetary responsibilities can reasonably expect to be contacted with marketing material relating to his or her professional role.

You must carry out these assessments and document these three tests.

2. Update your privacy notice to clearly say that you are relying on legitimate interests as your lawful basis and say what your legitimate interests are.

3. Communicate that you are using legitimate interests as a reason to process personal data.

The Information Commissioner has not offered any guidance on what it would accept as sufficient communication to the data subject that you are relying on legitimate interest as a basis to process personal data, but an email with this updated privacy message in the footer should cover it:

“As a GDPR compliant company, we would like to explain why you have received this email. We believe that you have a legitimate need for XXXXXXSERVICEXXXXXX within your business. From our research, or from information that you have provided, we have identified your email address: NAME@DOMAIN.COM as being the appropriate representative to address within the organisation. We have deemed this to represent legitimate interest in line with the ICO’s guidance.”

While the advice on this page does not represent legal advice, you can read the Information Commissioner’s guidance on legitimate interests in full on the ICO website

 

 

The Rise of Visual Search (SEO)

The human brain is hardwired to excel at visual selection – neurons devoted to visual processing take up to 30% of the cortex versus only 10% combined for touch and hearing. We can look at a picture, and in 13 milliseconds or less, know exactly what we’re seeing.

Whilst traditional search engines will remain key to answering fact-based questions, visual search is becoming increasingly important in the discovery process.  Imagine a question like “where can we go for dinner?” There is no right answer but a host of creative possibilities to help influence a semantic and visual decision-making process. Consumers are increasingly time-poor and crave convenience which a visual search facilitates.

What is visual search?

An image search is when a user inputs a word into a search engine and the search engine spits out related images. A visual search on the other hand uses an image as a query instead of text. It identifies objects within the image and then searches for images related to those objects. For instance, based on an image of a car, you’d be able to use visual search to shop for a car identical or similar to the one in the image.

Visual search isn’t likely to replace text-based search engines altogether. Currently, visual search is most useful in the world of retail and sales but in the future it could. To understand visual search, you need to understand the process behind matching search images with relevant content and links to where to purchase.

Visual search technology

The challenge for visual search technology development is to create technology that can understand images as quickly and effectively as the human brain.  These tools must also be able to identify specific objects within the image and then generate visually similar results. It isn’t enough for the machine to identify an image. It must also be able to recognise a variety of colours, shapes, sizes, and patterns the way the human mind does.

The increasing importance of visual search as a tool is reflected with Pinterest’s latest figures – it has 200 million active monthly users and a 50% year on year increase in its impressions.  Visual search is a rapidly growing technique that brands and marketers need to embrace.

One of the most recent examples of these developments is Google Lens, an app that allows your smartphone to work as a visual search engine. The app works by analysing the pictures that you take and giving you information about that image. For instance, by taking a photo of an clothes shop your phone can tell you its name, customer reviews, and tell you if your friends have been there. This data comes from Google’s vast stores of data, algorithms, and knowledge graphs, which are then incorporated into the neural networks of the Lens.

Pinterest uses different machine learning applications to identify visual similarities, categorise pictures and provide recommendations based on browsing history.  This investment in visual search has given then an average £35 order value in 2017, higher than any other social media channel. Pinterest is able to focus solely on the development of its visual search engine and as a result, Pinterest are a leading contender in visual search technology.

Instagram has now introduced shoppable posts and fashion retailer ASOS also released a visual search tool on its website. Visual search reduces the number of choices and helps shoppers find what they want more effectively.

What visual search means for SEO

Search engines are already capable of indexing images and videos and ranking them accordingly. Yet despite this surge in video and image content, SEO still needs to be used to rank higher on search engines.

However, the ‘see-snap-buy’ behavior of visual search makes image SEO more of a challenge. This is because the user no longer has to type, but can instead take a photo of a product and then search for the product on a retailer’s website.

Currently, SEO functions alongside visual search image optimisation, schema markup, and metadata as with such minimal text used visual search, these types of data are the only sources of textual information for search engines to crawl. Metadata strengthens the marketers ability to drive online traffic to their website, in both the HTML of web pages and its images.

The future of visual search

Visual search engines are set to revolutionise the retail industry and the way we use technology, but it’s still easier and quicker to search for information with words. Visual search engines are convenient, but they’re not ultimately necessary for every industry to succeed. The service industry may be more likely to rely on textual search engines, whereas sales may be more likely to rely on visual search engines. And undoubtedly the future of SEO is set for rapid change.

The Biggest Internet Trends to Watch

Every May, Mary Meeker presents her highly anticipated 300+ slideshow presentation at the annual Code Conference in Silicon valley where she reveals what she thinks this coming years’ tech trends will be. Here’s an overview of her annual Internet trends report you know what to watch out for over the next 12 months.

Voice Tech Gets big

Meeker said we’ve hit “technology liftoff” with machine learning word accuracy. This means that there are vast improvements in natural language processing (NLP) and text-to-speech translation which underpin the voice interfaces in digital assistants like Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant.

Data Privacy Backlash

Meeker discussed the privacy paradox between improving digital experiences through personalisation and data whilst maintaining data privacy in a post-Cambridge Analytica and GDPR age.

“Data sharing creates multifaceted challenges where the majority of users will share data if it presents clear personal benefits.” Meeker said. So when the benefits are less clear to users, we are now more likely to delete apps, adjust privacy settings, disable cookies, and so on. And as GDPR comes into force, here in Europe businesses need to be mindful and open to change if things go wrong.

The Rise of Digital Currencies

The report looks at the exponential growth in users for the Coinbase cryptocurrency exchange as indicative of the larger rise in digital currencies such as Bitcoin, Ether, or any of the hundreds of other coins being us in this market.  Value and prices may fluctuate wildly but overall activity is only trending upwards

Data Privacy Backlash

Meeker discussed the privacy paradox between improving digital experiences through personalisation and data whilst maintaining data privacy in a post-Cambridge Analytica and GDPR age.

“Data sharing creates multifaceted challenges where the majority of users will share data if it presents clear personal benefits.” Meeker said. So when the benefits are less clear to users, we are now more likely to delete apps, adjust privacy settings and unsubscribe. And as GDPR comes into force, here in Europe businesses need to be mindful and open to change if things go wrong.

The growth of Chinese Tech

China is catching up as a hub to the world’s biggest internet companies. Five years ago, China had two internet companies in the top 20 in terms of market value, compared to nine for the US. Move to 2018 and China is home to nine of the world’s 20 biggest internet companies. China is also growing it’s active internet users compared to the rest of the world, and is gaining on artificial intelligence development because of the government’s heavy focus on AI research.

The On-Demand Economy is booming

“On-demand jobs are filling needs for workers who want extra income, flexibility, and have underutilised skills.”

With figures from Intuit, Meeker said the on-demand workforce in the US will rise from 5.4 million in 2017 to an estimated 6.8 million in 2018. Companies that use this on-demand workfoce are seeing a huge growth platform – Uber now has 3 million monthly driver partners, Airbnb has 5 million monthly listings, and Upwork has 16 million freelancers in the growing market.

Internet user growth slows

2017 was the first year that internet user growth levelled off year-on year – it rose by 7% in 2017, down from 12% in 2016. With more than half the world online, there are fewer people left to connect. However people are still increasing the amount of time they spend online. The average U.S. adults spent 5.9 hours per day on digital media in 2017, up from 5.6 hours the year before –  over 55% of those hours were spent on mobile, which is responsible for overall growth in digital media consumption.

SEO Meta Descriptions – What You Need To Know

What are meta descriptions?

A meta description is a snippet of up to about 155 characters – a tag in HTML – which summarises a page’s content. Search engines show the meta description in search results, mainly when the searched-for phrase is within the description, so optimising the meta descriptions on your pages is crucial for SEO.

What does a meta description do?

The meta description is an HTML tag and generate click-throughs from search engines – so ideally someone searching on google will click your link.

Google, Bing and other major search engines state that as they don’t use the meta description in their ranking algorithm there is no direct benefit. However there is an indirect benefit. Search engines use a click-through-rate (CTR) as a way of working out whether or not your site is a good result. So, the more people click that on your result, the higher the ranking.

Optimising your meta descriptions

A lot has been written on the characteristics of a good meta description, but here’s the key pointers to use as your tick list

a)     Number of characters

There is actually no right number of characters and it is constantly changing. Back in 2017 all social media commentators were advising to make meta descriptions longer – but very recently it has shifted to being shorted. It seems whenever Google changes its mind on SEO, we need to act accordingly.  In the past few months Google were publishing descriptions of up to 320 characters, however they are now appear to be shorter (between 150 and 170).

Google’s comment on the changes were:

“Our search snippets are now shorter on average than in recent weeks, though slightly longer than before a change we made last December. There is no fixed length for snippets. Length varies based on what our systems deem to be most useful.” Danny Sullivan (Google representative), Twitter.

b)     The tone of voice is key

Try and use an active voice and include a questions for example “ Do you want to become an SEO expert?” and include a call to action such as “Find out more!” or ‘”Try for free”. Remember it’s your sales text and you are selling your pages.

c)     Structured content

If you are selling a product with technical specs then included them – the manufacturer, the price, the SKU – if your customer is tech-savy then they will know exactly what they will be looking for. Rich snippets also come into play here. A rich snippet appears between the URL and the description and adds extra information such as an image, user ratings from that page.

d)     Matching your page

The content in the meta description needs to match the content on your page. This is key. Google will find misleading meta descriptions that try to trick the visitor into clicking and it will also increase your bounce rate.

Key words are also important. The search keywords need to match the text in your meta description – google often highlight key words that match, making your search results stand out even more. But remember to keep the meta description unique for each of your pages – otherwise they will all appear the same in the search results, hampering the user experience.

If you feel over-whelmed at where to start on a multi-page site then prioritise your content – at the very least create a meta description for the critical pages such as your home page and your most popular pages.

Fake Reviews – All You Need To Know

Fake reviews are a growing problem for small businesses. In the online world, it’s very easy to create a new account and leave either a positive or negative review for any business — regardless of whether you’ve used or know them. Fake reviews are prevalent and just as Google and other review sites consider some forms of SEO spamming to be completely unacceptable, the same goes for reviews that aren’t organic.

As a consumer, you expect reviews on Amazon, Google and other review sites to be neutral, objective and trustworthy. But this expectation is frequently prevented by aggressive marketers who pay third parties to create phony reviews in exchange for money, discounts or free services.

These practices are known as “opinion spam” can harm both parties – it hides the truth from the consumer and can also ruin the reputation of the review site where the fake review appears.

Unfortunately, opinion spam appears to be a permanent feature of both the world of e-commerce and the local business ecosystem.

Cleaning up

Amazon is trying to fight back to clean up a messy marketplace – it has sued over 1000 sellers and vendors of fake reviews who allegedly posted reviews for payment and in 2016 changed its Community Guidelines to prohibit incentivised reviews.

Similarly, Google has warned against deceptive advertising  and have asked product review bloggers to disclose any compensation-based relationships with vendors. Review sites are also trying to clean things up using algorithms which are getting increasingly better at flagging opinion spam, using a mix of linguistic and behavioural signals to find an offender.

As a marketer, you’re fully aware of how critical online reviews are to your business and it is extremely easy to use a consultant or social media agency to post some complimentary reviews about your business on Amazon, Google or Yelp.  However, think twice!! Opinion spam is risky, foolish and a couple of five-star reviews are surely not worth breaking the law for.

So, what’s a marketer to do?

Opinion spam is a part of life. So how can you fight back against your rivals without using the same tactics? The answer is to make full use of white-hat, long-term methods to encourage positive reviews.

Remember, review quality and frequency count, so try simple marketing tactics like emailing recent customers with a request to review the product or service, include a reminder review card in each product sold via Amazon and use signs at your physical place of business to let customers know that reviews are appreciated (albeit not incentivised).

Interestingly some industries, such as cars, computers, electronics and software, are using associated vetted and bona fide review sites associated such as Which whose reputations are high due to the fact that they are not open to outside evaluators.

Secondly, if you have reason to believe that your competition is resorting to opinion spam, report them to the review site. To do this you need to provide evidence, so make use of sites such as Fakespot.com and ReviewSkeptic.com, which let you paste in a URL from a review site to evaluate the probability that it’s real or fake.

And finally, remember to adopt a responsive marketing stance that responds quickly to both positive and negative reviews. Consumers are becoming more and more review-savvy and won’t necessarily accept any review they stumble across – they are discerning enough to know that not every customer can be 100% happy. If a negative review does appear, then acknowledge it and open up a channel to the complainant in order to make things right.

Being active and responsive in the review space will be seen as proof that you’re paying attention, and you care.

Final thoughts

One angry customer or jealous competitor doesn’t have the power to hurt your business, provided you know how to respond to false reviews online. If you can’t get the review removed, respond in a positive way can show other consumers just how professional you are.  Meanwhile, carry on working to drown out the rare fake review by attracting a steady stream of positive reviews.

Re-Position Your Brand As A Leading Knowledge Centre

Have you considered that through clever content marketing, you can transform your brand into a leading informational expert?  By correctly positioning your brand, building its authority through the right channels, educating and providing support and advice you can build a powerful value proposition. It’s your opportunity to position your brand as an educator with a far-reaching knowledge in your sector or industry so you become a knowledge centre – the go-to destination for information, advice and relevant and consistent content tailored to your customer.

Here are five steps to get you started:

Know your audience

This is your most important starting point- who is your audience or ideal customer. What do they need? How do they make buying decisions? Having a clear picture helps you create relevant content that will be useful to them. The more details you learn and collect about your potential customer, the easier it will be to get them engaged, align your content and become a knowledge centre for your audience.

Build trust

Building a trusted narrative relevant to your audience provides the best foundation from which to build your unique content approach.  This content does not have a start and end date and shouldn’t be treated as a communications campaign – it’s a credible narrative, a voice of authority providing useful information that not only helps to attracts and keeps your audience and also allows them to contribute and generate content themselves.

Find your niche

Do you have a unique selling point at the heart of your digital strategy? Identify your niche and provide content to show this point of difference. Use your narrative to answer customer’s questions through blogs and website content rather than making your audience read through pages of copy to figure out why you are different. Remember to look at what your competition is saying and position yourself differently.

Add value

Brand positioning gives you clarity on your specific value. Your value is what you offer customers, how it satisfies their needs best, and how the alternatives offered by competitors are insufficient. Consumers what an easy decision and want to know easily and quickly who to trust and what to buy –  if you are the go-to knowledge centre in your industry or sector, you will increase the likelihood for people to buy from you or connect with you.

Keep talking

Finally, remember that once you’ve started out on this journey into content marketing, you need to keep it going – brands must commit to how frequently they can produce new and relevant content.  Consistency is key in your content marketing –  not only consistent in timings,  but also in the quality of your content. If you post regularly with videos, emails, webinars and blogs, your audience can rely on your as a source of insight and information and will depend on your for regular content. Nail it and you start to become that established authority in your thought-leadership area.

How To Rank In Google – A 101 Guide

A whopping 97% of people don’t click past the first page of search results.

So if you’re not getting to the first page, you’re losing sales to your competitors. It has never been more important to keep up with changes in Google search’s ranking algorithm and business owners are determined to rank higher on google, ideally in the first three organic listings. Google uses algorithms to determine which results will be most helpful for the user – and it’s constantly changing and adapting.

Here are 9 important Google Search ranking factors:

CONTENT

High ranking content is in-depth content that provides real value to the user and should incorporate engaging and valuable visual content to complement the text. Quality beats quantity every time.

Is there a specific length requirement of getting your content indexed? No – studies have shown that the highest ranking pages on Google do tend to have longer content, but remember to keep it comprehensive – forget about keywork stuffing of writing thin value content that has no value.

Make sure your images load quickly (reduce the file size if they don’t), choose descriptive file names that include your keywords, add an alt tag so help the search engines and give a title to your image. It all helps.

BACKLINKS

Backlinks remain one of the strongest ranking signals in Google’s search algorithm. When your website is associated to trustworthy sites via a backlink, it also makes your site look trustworthy to search engines.  Google keeps a score of what sites have quality backlinks via PageRank which provides you with a ‘link score’. Social shares, ‘likes’, tweets and Pinterest pins all count. The more links you have from multiple high-authority domains, the better your chances are to rank well for top keywords.

MOBILE USABILITY

In 2016 Google announced mobile-first indexing. The mobile first index means Google will rank based on how it crawls a site’s mobile version instead of desk top. Previously, web designers built desktop versions first, then mobile. Today, with mobile usage surpassing desktop, websites should prioritise mobile versions to provide a better user experience.

Google’s mobile-first approach is changing search results, especially when it comes to local results – users now receive results that better target their current location.  Google use micro-moments – instantaneous moments when a user turns to a mobile device for an immediate need – normally focussing on:

Know
Go
Do
Buy

Googles smart search also uses historical data to match the most common intent and provide the most ‘helpful’ answer. For example if someone types ‘plumbing’ into their search engine, google has learned the most common intent is ‘I need a plumber to fix something’. Using this search intent process can help tailor your SEO strategy.

PAGE SPEED

With a mobile-first indexing approach from Google, page speed has become more important than ever.  Page speed has a massive impact on user experience – users want answers and fast. Hence, websites with slow page speed will have a harder time ranking at top results.  Aim to have all of your pages load in two seconds or less – as the time load goes on the probability of bounce increases to 90% if it takes longer than 5 seconds to load.

SCHEMA CODE

Schema markup is a type of structured data added to websites to make it easier for search engines to interpret content – structured data can improve click-through rates by 30%.  It  helps search engines get a better understanding of specific texts such as addresses, phone numbers and reviews.  Particularly for local businesses, implementing a site-wide schema code can be highly beneficial.

ENCRYPTION

Encryption has been confirmed by Google to be a strong ranking factor. It means your website is secure, which can be identified by the addition of an ‘s’ at the end of the ‘http’ part of the URL. Google is making an effort to protect its users from malicious intruders such as hackers and identity thieves, and secure sites protect a user’s connection. So adding an ‘s’ is key in 2018 to maintaining your ranking.

DOMAIN AGE

Domain seniority is another major ranking factor, a sneaky one as Google still maintain that ages doesn’t play a big role in how well your site ranks, however evidence suggest otherwise!  New domains have a harder time ranking for top keywords, while domains with an extended track record seem to hold top positions for longer.

USER EXPERIENCE

As the Google algorithm gets more advanced and more and more technical factors come into play, you still need to remember to focus on providing a great user experience. Remember to keep your site functional and remove the clutter.  Sites with quality content provide real value for users and Google are getting better at measuring how users interact with your content.

USING GOOGLE STUFF

By setting up your website on Google Business you will ensure your place of work, website location or registered office is visible to potential customers. Those closer to your location, or within radius you set, will also see your business on Google Maps results when searching for “what you do” not just searching for you by name. The importance of Google Maps is seen when they appear often above organic search results on search queries.

Influencers: Who Are They And What Do They Do?

In my last blog, on digital marketing for startups, I mentioned Influencers and how important they are. So this time I thought I’d go into more detail so you can understand who they are, what they do and how you can use influencer marketing to reach your target audience.

What is an influencer?

Essentially they are individuals who have the ability to influence and affect the opinions or buying decisions of your target audience because of their authority, knowledge, position or relationship with their audience.

Using social media influencers in your marketing is the practice of building relationships with those people who can build relationships for you. An influencer can reach consumers via blogs and social networks, they may have small or large audiences, but the key is that they are reaching people that your brand may not be able to reach.  Typically before social media influencers were commonly press journalists and industry experts. Now the new breed of influencers are growing stronger and more influential.

Social Media

The latest figures from Hootsuite show that over 3 billion people actively use social media – 40% of the worlds population. So inevitably people will look towards influences in social media to guide them with their decision making.

These influencers have built a reputation of knowledge and expertise on a particular topic – they will post regularly on social media channels and will have a large following of engaged people who will listen to their views, create trends and encourage followers to buy.

Type of Influencers

We can categorise most influencers into 4 categories:

1.     Celebrities

Influencer marketing grew out of celebrity endorsement – these are the original influencers and they still have a role to play. The cost of an influencer campaign using a celebrity can be vast and therefore as other influencers have grown, this kind of traditional celebrity marketing for smaller companies isn’t an option. Think George Clooney and Nespresso – multi-million dollar contracts and a long term relationship.

2.     Industry experts and thought leaders

This set of influencers have gained respect because of their position, qualifications or experience about a topic.  These experts include journalists, academics and industry experts. Getting the attention of a journalist for a prestigious publication who writes about your brand or product in a positive way is a massive win as generally this is a free service.  Industry leaders and those in thought leadership and are now just as likely to be featured in blog posts and social media campaigns as in traditional media.

3.     Bloggers and content creators

The term, “blogger,” is a noun derived from the term, “blog”. A blog is an online journal or website with frequently published content. A bloggers shares their ideas, thoughts and writing online. There are many highly influential blogs out there and if a popular blogger positively mentions your product in a post, it can lead to the blogger’s followers wanting to try out your product. Vloggers (video bloggers) and youtubers are also massively influential now too.

The key is that they all have built up sizeable followings in specific sectors such as fashion, makeup, music, personal development and health. Some Vloggers or bloggers may write or feature in a paid sponsored post on their site – research shows that generation Z are immune to a sponsored tag post and as long as the brand fits with the core audience, it can still have a major impact on your business.

The top-performing social media influencers of 2018 including Huda Kattan a makeup artist and beauty blogger with 24.3 million followers on Instagram, Chiara Ferragni a fashion bloggers with 11.6 million followers on Instagram and 1.2 million on Facebook, EL Rubius, a Spanish game blogger with 53.5 million followers in total and Dude Perfect, a sports entertainment company that blogs about sports, trick shots and sports merchandise, with 53.4 million followers.

4.     Micro Influencers

Micro influencers are everyday people who have become known for their knowledge about some specialist subject and have gained a sizeable social media following out of that niche. Remember, it’s not just the number of followers that indicates a level of influence, it’s the relationship and interaction that a micro influencer has with his followers.

By working on a smaller scale, micro-influencers can spread a campaign to a wider area. To harness the power of a micro influencer, you need to first to convince the influencer of your brand or product’s worth – and influencers are often picky about who they work with. Some are happy to promote a brand for free whilst others will expect some form of payment, often a free sample of the product itself.  Micro influencers are becoming more common, and more famous – their trusted voice can be used to drive your brand’s message and inspire action amongst your target audience through their influencer generated content and are in a good position to create long-standing relationships with brands on the rise.

Indeed, a recent study found only 1% of millennials trusted branded ads, meaning that authentic and original content from socail media influencers are essential.

Some top UK micro influencers are Sortedfood, a group of male food bloggers with 73.9K followers, Does my bum look 40 in this, a blog following fashion in your 40s with over 80k followers and Whosthemummy one of the UK’s top parenting blogs with over 30k monthly subcribers.

Influencer agencies

A new breed of marketing agencies have now arrived that connect brands and social influencers, helping you grow your audience through collaboration with like-minded individuals.   Some businesses prefer a DIY approach by building up relationships with influencers gradually. Yet this can be a slow process and takes a lot of time and energy – the agency option offers a more costly solution to deliver global influencer marketing campaigns.

Digital Marketing for Startups

New research has shown that the average UK startup owner is only spending approximately 90 minutes per week on their marketing, culminating to less than one day a month.  The poll (Affilinet) asked over 1800 UK business owners who had founded a company in the past 3 years (with fewer than 10 staff members and no outsourced marketing activity) a series of questions relating to their marketing activities.

When asked to break down the areas of marketing they were most focused on, the most common answers were ‘selling products and services’ (27%), ‘setting up a functional website’ (18%) and ‘logistics and operations’ (13%).

The top reasons why startup owners hadn’t dedicated more time to their marketing were lack of knowledge (64%), lack of time (57%) and lack of money (36%).

Marketing, and increasingly digital marketing, should ideally be at the of any new business startup – indeed the success of a startup will often depend on it. Initially, product and service offerings will take centre-stage, however implementing a marketing plan is vastly important to encourage brand awareness and ultimately growth.

So, here are 5 essential digital marketing tips for any startup

User experience

Your audience is what matters and must be able to engage with your brand name, your brand values, and your product, to build a lasting relationship. Indeed, the audience is now more receptive when a brand offers a more unique user experience.

Your digital marketing plan therefore must be designed to appeal to the audience of your market using a lot of research. Create content that inspires and informs them – this strengthens your brand’s voice and engages your audience. Even aspects such as the loading time of your website can affect the user experience. Remember to put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

Creative content

Your marketing strategy needs to engage with your customer – try and create content that is unique and makes an impact – communication value, key messages and key information. Remember content is supreme and can increase your organic traffic.

Social media

An online social presence for a startup is key to leveraging your brand identity– somewhere you can engage and communicate with your audience. Be consistent and regular when posting – this can have a profound impact on leads, sale conversions and search engine ranking.  2017 saw a massive growth in influencer marketing (a type of marketing that concentrates on using key influential people to convey your message to a wider audience) – the most common being journalists, bloggers and PR professionals.  So get out there and engage.

Video marketing

In 2018, Video marketing is a very important tool to communicate your brand message – consider YouTube, Instagram stories, Facebook and Snapchat to engage your audience. Think about live events that you can broadcast (such as product launches), webinars and live Q&As – it all helps to get your audience to connect directly with your brand.

Content marketing

Content marketing – a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing relevant and valuable content but not explicitly promoting a brand to attract a clearly defined audience – is a must for every forward-thinking startup in both the B2B and B2C domains.

Conclusion

Building a successful startup is hard work, however, by choosing the right digital marketing strategies, you can stand out and grow. Creative content, social media marketing, the user experience, video marketing, influencer marketing, and content marketing are proven to yield a high ROI and should be some of your biggest priorities in launching and growing a brand.