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Keep up to date with the latest content marketing tips and news.

24/Sep/2020
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Almost half of small and medium-sized businesses are ready to outsource content marketing to agencies as part of wider cost-reduction strategies, according to a new report released this week by Ask Marketing.

100 SME business owners were asked about their plans for marketing during the next 12 months. The survey also had a particular focus on how the global pandemic has affected core processes and working arrangements.

The findings show that leaders are eager to embrace more affordable marketing strategies and campaigns, with around 15% revealing that they have already reduced spend on marketing and advertising since the COVID-19 pandemic began impacting businesses back in March.

SMEs remain dedicated to organic methods such as content marketing though, and are looking at new options to rein in investment without there being a negative impact on ROI and results.

The solution for nearly half of the respondents is fast-tracking outsourcing to experienced agencies and other third parties. 47% of those surveyed said that they are already attempting to switch in-house roles to outsourced alternatives.

The driving factors for this behaviour are cost-efficiency and continuity. Business owners believe that agencies can pick up where in-house left off and deliver high-quality campaigns without the need for a major overhaul.

This does not appear to be a short-term switch either. More than half (55%) of SMEs want to adopt a leaner approach to marketing for the foreseeable future.

When asked about the benefits of outsourcing and stripping back in-house activities, the main reasons given were cost savings, greater transparency, and greater control over investment.

Ask Marketing co-founder Alexandra King revealed that while the pandemic has been disruptive and forced SMEs away from the traditional marketing model, it did allow businesses to take stock and optimise spend.

She added: “The pandemic has seen many organisations, particularly small businesses, reflect and question their marketing spend and consider where they can realistically cut costs without having a detrimental impact on their organisation’s ability to promote their products and services strategically whilst growing their brand.”

The study also explored the potential for hybrid approaches to marketing, where businesses have a smaller in-house marketing setup that combines with the strategic expertise of an agency to improve performance and cost-efficiency.

The findings suggest that there is a great appetite for such an approach. 85% of SME business owners believe that they would benefit from a hybrid infrastructure where they would effectively have their own ‘virtual marketing manager’.

A report released by CMO earlier this year found that ‘in-house’ was being relied on for a number of marketing functions, but the latest data points to a change in thinking and outlook for important activities amid the disruption of the pandemic.

The Ask Marketing report was based on answers given by key decision makers in June, several months after its initial impact was felt. Moving forward, many will pursue methods of outsourcing to improve the quality of campaigns without having to invest in in-house roles. Some are also set on removing these roles entirely to streamline operations and cut costs.


22/Sep/2020
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To effectively measure and demonstrate the success of your SEO strategies, you need to keep track of relevant KPIs. While common metrics such as dwell time and bounce rate have value, you should also aim to incorporate more advanced KPI tracking to support your decision-making. Here are three to start with.

SERP visibility

One of the best ways to measure how visible your brand is in search at any particular moment is to keep track of SERP visibility, which is very similar to the share of voice (SOV) metric. Higher SOV values are better as this generally translates to a bigger market share, and the same is true for visibility in SEO terms. This KPI is well-suited to any website or niche.

You can get a general sense of your SERP visibility by using Ahrefs’ Batch Analysis tool and comparing and contrasting your organic search traffic rival competitors. For a more precise and accurate reading, navigate to the Rank Tracker and input your target keywords. The ‘Visibility’ column in the ‘Competitors Overview’ tab will give you the data you are looking for.

Targeted conversions

You might be keeping track of organic conversions already as it is a common SEO KPI, but you can dig a little deeper and get more relevant and meaningful data by using Google Analytics. Conversion actions can reflect a range of behaviours, including signing up for a subscription or purchasing something at checkout. These are very useful indicators, but they sometimes do not capture the full value of a customer.

Head over to Google Analytics and click on the ‘Overview’ tab below ‘Ecommerce’ and focus your attention on the Average Order Value. You may find that this is a better KPI for SEO. Net profit for each visitor and gross margin are two others that may be more useful.

Assisted conversions

As noted, the conversion KPI can be flawed in terms of attribution as it does cover a wide gamut of customer behaviours or habits. That’s why it is preferable to follow up by analysing something called assisted organic traffic conversions. This could offer value if you run an ecommerce or lead generation site and is directly linked to sales.

Google Analytics uses a ‘last non-direct click’ model for attribution by default, which means that one channel gets all of the credit for driving a conversion. That doesn’t provide the complete picture though as your webpages are likely to support a customer’s journey differently. For example, a visitor may click on a blog post listed in Google rankings and read it completely but then actually convert at a later date of clicking on a retargeting ad.

The assisted conversions metric helps you to map a customer’s movements more effectively. To do this, navigate to ‘Conversions’, then ‘Multi-Channel Funnels’, and finally ‘Assisted Conversions’ in Google Analytics.

Now, you can set up a ‘main’ conversion type and a ‘look back’ period, which will define how many days are tracked before a conversion. Tailor this figure to your specific sales cycle. B2B cycles are generally longer, for example.

You will now be able to see how each channel has played a role in conversions. This will be broken down into groupings such as ‘organic search’ and ‘paid search’. You can also compare this data for two specific periods.


17/Sep/2020
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Four in 10 companies are now reallocating marketing spend to more cost-effective, organic channels amid a wider push for change driven by digital transformation and the global pandemic, a new joint study by MediaMonks and Forrester Research has found.

At the start of the year, only 40% of marketing leaders were focusing on new digital approaches to processes and activities, a mindset that was characterised as “important but not urgent”.

While that outlook may have appeared complacent in the age of artificial intelligence, cloud computing and machine learning, many would not have been able to predict the impact of COVID-19 on all aspects of business.

Leaders were generally focused on putting ‘tech pipes’ in place that could support a solid tech infrastructure, but this changed in March. Almost two-thirds of leaders are now not only prioritising but also actively accelerating digital experience initiatives to support marketing and sales.

“It’s surprising how much the concept of digital transformation has been removed from actually delivering better digital experiences for consumers, after a decade of work mostly defined and delivered by consultancies,” MediaMonks co-founder Wesley ter Haar notes.

He adds that digital transformation was often mired in the process of getting things done rather than being implemented for a specific end goal.

This has changed, at least for now. Marketing leaders are enacting digital schemes and restructuring teams to ensure that marketing spend is funnelled into better channels and formats. 42% of respondents say that they are doing this.

A focus on publishing high-quality, targeted content is also taking precedence. The report urges brands to better understand customers’ needs so that they can deliver tailored content at the right time – something that will also help with the objective of delivering more relevant digital experiences.

It is no surprise, then, that 56% of the 366 global marketing decision makers surveyed said that teams are now prioritising new initiatives and that 48% are retraining employees to improve data and analytics.

Just 23% admit that they are well versed and successful in using analytics to determine the performance of marketing campaigns. The report said that brands and their partners should make analytics, which is also central to SEO and search strategies, a top priority as there is a mass of data that can be mined for insights.

Analytics is one of the top skills that marketing leaders are looking for to support ‘digital first’ initiatives, second only to content development, highlighting how the two are closely linked.

Marketers also want more design/virtualisation and AI/machine skills. 

The report also said that marketers must recognise that customers now need to be engaged across a “series of touchpoints” that places more emphasis on content creation and experiences. These journeys can start with virtual events and then move through digital experiences on apps, social and commerce before being nurtured via automated email marketing.

Brands are also advised to work with select partners to support omnichannel solutions and experiences across broader ecosystems. It concluded that unifying all of these important marketing touchpoints will help companies to drive sustainable impact and growth.


15/Sep/2020
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Technical SEO does not have to be difficult. The four actionable tips listed below will lay the groundwork for steady streams of organic traffic and mitigate some of the issues that can hold your SEO strategies back over time.  

Start adding internal links

Internal links will distribute link authority across your website and help to create a structure and hierarchy, all of which will aid your quest for better rankings in SERPs. Google’s John Mueller even notes that the anchor text in each internal link can provide “additional context” to assist its search engine. 

Adding internal links is easy enough, but you need to do it for each new page you publish. Rather than just linking to random pages, you can enter ‘site:yourwebsite.com’ and then a keyword into Google to see which pages are closely related to the new page.

You can also use SEO tools to see specific metrics for each listing. Linking to pages that have a better URL rating is preferable as this content will have a higher authority.

Conduct regular content audits

Content can become outdated and irrelevant over time, which can lead to it dropping out of search rankings entirely. Content that has no positive impact on SEO is a potential candidate for being deleted. Running content audits every six months to a year will highlight pages that need to be jettisoned, updated or consolidated.

Removing content can actually lead to an increase in the traffic to your webpages. Again, there are SEO tools such as the free WordPress plugin from Ahrefs that offer actionable instructions for each blog or article. Assessing each page individually is important as you don’t want to remove something that contributes to your business outside of SEO.

Add subtopics to existing content

Content does not have to stand still – it can evolve over time to the changing demands and needs of users and search engines. A ‘content gap’ analysis can be used to highlight important points or sections that have not been included in a page and could potentially improve its position in rankings.

Running your pages through a content gap tool will show the keywords that top performers in search are ranking for but that are absent from your copy. Adding a new subtopic or two at a later date to cover these keywords can give your content a boost at just the right time.

Fix any broken backlinks

High-quality backlinks can also give your content an edge in search. Backlinks are created when another publisher or site links to your content or when you link to a high authority page elsewhere. Unfortunately, broken backlinks can occur and undermine your SEO. To make sure that you don’t have any broken links, you can filter for 404 pages in a relevant SEO tool such as Site Explorer.

After flagging the offender, you can either reinstate the dead page so that backlinks point to a working page again or redirect the older URL to a new URL. If a third party has incorrectly linked to your page, you can get in touch with them to request for it to be changed.


10/Sep/2020
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How-to content is the top-performing format for attracting traffic and generating leads at the top and middle of the marketing funnel, according to a new survey of B2C and B2B professionals released this week by SEMrush.

The ‘Anatomy of a Powerful Marketing Funnel’ report collates the insights and expertise of 350 employees at small, medium and large-sized companies around the world, with the aim of defining marketing funnel characteristics.

The study found that content marketing is being used across the entire marketing funnel but that the awareness phase at the top of the funnel (TOFU) is still the most popular overall. 95% of marketers said that they now create content for the TOFU, compared to 86% for the middle and 76% for the bottom.

While TOFU gets the most attention, the study noted that 87% of marketers “rely on content” across the entire customer cycle and that articles, blogs and videos are expected to peak customer interest, relay product and service details, and close sales.

Marketers turn to various formats to get the job done, but there is one content type that is driving results and ROI consistently. Three quarters of respondents said that the how-to guide is the top performer for attracting traffic, putting it ahead of landing pages (35%) and infographics (28%).

SEMrush noted that while infographics are behind how-tos, the short, eye-catching and digestible format is particularly adept at helping visitors to make sense of the problem they are facing and determining the best way to solve it.

When assessing the impact of content at the TOFU, 73% of marketers rely on the ‘number of visitors’ metric, while 54% and 52% keep track of ‘conversion rate’ and ‘time on page’, respectively.

Organic search is also the best channel for driving traffic at this stage, with 70% of respondents saying that it is the most efficient, ahead of social media marketing (60%) and email marketing (54%).

What is perhaps surprising is that further along the funnel, how-to guides remain the top performer. 44% of respondents said that how-tos are crucial for generating leads at the middle of the funnel (MOFU), though product overviews (40%) and case studies (34%) are not far behind.

For nurturing leads during this phase, 43% are using success stories in addition to product overviews and case studies, highlighting how content formats can be tweaked slightly to achieve certain objectives.

Channels are also optimised. 69% said that organic search is best for generating leads, but for nurturing leads, search takes more of a back seat with 28% compared to the 72% that deploy email marketing to follow up and engage with leads.

At the bottom of the funnel (BOFU), marketers are set on closing a sale and make liberal use of product overviews (51%) and customer reviews (49%) to drive payments. Email marketing is the most efficient channel here, and ‘conversion rate’ is the most tracked metric for success.

The study also looked at the way that marketers build a funnel. For research, 88% are conducting analysis of keywords and 73% of competitors. Finally, the primary challenge when building a funnel is crafting content that drives quality leads (52%).


08/Sep/2020
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The majority of on-page SEO tactics are simple to implement and can have an immediate impact on your search rankings. The five recommendations below will enhance your technical SEO and help you generate more valuable sources of traffic from Google.

Build internal links

Adding internal links to your content is one of the easiest ways to build structure and authority for your webpages, which can lead to better performance in SERPs. Internal links are a core part of on-page SEO and not just limited to blogs or articles. You can link to product pages with basic copy and ‘about us’ and support sections. These links act as a signal that you have practical content available across your site.

Use schema

Schema markup should be used alongside internal linking to create a structured website hierarchy. Fizzbox CEO Rob Hill says: “Whether it’s FAQ content or a recipe write-up, you might understand the content, but search engines might not be able to comprehend what they’re looking at. This is where schema markup comes in.”

Hill noted that the use of event schema markup for a festive-related campaign resulted in a 23% spike in click-through rates from Google search results and a notable increase in sales.

Schema can be used to provide additional information about a range of items on your website from products and places to creative work and events. The markup supports SEO by improving how your page is displayed in SERPs. For example, schema for a FAQ page can lead to content being served in Rich Snippets in listings below the page title.

Craft unique content

Google recently updated its Search Quality Raters’ Guidelines, and it includes more than 100 mentions of E-A-T, an acronym that stands for Expertise, Authority and Trust. The best way to display E-A-T on your webpages is by crafting compelling and unique content. It should offer insights, answer questions, address customer pain points, and generally deliver the high-quality experiences that modern consumers expect.

You can also make sure that your content is ‘unique’ by using a content management system (CMS) to find any duplicate content on your website. If you do want to use duplicate copy, make sure to use a canonical URL to direct search engines to the original piece.

Hill also recommends going through older content with the view to updating it. A mix of fresh new content and updated articles and blogs with added sections and editors’ notes can maximise the incoming flow of traffic.

Optimise title tags

Title tags will be front and centre in search engine results, so optimise accordingly. Title tags should be between 50 and 60 characters in length and include keywords, numbers and dates where possible. Don’t keyword stuff though. It needs to look natural while offering a general overview of what the article, blog or page is about. If you are struggling with title tags, a content agency can assist you with the process.

Use categories

Another great way to add structure is by creating a range of categories and subcategories for your content. These categories should be relevant to your brand and content output. A smaller number of targeted categories will work better. Again, categories make it easier for search engines to understand your content.


03/Sep/2020
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Hashtag campaigns on social media have been one of the most affordable ways of generating content and strengthening customer relationships this year, but the majority of people are not compelled to join in and contribute, according to a new report from Visual Objects.

More than 400 people in the US were asked about their views on creating content for brands, a strategy that is called user-generated content (UGC) in marketing and that has been deployed more by companies amid budget cuts following the pandemic.

Getting customers involved on social media by asking them to create a video or post an image is generally a great way to increase engagement with audiences and build connections that can support the sales cycle.

However, the study found that audiences on social media are not as receptive as they once were.

Just 11% of respondents said that they had taken part in a hashtag campaign during the previous three months.

Hashtag campaigns grew in popularity during the mid to late 2010s as an alternative to traditional forms of marketing, but consumers are now more likely to want brands to create content themselves.

Almost three quarters (73%) of respondents said that they would think twice about coming up with a creative branded video, but many would be open to the idea if brands created more stories and engaging videos to draw them in.

This is backed up by another finding that shows that 40% of people have commented or engaged with a brand story on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat recently, making it one of the most popular content formats overall.

Another quarter of respondents said that they had interacted with livestreams and new digital experiences based around AR lenses and filters.

This shows that customer expectations are evolving and that many want to engage with new forms of tech and media rather than “older” formats such as hashtags, which have now been around for a while and are better suited for appealing to “brand enthusiasts”.

While UGC can be tricky to get right for brands big and small, it can supplement organic content marketing to deliver cost-effective campaigns that drive higher rates of return on investment.

The report noted that brands must use the right mix of platforms and content types to get the desired results.  

The humble comment and review still has a place though.

More than a quarter (26%) said that they would be ready and willing to review a business’s products or services via a third-party website.

This actually makes reviews the most popular form of UGC overall and something that brands should look to leverage to support general marketing.

Respondents said that they will look to their peers to see what they think about a brand before deciding whether to buy, rather than relying on information from the brand itself.

One way that brands can do this without being too pushy is by asking customers to leave reviews for products in marketing emails and by giving them an incentive to offer feedback and insights through video channels on YouTube and social media.


01/Sep/2020
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Local SEO is a tactic that is often overlooked by start-ups and SMEs, even though it can be an incredibly effective tool for increasing visibility to searchers making a ‘near me’ or other relevant local search query.

Google says that just less than half of searches have a ‘local intent’. This means that there is vast potential here for brands to use local SEO to appeal to searchers in a specific location.

Prioritise business listing management

One of the first things you should do is create a business listing profile that can be distributed to any authoritative directory such as Google, Bing or Amazon. This is something that is very affordable even for small businesses, and it can deliver a notable boost to search rankings. Whether you outsource management to an agency or tackle this in-house, business listings are a crucial part of local SEO.

Update Google My Business

Google My Business is an extension of business listings and arguably even more important as it is directly linked to local search. Google My Business has been particularly useful since the pandemic as it has allowed companies to communicate opening hours and service availability to users directly in SERPs. You can optimise your listing by uploading several quality pictures and including a few Q&As.

Ask for reviews

Local searchers want feedback from other people, and the quality and quantity of these reviews can contribute to your rankings in Google’s search space. You can either hire an agency to implement a review management system or do it yourself by asking for them directly after a sale or following the download of an app.

Add business details on key pages

On-page SEO can also boost local search opportunities. Adding the name, address and contact details for your business on key pages will greatly assist local searchers who navigate to your website and want to validate your location. When the information matches the business data in a Google My Business listing, a visitor will know that the content within is relevant and accurate.

You can also make your contact details a more visible and eye-catching part of your pages if your target audience is likely to need a phone number or address right away.

Add FAQ schema

Google recently limited the use of FAQ structured data markup due to the repetitiveness of Q&A formats across multiple pages on sites, but you should have at least a single instance of FAQ schema. This code will inform search engines that content is present and marked up correctly, which will make it eligible for rich snippets in search results.

You will need a FAQ page to cover important Q&As related to a specific topic. This could be about a product or return policy. FAQ schema will then allow some of these answers to be served directly in search. It will generate interest organically and provide information that searchers are looking for. This is a technical change, but a web developer should be able to add it quite easily.


27/Aug/2020
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Google’s SEO expert John Mueller revealed last week that heading tags are a very important signal for search and are strongly linked to the quality of content and what an article or blog is actually about.

Mueller has stated in the past that content can rank near the top of SERPs without H1 headings. This remains true, but this does not mean that they do not play an important role in search performance. This is because headings enable Google’s algorithm to get a better grasp of what is on a page.

During a Webmaster Central Hangout, Mueller noted: “Headings on the page are not the only ranking factor that we have. We look at the content on its own as well. But sometimes having a clear heading on a page gives us a little bit more information on what that section is about.”

Mueller went on to confirm that heading tags are a “really strong signal” for this reason – so what are headers exactly?

Headers are different from an article’s title. The first header on a page will use an H1 tag and ideally is an introduction to the topic covered on a particular page. Headers like this are used on ecommerce pages as well as blogs. In addition to providing useful information, they give structure to a webpage, which is what Google wants to see before it starts indexing content.

If you want to deploy excellent header tags to boost on-page SEO, these four best practices will give you a head start.

Use headers for at-a-glance insights

Just 16% of internet users read every word of an article after navigating to a webpage. The vast majority prefer to mix scanning with reading to get what they are looking for. Headers are great for breaking up text and improving the readability of a page, which in turn gives it a better chance of performing well in SERPs.

Include keywords and be consistent

Mueller says that headers are very important signals, so it makes sense to include a few of your target keywords in them. Don’t overstuff though and try to fit them in naturally. This will ensure that the user experience remains exemplary, something that can also be supported by being consistent with your use of header tags. The formatting and character limit should be the same across the board. Also, aim for shorter tags where possible.

Capture the reader’s attention

Bland and forgettable tags can undermine an otherwise excellent piece, so target the use of intriguing or interesting headers to keep those scanning engaged as they move down the page. High-quality tags are also more likely to encourage more readers to take the time to read important sections.

Focus on the H1 tag

The H1 tag is the first header that readers will notice, so place a particular focus on getting it right. Google has said in the past that there is no limit to the number of H1s that publishers can use on a page, but when optimising for SEO, it is best to start with only one as they are likely to be as long as titles and need to be used judiciously for the best results.


25/Aug/2020
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Content creation and the demonstration of expertise through high-quality editorials and blogs is one of the five marketing best practices for ‘high growth’ enterprises, according to a recent report released by Hinge.

The ‘All Professional Services Edition’ of the High Growth Study 2020 found that marketing is a key driver for business performance and that there is a range of different levers that companies can use to achieve bespoke objectives and deliver ample return on investment (ROI).

Following the release of the study, Hinge partner Elizabeth Harr outlined five specific marketing initiatives that companies should undertake during the remainder of the year to remain a step ahead of competitors.

Hinge says that these best practices have empowered companies to outgrow peers by 20% over a sustained period of three years or more.

The first, and arguably the most important as a base to work from, is content creation. With both B2B and B2C customers looking for high-quality materials, thought leadership pieces and informative articles are a crucial method of generating leads and attracting new clients.

Those capable of publishing relevant, value-added content are more likely to be viewed as leaders, which not only has a positive impact on marketing and sales but also makes a company a more attractive prospect for potential employees.

The study found that a company’s content marketing output embodies its culture and employee development.

The second best practice for high growth is the deployment of search engine optimisation (SEO). Fast-growing firms are 19% more likely to focus their efforts on SEO, and optimising strategies in this area leads to higher levels of visibility in Google.

Next up is social media marketing and management. Social networks enable companies to distribute and share high-quality content, which is a product of the effective creative marketing efforts outlined earlier.

Social media plays a vital role in amplifying the power of content, giving companies a visible online presence within target client groups. Managing accounts on sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn is also cost-effective and sustainable in the long term, making it perfect for new tech companies and other start-ups.

The fourth best practice is one that Google has championed during the last 12 months. Website performance is now viewed as a fundamental element of SEO and also underpins the sales cycle.

Optimising for technical SEO makes it easier for companies to rank on the first page of search results while also providing the excellent user experiences that customers expect when they navigate to a webpage. This makes it easier to capture and retain the interest of new leads who might otherwise click away.

The study noted that high growth firms also regularly dip into web analytics for feedback about the performance of webpages with the view to optimising them regularly.

The fifth and final best practice is ‘brand differentiation’. High growth companies set themselves apart by conducting research and identifying industry trends that can be put into practice.

The study found that this allows fast-growing firms to meet the evolving needs of clients and customers. Research is also completed regularly, at least once every three months, which leads to a three times uptick in profitability compared to those that don’t conduct research.