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21/Oct/2019
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UK consumers are currently “hungry” for information on Brexit, and brands and publishers can boost traffic and other metrics by using the right keywords to rank higher in Google, according to a new report released on Monday by analytics company Searchmetrics.

With the UK still set to leave the EU on 31st October pending developments in parliament this week, Searchmetrics looked at the types of queries and questions that the general populace are inputting into Google to keep up with breaking Brexit stories.

In a statement accompanying the release of the study, Searchmetrics’ senior content marketing manager Stephen Bench-Capon said that there is currently a “huge opportunity” for news websites to take advantage of the demand for a 24/7 cycle of content related to Brexit.

More specifically, people are looking for answers to questions about the differing stances on Brexit, most notably remain or leave, and what the deal and no-deal options actually involve.

Bench-Capon revealed that “expertise, authority and trust” are the primary signals for ranking on the first page of Google SERPs and that the BBC is considered the “number one” destination for relevant info pertaining to the UK’s upcoming exit from the continental bloc.

The BBC has a 30% share of all the content featured on the first page of search results when ‘Brexit’ is inputted, which puts it way ahead of other major publishers such as the Guardian (12%) and the Independent (9%); Wikipedia and the Telegraph both have a 4% share.

However, when looking only at broader Brexit-related keywords, the Guardian reigns supreme ahead of the Independent, the Express and the Telegraph.

While the Guardian is more focused on publishing content related to the remain side of the Brexit equation, the Sun website is the most cited hub for keywords related to ‘no deal Brexit’.

The Guardian also has the drop on other news sites for Google News boxes, which require more extensive optimisation – it appears in 20% of news boxes related to Brexit, putting it well ahead of the Independent and the BBC, which both have around a 9% share in this area.

Searchmetrics also found that major political parties are also using SEO to get their messages across to voters by winning ‘share of voice’ in search results.

Bench-Capon said: “A political party’s aims on Google are different from those of a news publisher. By appearing in the search results for certain keywords they can make it clear to voters that their party should be associated with this kind of policy. The Liberal Democrats ranking for ‘Stop Brexit campaign’ is a good example of this phenomenon.”

The study found that the conservatives.com website’s current top-ranking Brexit related words are ‘brexit policies’, ‘brexit 12 point plan’ and ‘reasons why brexit is good’.

Meanwhile, labour.org.uk leads with ‘why is the brexit deal no good’, ‘theresa may brexit deal’ and ‘negotiation brexit’.

Bench-Capon said that parties can perform better in Google by providing “high-quality Brexit-related content’ capable of informing and education readers and optimising content for SEO so that it ranks higher in SERPs.


14/Oct/2019
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Small enterprises can go toe-to-toe with the largest corporations by publishing content and managing excellent marketing campaigns, but many still fail to invest enough money into the practice to reap the benefits, according to a new study by software company Intuit.

Digital marketing is proving to be a double-edged sword for SMEs as they can transform their business and drive greater sales by implementing it effectively, but they can also be weighed down by the time and resources needed to follow documented plans and align it with broader business objectives.

The latest study by Intuit analysed smaller businesses in Australia and found that just 34% are putting aside funds as a priority for content and other marketing endeavours, which means that two-thirds are missing out on a myriad of benefits and potentially falling behind more accomplished peers.

A sizeable 46% of respondents said that they constantly face constraints on their budgets, which forces them to focus on other areas of business – though ironically, these processes could also get a boost from marketing, SEO and advertising.

Intuit says that many enterprises fall into the “trap” of prioritising spend for other business activities as marketing can often help immediately by buffering cash reserves during the formative years of trading.

“It’s concerning that so many small business owners in Australia are sacrificing opportunities to grow their business profile as a consequence of having to spend on other priorities,” Intuit’s Australia Country Manager Natira Drayton said in a statement.

She added: “This is a classic trap for small businesses.”

Day-to-day operational demands can make finding the money and time to invest in marketing hard, and it is difficult to keep cash flow healthy and achieve potential without it, according to Drayton.

While marketing is being pushed to the sidelines by businesses eager to double down on what they perceive to be more important processes, 80% of the 500 owners of small businesses surveyed said that they believe that marketing offers great value and is a useful tool.

In terms of marketing channels, 47% say that websites are the most valuable overall as these hubs enable them to publish content and bring consumers in to view their products and services with the aim of completing sales digitally.

The next popular channel is social media, with 42% eager to leverage Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and similar platforms to reach and engage with potentially millions of users around the world.

Email marketing and digital marketing are also viewed as essential channels, but again, a lack of funds and desire to optimise budgets are preventing many from pursuing these options at times when they could transform the success of a business.

Perhaps the reason why marketing is not viewed as critical is that SMEs are not aligning it with other areas of the business and are instead content with using it as a tool for reaching more customers.

Intuit found that 39% believe that the value of marketing is tied to its ability to grow a customer base, while 42% say that it mostly brings in new business leads – a similar number also claim that it helps them achieve direct sales.


03/Oct/2019
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Editorial content can play a key role in inspiring luxury shoppers and guiding their purchase decisions, according to a new independent study by Attraqt that suggests that brands in fashion and retail are not doing enough to influence customers at various stages of the purchasing cycle.

The study of 3,000 shoppers in the UK, the UAE and France aimed to highlight behaviour expectations and frustrations and the factors that lead to a purchase being made.

It also looks at the rising number of digital channels and how they can be used to support a consumer’s buying journey.

Physical stores were the traditional starting point for retail shoppers, and while 40% say that they still visit stores to peruse new products, the same number are now using smartphones, retailer websites and brand apps to discover new trends and offers and make purchases.

Attraqt’s director of customer experience Jon Stephens says that the journey for luxury shoppers is currently evolving rapidly and change is being driven by younger consumers.

The report predicts that Millennials and Gen Z will account for half of the luxury goods sector by the middle of the next decade.

In order to keep up with the evolution, the report suggests that brands need to look beyond digital channels merely being a source of inspiration and use them instead to deliver “more immersive, personal and frictionless” experiences.

Luxury shoppers regard finding new products with ease as the single most important factor in their shopping experience, while discovering new trends, personalised recommendations and advice from stylists were also ranked highly.

Every one of these ‘essentials’ can be demonstrated via high-quality content marketing campaigns, either through interactive ‘shoppable’ videos, which allow viewers to click on items of clothing to discover more information, or blogs highlighting new trends.

One in 10 say that bloggers are their single biggest ‘influencer’, while 26% say that a brand’s online content is very influential in the decisions they make about luxury purchases.

More specifically, when shoppers don’t know what to buy, 34% say that product recommendations can push them in the right direction and 26% say that editorial and featured stories can be helpful.

Social media site Instagram is also a notable influence on purchases.

“The importance of orchestrating a luxury shopping journey fit for the digital era – connecting the customer with relevant products and creating a series of ‘wow’ experiences to nurture a customer to a sale – has never been more important,” adds Stephens, who says that a failure to serve needs in micro-moments can lead to lost sales.

“In the luxury market this means removing the data silos in their organisation to ensure they influence every touchpoint – from the curated editorial content to the search and navigation process right through to the packaging of the delivery and re-engagement.”

The need to optimise digital platforms and channels is brought into sharp focus by the fact that 65% of Gen Z and Millennials now start their respective journeys online, and this age group will be responsible for the lion’s share of purchases by 2025.


30/Sep/2019
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Keeping up with the content demands of B2B consumers and partners is a major concern for decision-makers, according to a new study released last week by Episerver, which found that 84% believe that meeting digital expectations is now the single biggest “external” issue.

The ‘B2B Digital Experiences Report 2019: How Companies Are Meeting Rising Expectations’ explores the tactics and strategies being deployed by B2B companies to deliver consistent, high-quality campaigns and highlights a number of problems and challenges to overcome.

The need to provide excellent digital experiences was highlighted in a recent, separate report by Episerver, which acts a prelude to the latest exploratory research showing that 91% of B2B consumers believe that they have a better experience and think more fondly of a brand when the latter is able to publish personalised content that speaks to them.

Personalised, tailored content has been a key trend in marketing for a couple of years now, but it still remains a top priority for business-to-business organisations and will continue to shape the direction of campaigns during the next 12 months.

The study found that personalised content is the single website feature that B2Bs plan on adopting the most during the next year, with 36% saying that they plan to focus on personalisation, putting it ahead of mobile experience improvements (33%).

The emergence of cutting-edge technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) is making it easier for B2B brands to improve personalisation, and 82% revealed that they will use AI during the next three years to increase the quality of their digital experiences.

“Consumers expect more from our organizations every day,” Episerver’s senior director of content management strategy Deane Barker noted in a statement.

He added: “Unfortunately, the accounting department expects…well, less. Digital marketers are in a tug-of-war between rising expectations and dwindling budgets. With this report, we’ve looked at the factors pushing and pulling these teams toward their decision points. If you work in digital marketing, I promise you’ll see yourself somewhere in these results.”

Personalised content also fits neatly into the trend of one-click purchases on e-commerce sites as it helps to streamline a buyer’s journey by providing the information they need to take action and buy products and services without having to navigate elsewhere.

The previous ‘B2B Digital Experiences Report’ by Episerver found that the majority of B2B enterprises are at least using basic web personalisation but that there is significant room for improvement in terms of providing content that consumers crave to drive engagement and sales.

One in five B2Bs say that they see the growing number of digital channels they use as an opportunity for even better personalised customer experiences, and those able to act on this will see happier consumers who believe that companies actually care about their journeys with a brand.

Another report released last week by Uberflip and Heinz Marketing defined the new “marketing standard”, which is based around data and content.

It said: “The new standard is centered around a buyer experience that’s built around ease of access and discovery, frictionless consumption, personalized and relevant suggestions, and curated engagement paths – a buyer experience designed to delight, engage, enable, and empower better decisions.”


23/Sep/2019
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Making B2B buyers feel confident about their decision-making has been overlooked and is in fact a determining factor in the strength of relationships with customers, according to a new study released by Gartner.

The Elevating Marketing’s Role in B2B Account Growth report, which canvassed the opinions of 1,000 B2B customers, found that growth strategies centred on bringing about change in the behaviours and habits of target audiences in isolation are largely futile as they rarely have a positive impact.

Instead, B2B brands should aim to deliver content that makes customers more confident in their ability to assess a situation and make correct purchasing decisions, as Gartner found that this can lead to more purchases and greater brand loyalty over time.

“85% of commercial leaders report they are leaving significant amounts of growth on the table,” Gartner’s marketing practice managing vice president Martha Mathers said in a statement.

“There’s a clear disconnect here and an urgency to understand what marketing can do to truly help drive growth in existing accounts, particularly with signs of economic uncertainty in view.”

Gartner found that customers are 2.6 times more likely to purchase more products or services from a company if the latter can provide content and experiences that increase their ability and confidence to make crucial decisions.

This can be achieved via the distribution of ‘buyer enablement’ content, defined as the process of accelerating B2B sales by providing what buyers need to make quick and informed decisions.

Brands that are able to deliver articles, blogs, web copy, whitepapers and videos at the right time through the right channels can ease buyers through the critical phases of the purchase process and thus increase confidence by around 300%, which then leads to loyalty and greater sales.

“It’s about building customer confidence in themselves,” Mathers added.

“Marketing organizations that can build customer confidence in their ability to make decision change that’s good for their business will not only differentiate themselves from the competition, but will be better positioned to drive high-quality growth.”

Bringing about change through content and experiences is the best option for B2B brands as it gives customers a compelling reason to take action.

When supplemented with content outlining clear steps to an end goal, brands can increase decision confidence significantly.

Gartner recommends using content for an onboarding experience of sorts as guiding customers through the basics of new products and services can lead to higher adoption levels, which is especially important in sectors such as tech, business and finance.

Again, this integration support drives a 2.9 times increase in decision confidence.

Mathers said that marketing leaders now play a major role in expanding business (the study found that they now pursue the majority of all leads) through existing accounts and that marketing has the tools to drive substantial growth with the right strategies and campaigns.

Content marketing, in particular, can help customers to realise that they can force change and cope with all of the challenges that may arise from taking a bold course of action.   


16/Sep/2019
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The liberal use of marketing buzzwords is causing confusion for IT professionals and making it more difficult for both departments to communicate, collaborate and align objectives according to a new report released last week by CMS provider Magnolia.

The report, Straight Talking Content Management, incorporated a survey that polled 400 professionals evenly split between IT and marketing about the digital experience (DX), which is defined as the interactions between consumers and organisations facilitated by digital tech and the attitudes of the key players involved.

Buzzwords, such as SEO, micro-moments and algorithms, are now commonly used in marketing, but IT teams are struggling to keep up.

More than three-quarters say that they don’t understand the range of buzzwords marketers use, which leads to growing tensions between the two groups.

About 29% of the IT professionals surveyed believe that there are too many buzzwords being used, especially in relation to digital marketing and experiences.

Among the phrases that are causing problems include omnichannel, which 21% admit to not knowing, and call to action, a term that continues to stump 24% of respondents.

The disconnect may not appear to be a major problem in isolation, but the study found that 80% of marketers are collaborating with IT every week, while almost half are doing so every day.

With confusion often reigning in important interactions, both teams are finding it more challenging than necessary to achieve goals and objectives.

Magnolia CMO, Rasmus Skjoldan, said: “In order for brands to create great content, both IT teams and marketers must work together to understand each other’s unique pressures and objectives.

“Talking in technical jargon and marketing buzzwords isn’t helping, if anything it’s just causing more frustration for both groups.

“Too many CMS brands add to this problem, expanding rather than bridging the divide.

“As an industry we need to focus on developing straight-talking solutions that work for everyone across the business – from marketers, to developers, to customers and IT teams.”

However, the frustration is not just a one-way street, as the study, which was completed in June, also found that 84% of marketers do not fully grasp the complexities of IT and the work undertaken.

Meanwhile, 70% of IT professionals believe that they “should own the digital experience”, which suggests they do not look favourably on the interference of other departments.

A separate study released this week by Yext and Forbes found that brands are missing out on an opportunity to ‘differentiate themselves’ by providing verifiable and relevant information about products and services both on their websites and across the web, after a study that found consumers often find inaccurate information in searches.

More than half said that they prefer to navigate directly to a brand’s website rather than rely on a blurb in Google, Bing or DuckDuckGo, as they believe that they will get a better chance of finding complete and accurate information.

Yext CEO, Marc Ferrentino, added: “Our research shows that regardless of where they search for information, people expect the answers they find to be consistent and accurate – and they hold brands responsible to ensure this is the case.”


09/Sep/2019
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Keeping track of data has been cited as a common challenge for marketers in 2019, and a new study by Blis has revealed a new area of this vast undertaking that is causing problems – location tracking.

A quarter said that they are unable to make use of location-based data to inform content campaigns and other activities.

Titled Real-world intelligence: Mapping human behaviour to effective mobile marketing, the whitepaper canvassed the opinions of C-suite executives to find out whether cutting-edge tech and a growing mass of big data is being deployed effectively, primarily in advertising but also across general marketing.

Participating in the study were 150 chief marketing officers and agency directors in the Asia-Pacific area, and the findings suggest that location-tracking and data is a major pain point for digital brands.

Many admit to not having full knowledge of its capabilities, and 25% said that they could not apply it effectively to their brand.

Blis managing director, Nick Ballard, said that this issue needs to be addressed urgently, as a growing knowledge gap could be disastrous for enterprises during the next decade when location tracking takes on a more central role in determining the return on investment and supporting the creation of targeted personas in content marketing.

He added: “Despite location data technology advancing in leaps and bounds over the last few years, what is alarming is the significant knowledge gaps that remain within the industry, particularly when it comes to measuring location data, which, if not addressed, will start having a major toll on digital marketing revenues moving forward.”

Ballard believes that marketing leaders basically need to go back and learn the basics, which would involve establishing key metrics linked to location-based marketing.

Brands also need to take location into account when setting new KPIs and use the right tools to quantify the return on investment.

Being able to do this regularly could transform the effectiveness of campaigns and enable companies to deliver a step-change in the quality of their advertising and marketing methods.

The study also uncovered a few specific problem areas and constraints to better outcomes.

Almost half said that there is a lack of transparency in regards to finding the right data sources and methodologies, while 45% said that a dearth of established standards, metrics and guidelines is holding them back.

Confusion around GDPR also still reigns, which suggests that marketers have yet to take heed of consumers’ concerns about security and data privacy.

A third of respondents also said they are concerned about the quality of data.

Blis concluded by covering the ways real-world location data can improve various marketing strategies.

Tracking the return on spending for advertising is one of the basic uses, but it can also be used to influence shoppers directly via geofencing and to chart links between traffic and sales.

“Location-based data is the missing part of the puzzle for many marketers who want to focus on successfully understanding their consumers’ real-word habits,” Blis Asia Pacific head of marketing, Premanjali Gupta, concluded.


02/Sep/2019
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Brands using inbound marketing have reported a 72% increase in leads and a 55% hike in conversion rates, according to a new study by portfolio website Visual Objects that extolls the virtues of content marketing, SEO and other organic methods designed to deliver value to audiences.

Titled How Businesses Use Inbound Marketing, the study found that the technique of drawing customers to products via content is having a profound impact on tangible metrics, with just 15% of those surveyed saying that they have not seen any change in the number of leads after running a campaign.

Inbound marketing has become more popular in recent years as consumers are more averse to hard sells and targeted advertising, which are unlikely to take their own interests and needs into account.

Inbound output is the opposite, using high-quality content to inform, educate and entertain audiences via digital platforms, including social media.

More than three-quarters of enterprises based in North America are now using inbound marketing to promote their brand while also serving their customers in some way, and the vast majority have reported a surge in leads and conversions.

Content marketing is not only a viable alternative to outbound marketing but is arguably also the best method overall.

For those aiming to improve inbound strategies, the report offers a few tips and tactics backed up by the opinions of the 501 businesses surveyed.

Inbound marketing focuses on moving consumers through the sales funnel, and brands wanting to succeed must use content properly at the ‘awareness’, ‘interest’, ‘decision’ and ‘action’ phases.

Attracting leads takes place at the very top of the funnel, and more than half of the enterprises say that blog content is an excellent medium for driving awareness.

To achieve this goal, businesses are also creating visual content and investing in search engine optimisation.

Brands then turn to content promotion, including call-to-action hyperlinks within written blogs and articles and landing pages to push them along the sales funnel.

When used correctly, content can move consumers easily through the buying cycle, which provides incredible value in terms of sales and revenue.

The final cog in the inbound marketing machine is social media.

Nine in ten businesses say that they use social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, to support distribution and other areas of their strategies.

This is no surprise, as social media provides brands with the opportunity to reach almost 3.5 billion people globally.

However, those surveyed admitted that they might need outside help from an agency to make the most of social media and the practice of getting content in front of audiences at the right time.

The study also found that attracting leads and converting them will remain the top priority overall, ahead of increasing website traffic and building brand authority, although the content is also likely to help in this area.

Silverback Strategies vice president of creative, Ben Kirst, said in a statement: “To really run effective campaigns takes expertise.

“There’s a degree of impatience and unwillingness to really invest the time and resources needed to gain that level of expertise.

“We want results and we want them now.”


26/Aug/2019
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High-level executives are disconnected from the world of search engine optimisation (SEO) and, therefore, are not providing the support digital marketing professionals need to succeed in the search environment, according to a new industry survey by software provider SEOmonitor.

The study of professionals across SEO and digital marketing, which formed part of a wider Forecasting Nightmares whitepaper, looks at the challenges of planning and forecasting in SEO and what needs to be done to help SEOs to progress and complete their tasks effectively in an ever-evolving and demand business landscape.

The C-Suite is a common barrier to success, with one in five saying they don’t get enough support from higher-ups, which many believe is because senior targets and objectives do not align with SEO efforts.

The disconnect and lack of knowledge and comprehension across the business, and especially at the management level, has other downsides. A quarter said they are given unrealistic time frames to deliver results, and one in eight are pressured into making forecasts even though they may be false or unattainable.

Therefore, it is no surprise that 33% of professionals want greater support for their SEO forecasting efforts. Greater time and resource investment into SEO would go some way to solving pressing problems, but the report noted that a culture change could have the biggest impact.

The current state of affairs is not good for business or SEOs, as 26% of the respondents said they struggle to forecast accurately on a consistent basis, while 22% are unable to demonstrate the full value of search engine optimisation.

“By translating SEO goals such as keyword rankings or visibility into simple, clearly defined business metrics, forecasting makes an invaluable business case for SEO activity,” SEOmonitor CEO Cosmin Negrescu said. “However, for the field of forecasting and, indeed, SEO as a whole to reach its true potential, it’s clear that the industry needs more support than it currently receives.”

The lack of support means that many professionals are forced to use tools that are not suitable for daily processes. This is highlighted by the fact that 15% of respondents admit to using general applications, such as Microsoft Excel, to calculate the value of SEO. While the issues are wide-ranging, 37% said that more investment in specialist tools would go a long way to help them with accurate forecasting.

Additional training is another solution put forward by professionals, as 25% said that they have not been told how to forecast accurately, while one-sixth of all respondents revealed that they had not taken a single course or received any training about forecasting during their careers.

Cosmin concluded: “Simply enough, for search professionals to consistently forecast to the accuracy expected of them, greater buy-in and investment in the field is needed. However, the industry consensus is that this support is currently unlikely to come without business decision-makers first seeing the accurate forecasts it would facilitate. It’s high time this frustrating paradox, which continues to hinder the efforts of well-meaning search professionals the world over, changed.”


19/Aug/2019
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Paid search will “probably decline” during the final months of 2019, according to a new study by audience intelligence platform SparkToro that found the number of zero-click searches on Google soared to an all-time high in June.

The latest report found just 4.42% of searches ending with a paid search click. That number was dwarfed by the 45.25% of searches that result in an organic click and the 50.33% of searches leading to no discernible action by the end-user, more commonly known as zero-click searches.

SparkToro founder Rand Fishkin says zero-click searches have been tracking steadily higher for a while now and that the upward trend is unlikely to plateau or reverse soon. He believes that brands must factor this new behaviour into their SEO and content campaigns to achieve sustainable success moving forward.

Fishkin expects paid search click-through rates, which now take up just a small portion of overall activity, to drop off even further before 2020 and zero-click searches to grow even further. Zero-click searches are more prevalent on smartphones and other mobile devices and have increased steadily from 43.9% during the last three years.

“I think paid search CTR will probably decline over the next few months,” Fishkin said. “That’s because historically, each time Google changes how paid ads appear in the search results (like the late May shift to the black ‘Ad’ labels in mobile SERPs), ad CTR rises, then slowly declines as more searchers get familiar with the ad format and develop ad blindness.”

Google’s parent company Alphabet continues to be the dominant force in the search environment, as its properties now account for 94% of all searches made in the US. Fishkin believes this is now essentially a “monopoly”, and while zero-click searches are on the rise, Google has been able to deliver a regular stream of searchers to Alphabet-owned properties.

The predicted slump for paid ads means that organic content and SEO will take on even greater importance according to Fishkin, though he admits Google will be looking to new methods to prompt more searches to interact with ads in the coming months. He also believes that zero-click searches are an opportunity for marketers to advertisers to do something new to drive awareness and exposure.

Fishkin concludes: “Rich information appearing in Google’s results may be, like billboard ads or press mentions, harder to track than website traffic, but it’s still exposing your brand name to an audience, building familiarity, and sharing information. In my opinion, the brands that find ways to benefit from that type of SERP exposure, even without a click, will be the ones who win at this new form of on-SERP SEO.”

The rise of zero-click searches may be worrying for brands initially, as they may find it more challenging to push consumers along a traditional sales cycle of awareness and discovery to intent and purchase. The loss of traffic also means fewer marketing opportunities and a greater challenge to retain and develop audiences. However, the strength of organic clicks suggests the power of search is not waning.