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

11/Dec/2019
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The evolution of Google search results has resulted in a major shift in how users view, navigate and consume content, according to a new study released last week by Nielson Norman Group.

During the last five years, Google has undergone a sort of transformation from a standard list of pages in SERPs to a more complex overview, with new features such as Snippets and Images enabling users to view a greater diversity of content than before.

A previous study by Nielson Norman Group found that back in 2013, 59% of people using Google just scanned SERPs sequentially, looking at one page and then the next without skipping any results or scanning over other areas of the page.

However, things have changed significantly since then: Google’s raft of updates and UI overhauls have now made sequential viewing the exception and not the rule, with something called ‘pinball pattern’ now the predominant mode of user behaviour.

The pinball pattern sees users gaze across different areas of the page and back again very quickly, which has been driven in part by the raft of new features that Google has implemented in SERPs during the last few years.

Nielson Norman Group noted: “Today’s SERPs often involve not only links, but also images, video, embedded text content, and even interactive features. Any given search can return an assortment of different visual elements.”

Users no longer know what they are going to see when entering a search query, and the fact that humans are visual creatures means that the new elements have had a major impact on how results are consumed.

It also means that webpages that may have got lost further down the page in the past are instead being viewed as they are now placed near visual elements.

The report found that results nearer visuals are more likely to be seen, while those further from them lose visibility in search.

This is good news for brands that are not ranking at the very top of Google search, as in the past, it used to be more of a winner-takes-all environment where the most prominent listing received the most attention – this is not always the case now.

Nielson Norman Group added: “These results are encouraging for site teams. If your site isn’t ranking in the first position, that isn’t ideal. But as long as you’re appearing near the top (within the first 5 results), you may have around a 10-20% chance of getting a click and anywhere from a 40-80% chance of getting a look.”

However, keeping on top of organic SEO is still important as just 2% of users navigate to the second page of search results – the first page is king despite its varying forms.

The study also found that the unpredictability of search stemming from an uptick in the quantity of result types and differing layouts has made it more challenging for users to digest SERPs.

On average, it now takes 5.7 seconds for users to take in what is in front of them before deciding on some sort of action.


06/Dec/2019
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Two-thirds of marketers believe that their organisations do not have enough content to support demand-generation activities, while around half rate their overall output as either “fair” or “poor”, a new study by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has found.

Demand generation is defined as the marketing programs deployed by brands to drive awareness and interest in a suite of products or services, and it is a common tactic in B2B and longer B2C sales cycles.

The broader takeaway from the latest CMI report is that while brands are setting out to be a leader in their respective markets, they often struggle to put themselves ahead of the competition due to a failure to “go beyond good” and strive for great demand-generation output.

Currently, a large portion of demand-generation content creation is focused on the early stage of the buyer’s journey when generation awareness and interest is the primary goal.

Respondents said that 52% of all content was devoted to early-stage activities in 2019, a 5% rise from 2018, and almost double that earmarked for the middle stage of consideration and intent (27%) and the late stage of evaluation and purchase (17%).

The good news is that 77% believe that content is either “extremely” or “very important” to their ongoing demand-generation drive and that the majority say that content marketing is “moderately successful”, though there is obviously room for improvement.

One area where companies could look to refine their approaches to demand generation is by creating greater quantities of content to really move the needle.

A sizeable 63% of respondents said that there is not enough in the pipeline to meet current goals linked to demand generation.

Looking ahead to 2020, 30% of marketers said that a major challenge will be having enough money, time and team members to conduct demand-generation activities effectively, which is a case for outsourcing and agencies.

A few other issues and factors that will be present in marketers’ thinking next year include the need to generate “large quantities of content”, support higher rates of publication and distribution, and having the resources to create high-quality content consistently.

CMI also spoke about the pressures of short-termism at the end of the report – another factor that is holding companies back.

In a previous report, just 6% of respondents said that they are delivering monthly campaigns compared to the 41% who do so on a weekly basis.

The focus on the near term can be damaging as it prevents enterprises from looking to the long term and the need to develop and overhaul infrastructure and scale efforts to deliver the excellent campaigns needed to achieve success.

CMI noted: “Most demand-generation strategies are simply demand-identification programs. Marketing teams exert tremendous effort to optimize content experiences for search terms and questions, and to be ever more different, persuasive, and faster for anyone who has raised their hand to say, ‘I’m interested.’”

CMI concluded by urging marketers to pivot from “good” to “great” and from short-termism to long-term strategy with a particular focus on the skills and infrastructure needed to support content marketing.


22/Nov/2019
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Personalisation and bespoke digital experiences will be a major trend in 2020, but a new study by Oracle and Forrester Consulting has found that just one in 10 brands are effectively leveraging a “wide variety” of data assets to deliver the content that customers want across channels.

The ‘Getting Customer Data Management Right’ study, which is based on the opinions and insights of more than 300 marketing and ad pros based in Europe and North America, is the latest research this year to find that data is still posing a number of challenges for modern companies.

Brands recognise that centralising customer data so that it can be used to support marketing is now a critical activity and no longer just a nice-to-have, primarily due to shifting consumer expectations and the need to cut through the noise to reach and engage on a regular basis.

Three quarters of professionals said that improving the experience for customers is a crucial goal for them when attempting to make use of data, and more than two-thirds want to create unified profiles that enable simple targeting across a variety of devices and channels.

There are huge rewards for brands capable of doing this successfully as those adopting a customer data platform (CDP) generally see a 250% spike in the lifetime value of a customer while also driving revenue growth and higher profit margins.

Brands are making progress: 64% said that they have embraced CDPs during the last 12 months in order to eliminate data silos and bring assets together to create a “single source of truth”, which is crucial for better understanding the desires, needs and wants of customers.

CDPs can improve the efficiency of content marketing as they allow data to be deployed easily for a specific function and increase the effectiveness of campaigns run on channels such as blog pages, websites, social media and mobile.

All the benefits of data centralisation appear to be widely known then, but actually being able to achieve this objective is proving to be much more challenging.

Only 11% of brands are currently using the wide range of data types available to deliver consistent, personalised experiences that lead to a spike in customer lifetime value, despite 71% admitting that unified customer profiles are intrinsically linked to effective personalisation.

Issues remain, but brands are eager to improve as 69% of respondents said that spend on CDP initiatives will increase during the next two years. 

“A solid data foundation is the most fundamental ingredient to success in today’s Experience Economy, where consumers expect relevant, timely and consistent experiences,” Oracle CX executive Rob Tarkoff said.

The new report also found that established enterprises are 3.3 times more likely to invest more in martech in 2020 compared to start-ups and emerging companies.

Oracle concluded by urging marketers to work closely with business tech employees as a more mature data and analytics approach can pay dividends in the form of richer consumer insights and higher-quality and integrated data processes, both of which will help marketing and other departments and divisions.


18/Nov/2019
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Excellent content can not only drive awareness, reach and sales but can also create environments where consumers are more open and receptive to advertising, a new study by Integral Ad Science has found.

The latest research dispels the myth that ads are inherently annoying and linked to poor digital experiences.

On the contrary, 91% of the UK consumers surveyed said that ads placed next to high-quality content are actually important to them and are fundamental to pleasurable browsing online.

The good news for brands is that the right ads served up next to engaging content leads to 65% of consumers interacting with these ads in a meaningful way, which can have a hugely positive impact on traffic and ROI.

Premium-quality ad placements are not just a preference for UK consumers either, as 90% of people in France said that they want to see ads next to content, while 83% in the US and 82% in Japan said the same.

However, an important aspect of this premium experience appears to personalisation and tailoring.

87% of UK consumers believe that bespoke ad usage is crucial, and this figure leapt to 93% for those in France.

It was not quite as important for US consumers (80%).

The findings suggest that the rise of ad blockers stemmed from consumers’ frustration at ads not being targeted to them specifically rather than being a blight on the internet experience.

While premium content and ad environments raise the bar and encourage consumers to interact and engage, the opposite occurs when consumers are faced with ads and experiences that do not live up to their high expectations. 

Almost an identical number (88%) of UK respondents said that ads featured in close proximity to low-quality content trigger a feeling of annoyance, which then leads to a huge drop off in engagement.

Just 22% said that they would engage with an ad in these circumstances.

Low-quality online environments also irritated consumers in other countries, especially in France (92%) and Indonesia (90%).

There are even more downsides, as 55% of UK consumers said that they would view a brand less favourably if it was seen in a sub-par setting, while seven in 10 would boycott a brand entirely.

Consumers also put the blame for lacklustre placements squarely at the feet of brands, as 68% in the UK said that companies are accountable for actions, a figure that went even higher again in France (72%) and Indonesia (86%).

Integral Ad Science’s EME MD Nick Morley said that the latest ‘Ripple Effect’ study had highlighted a “clear link” between how ad quality is perceived and the subsequent response by consumers.

He noted: “As a positive takeaway, there is an opportunity for brands to harness the dual power of tailored ads and high-quality placement to drive greater audience engagement.”

Morley also warned that the “counterpoint” of ads served next to low-quality content can have disastrous consequences for a company as it often results in damage to brand reputations and a potential decline in revenue.

He concluded: “To ensure online ads drive the right reaction, brand suitability must be a top ad placement priority.”


11/Nov/2019
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Twice as many manufacturing marketers now have a documented content strategy in place compared to a year ago, but two-thirds believe that their overall efforts are only “moderately successful”, according to a new study released by Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

The ‘Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends’ report found that manufacturers have taken on content wholesale during the last 12 months with a huge increase in adoption rates and attempts to overhaul strategies to improve returns.

The enthusiasm for content marketing is also translating into better campaigns as 65% of respondents said that they would rate their organisation’s efforts as either “somewhat more” or “much more” successful compared to 12 months ago.

In contrast, just 3% said that they had achieved less success.

“With regard to content marketing, manufacturers have arrived,” CMI’s research director Lisa Murton Beets said in a statement. “No longer do we view them as late adopters.”

Overall, manufacturing marketers believe that their content marketing is “moderately successful”, which is a sign that there is still room for improvement across the board.

Currently, only 1% believe that their efforts are “extremely successful”.

However, the use of documented strategies is laying the groundwork for better outcomes, and there has been a notable improvement in this area year-over-year.

In 2018, 21% said that they had a strategy written down, but this jumped to 41% in the latest study, which shows that there is now a greater onus placed on strategic thinking.

Murton Beets added: “We saw a big increase this year in those who are approaching content marketing strategically. In addition, they’re having an easier time accessing subject matter experts and communicating complex content. Overall, manufacturers are reporting healthy levels of content marketing success, which is exciting to see.”

Manufacturing marketers face a range of challenges in 2020, but the most cited unique issue for them at the moment is “overcoming traditional marketing and sales mindset”.

Attempts to blur the lines between these two groups is a challenge for 55% of respondents.

The need to deliver content that can engage audiences across the sales pipeline (53%) and attempts to differentiate products and services from the competition (48%) are also hot topics in the industry.

A previous study by CMI found that outsourcing now plays a major role in content marketing for B2B companies, and the same is true for manufacturers where the expertise of agencies has gone some way to helping them deliver more engaging and higher-quality materials.

Two-thirds of manufacturing marketers are now outsourcing one or more of their activities to third parties, but it is content creation that leads the way by some distance.

87% of respondents said that creation is now outsourced, and the study noted that this may be the reason why manufacturers have been able to communicate more complex topics in 2019.

Perhaps most importantly, improvements in content marketing have helped manufacturers to position themselves as a “credible and trusted resource” for audiences, to value the craft and creativity central to content creation and production, and to serve the needs of customers in a timely manner.


04/Nov/2019
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Influencers can amplify the power of content marketing campaigns and 84% of brands are now running at least one campaign involving endorsements from celebrities, experts and other high-profile people on social media, according to a new report published by AspireIQ.

The study, titled ‘The State of Influencer Marketing 2019: An Analysis of the Social Media Ecosystem’ brings to light the pervasive use of influencers and their evolution from being a nice-to-have to an essential part of campaigns throughout the year.

More than three quarters are now planning to or are already managing ‘always-on’ influencer campaigns due to the wide-ranging benefits, which include increased awareness, reach, impressions and engagement.

Almost nine in 10 are running multiple campaigns a year, and over 50% say that they manage five or more.

The non-negotiable tactic has been driven in part by the sheer scale of audiences that influencers can tap into, which now numbers more than two billion across social media platforms.

Complementing high-quality content marketing with influencer-generated content (IGC) on social via emails and ads has also become a popular practice, as the latter gives influencers the freedom to use their unique voices to create more authentic content, which can engage with an already established audience.

Two-thirds of brands are now using IGC in some form and 21% have set their sights on leveraging it during the next 12 months.

A wide range of content is being produced, and output has evolved from the static images and photos that were once the staple for influencers.

Eight in 10 expect to invest in video content in late 2019 and into 2020, while 55% will tap into the current trend of storytelling to move and engage audiences.

Written content is also hugely popular, with 42% planning to focus their spending in this area.

The types of influencers that brands are looking to work with is also changing as the move away from high-profile celebrities to micro-influencers with smaller followings continues.

Research shows that smaller channels and influencers have 42% higher engagement rates than their larger, macro-based counterparts.

AspireIQ’s founder and president Anand Kishore said in a statement that we are now in an era when influencer marketing is about more than just promoting a brand on social – influencers now power content engines to assist brands with telling a consistent story on all of the channels in which their users are active.

Kishore added that brands and influencers are going to work even closer in the future to build communities that have a shared passion for what the brands make.

The age of influencers is also trending lower due to the rise of TikTok, with data showing that 70% on the platform are now teenagers between 14 and 19.

Meanwhile, brands are spending $10k on average on campaigns on TikTok.

Influencer costs are rising though and the average price now stands at $0.26 per post, while cost per engagement has also risen sharply since last year and is expected to increase further next year.

Fortunately, return on investment (ROI) is high at 423% from the $6,249.91 per campaign budget.


28/Oct/2019
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B2B marketers are getting better at serving customers at the top of the funnel by creating brand awareness and educating audiences but are still missing out on deepening relationships further along the cycle, according to a new study released by Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

The ‘B2B Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America’ study found that brands are going from strength to strength in their ability to nurture new leads and reach wider audiences.

More than two-thirds said that they had success in this area compared with the 58% who said so a year ago.

In contrast, just 45% of B2B marketers surveyed said that they have been able to use content marketing to build a subscribed audience, while strengthening loyalty and generating revenue have also been more of a struggle compared to the three most cited goals: brand awareness, education audiences, and building trust.

“Getting attention is great, but marketers must keep that attention. Kudos to those who are creating lasting impressions and super fans,” CMI’s general manager Stephanie Stahl said.

She noted that brands should look at competitors that are “doing it right” and take inspiration from successful strategies and campaigns to nurture long-term relationships as consumers are now “all too ready to swipe left”.

One way that companies can improve their efforts is by outsourcing larger projects to agencies and other third parties as smaller internal teams are now the norm.

The study found that 50% are now outsourcing one content marketing activity or more, and ‘creation’ is the most popular activity, with 84% doing so.

The need for outside assistance is also highlighted by the fact that 32% of B2B marketers say that there isn’t a single full-time person assigned to their content marketing efforts.

Perhaps more interesting is that the top performers rely even less on internal personnel as only 13% have a full-time employee, while companies generally rely on a mixture of team structures to get the job done.

Moving on to data and analytics, 80% of respondents are now using metrics to keep tabs on the performance of the content they publish, and this is a good habit to get into as 95% of ‘top performers’ are evaluating data on a regular basis.

While tracking metrics is commonplace, only 43% of B2B marketers are measuring the return on investment from content marketing campaigns, and many are not establishing key performance indicators (KPI) to link data with marketing objectives and wider business goals.

Top performers are again at the vanguard, with 67% evaluating ROI and 83% monitoring KPIs regularly.

Only 14% of all respondents said that their ability to demonstrate AI is “excellent” and more than a third admitted that they are average or poor in this area.

CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose urged B2B marketers to stop thinking of content marketing as only a means of creating leads or an opportunity and instead aim to “AMAZE” audiences to really reap the benefits.

He concluded: “Treat your audiences as customers because that is the way you can lean into data acquisition and personalize your experiences.”


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.