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

11/Aug/2020
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Social media marketing will play a crucial role in the effectiveness of marketing campaigns during the next two years after more brands pivoted to connected channels amid the pandemic and the number of users soared to a record high in July, a new study by Econsultancy has found.

The ‘Future of Marketing’ report found that social media is now arguably the de facto outlet for content consumption for people of all ages as it is now embedded into the routines and habits of day-to-day life.

COVID-19 has accelerated this trend as new data shows that 3.96 billion people are now regularly using social media around the world, which is a 10% increase from a year ago.

The sheer scale of this number means that the fear of missing out is strong for companies of all sizes.

It is now easier than ever before to reach and engage with a wide audience regularly using content on social sites.

The social media boom, something that started more than 10 years ago with the rise of Facebook and Twitter, is set to continue during the rest of 2020 and into 2021.

Econsultancy found that two-thirds of marketers believe that social media will become intrinsically linked to the quality and effectiveness of marketing strategies and campaigns during the next two years.

Econsultancy also went into detail about a range of trends that it expects to see in social media marketing during the final five months of the year.

It noted that while organic social and content continues to take up greater shares of marketing budgets, ad campaigns have slowed since the start of the year, which is not wholly surprising considering the impact of the pandemic.

The lockdown also had an effect on influencer partnerships, something that could lead to a re-evaluation of relationships over the coming months.

UK social media users are still very much engaging with influencers regularly.

Fitness coach Joe Wicks was one of the most prominent content creators when stay-at-home measures were in place, but marketers are now taking a step back to consider the best way to use influencers moving forward.

Econsultancy noted that brands have been focusing on publishing ‘how-to’ style content recently as this allows them to provide vital information covering a range of topics from cooking to exercising at home.

Brands will also attempt to capitalise on the continued growth of TikTok in late 2020.

“Consumption on platforms such as TikTok and YouTube look set to continue,” Campfire’s CEO Joe Gradwell said.

On advice for marketers, he added: “There’s still time to build your presence across social networks you’re not yet operating on – build your TikTok strategy, begin the podcast series you often talk about.”

The onus will be on brands to experiment with new social media campaigns and management during the second half of the year.

After the disruption during the spring and early summer, brands now have an opportunity to try new things and optimise strategies to best suit the needs of followers.


06/Aug/2020
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What is a keyword?

Keywords are one of the simplest technical aspects of SEO. There is no code or HTML, just basic words, phrases and queries that are entered into search engines to find content and the answers to questions. Keyword research will find the words that are related to your brand and that you want to rank for.

Nine in 10 pages struggle to drive any sort of meaningful organic traffic. This is why it is important to have one or two phrases that you can target with your content marketing. You can tailor content to these keywords and related topics so that it finds the audience you want to engage with.

How do I find them?

Seed keywords are the bread and butter of a successful SEO campaign. These keywords define your brand, your product and service offerings, and your industry and niche. Seed keywords can be used as the base for an extensive brainstorming session where you populate a long list of potential keyword ideas.

If you are scratching your head thinking about what exactly your brand’s keywords are, you can pop over to Google Search Console and take a look at the Search Results report. You will already have an exhaustive list of keywords that your webpages are ranking for. There are other tools you can use to do this if you haven’t yet set up Google Search Console.

Who are my competitors?

If you are unsure exactly who your competitors are for a seed keyword, head over to Google and input one. The first page of results for that keyword will show you who is ranking for it. Again, you can use third-party tools such as Ahrefs’ Site Explorer to see the most popular pages for a keyword based on search traffic for the month. These pages are getting the most organic traffic for that particular keyword.

What do I do with keywords?

You can use keywords as the basis for content marketing materials. Keywords show you what consumers are searching for, so you can meet their needs by publishing a blog or an article that expounds on that keyword with useful information. You can also communicate a few of these keywords to an agency if they are managing a blog campaign for you as it will make the copy more targeted and relevant for your audience.

Is there anything else I need to do?

Seed keywords can be quite limiting as they are likely to be directly related to who you are and what you are doing right now. This is great to begin with, but over time you will need to drill down a few more ideas. You can do this by studying your niche in greater detail using keyword research tools, browsing forums related to your industry, and extracting insights from communications with clients and customers via email and social media.

How do I know what’s best? You can find out the best keywords for your business by analysing SEO metrics. There are a number of metrics you can track, but some of the most valuable include search volume, traffic potential, click total, and cost per click (CPC).


04/Aug/2020
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Young people now spend 47 minutes a day with video on mobile and gravitate to short-form, premium content, according to a new joint study from National Research Group and Snap Inc.

1,000 smartphone owners in the US covering the Gen Z and Millennial age ranges were polled for their video viewing habits in May this year with the aim of teasing out a few key insights and trends for marketers and advertisers.

The study found that the smartphone is now the primary content consumption device for people aged 13 to 35, and engagement continues to rise on them having soared 40% during 2020 alone.

More than three quarters said that they have spent more time with video content this year compared to 2019, and the majority of respondents now watch a video at least once a day.

General screen time is also increasing – respondents averaged almost four and a half hours a day on smartphones, with 47 minutes of that time being taken up by video consumption.

While smartphones lead the way for media consumption for younger people, video content is still consumed more on other connected devices and over-the-top media services, which account for 50 minutes of viewing time.

The smartphone is way ahead of laptops and desktops (24 minutes) though and is also edging out the traditional TV.

Mobile lagged behind TV by six minutes two years ago, but the study expects the latter to decline through the remainder of 2020 and into 2021.

The preference for mobile-optimised content is strong with younger age groups compared to older generations, who still log a considerable amount of TV time each day.

For Millennials and Gen Z, short form remains king as 80% of respondents said that high-quality, snackable content is best as it allows them to jump into trending conversations and keep track of current events without a significant time investment.

70% said that they prefer to engage with clips that have a shorter runtime, which goes against a recent trend in wider marketing where bite-size is being eschewed for premium programming.

More than half of young people said that full-length video takes up too much of their time.

Brands looking to engage with teenagers and people in their 20s need to leverage social platforms and other digital channels as 85% of respondents said that tech is an important means for them to express themselves and contribute to something.

Video content also helps young viewers to feel more connected to the story, provides them with a “sense of adventure and excitement”, and empowers them to be a trendsetter.

Snap director Vanessa Guthrie added: “The stories that you tell must lean into the intimacy factor of the phone. Beyond the fact that it’s a totally different medium, it’s so much more personal – and so the types of stories, and the way you tell them, have to be truly made for mobile.”

Video has also been used as a coping mechanism for people during the lockdown, with 88% revealing that it entertained them and helped them to escape with laughter and distraction and 77% saying that it aided their own personal growth and wellness.


31/Jul/2020
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Getting technical SEO right will give your content a strong foundation to work from, whether you are tailoring pages for the web or mobile. A SEO audit will help you to keep on top of these factors and uncover potential issues. Here are seven things you can assess.

Sitemaps

Sitemaps help to establish the hierarchy of your web site and communicate the structure to search engines so they know where pages are and to make sure they can access them.

You can check whether the sitemap is set up correctly by navigating to the sitemaps section in Google Search Console. Here you will be able to confirm if and when a sitemap has been submitted, the URLs that are being indexed and any potential issues.

Mobile optimisation

Google will switch all websites to its mobile-first indexing in 2021 so it is important to audit the smartphone readiness of web pages by running several quick tests via the user agent switcher for Google Chrome. This tool allows you to test mobile pages in a desktop browser.

Content should be formatted correctly, have a responsive design and be easily scrollable for users. Videos also need to be compatible and fast loading. Run a final check on pages on an actual smartphone and note down any issues that can be addressed.

Image optimisation

Large, unoptimised images can be a drag on page load times which is not ideal for mobile. Using the correct format is important. JPEG offers the best balance of quality and size while PNG provides the best quality.

The latter is usually better for general mobile browsing. You should also compress your images accordingly. A tool called Screaming Frog is also useful for collating images and finding and amending those with large alt text.

Robots.txt

Robots.txt files are used by search engines to crawl pages and basically tell Google whether or not to index them.

You can use Google Search Console to see whether robots.txt is present on your site and if it is having an impact on performance in SERPs. Robots.txt should generally be set to “disallow: ” to enable user agents to crawl effectively.

Crawl errors

Crawl errors can torpedo even the best SEO campaigns as they make it increasingly difficult for Google to index the right web pages.

Fortunately, Google Search Console makes the task of identifying them relatively easy, just look out for any 400, 500 and not found server errors. Fixing these quickly will allow Google to find your pages.

SSL certification

Google also has a preference for SSL certified sites as they are more likely to provide users with secure and private digital experiences.

If you load up your website and spot a red X in the address bar, then you may have issues with the SSL certificate. Getting a wildcard secure certificate is the solution here as it will ensure https:// resolves itself properly.

Minifying Javascript and CSS

The process of removing redundant data without impacting the experience is known as minification. Minifying your JavaScript and CSS will get rid of bloated code and help to reduce your page load times.

Most websites have one of each of these files. Making sure they are properly coded will eliminate other potential issues too. You can use online tools to see whether any of these files are leading to server bottlenecks and slowdowns.


29/Jul/2020
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Google announced an eight-month delay to its mobile-first index switchover last week, giving webmasters, SEOs and developers the perfect chance to optimise content and pages for smartphones and prepare for migration ahead of the deadline in March, 2021.

Here are six things you can do right now to make your content more mobile-friendly.

Get AMP

Google’s open source Accelerate Mobile Pages initiative launched back in 2015 with the aim of improving the performance on content on mobile. Optimising for AMP improves the speed and usability of your mobile content which reduces bounce rate and increases the amount of time people spend engaging with it. This then leads to better ranking in SERPs.

Use succinct headlines

Headlines are always important but are doubly so on smartphones where you need to catch the attention of readers that won’t balk at swiping through pages endlessly. A short, succinct and snappy headline that encapsulates the article, news or blog will appeal to consumers and be presented in the correct format for mobile. Google recommends using 55 characters or less to ensure it is presented properly.

Optimise titles and meta descriptions

Titles and meta descriptions appear in Google’s search results and can play a major role in driving clicks to your web pages. On mobile, these HTML elements will be smaller in size and some users may not be able to visualise them property. For this reason, it is a good idea to optimise descriptions and titles so your keywords are front loaded.

Optimise site speed

AMP will go some way to boosting the speed of your mobile pages but is worthwhile to look at a few other technical aspects of SEO that can increase page speed. The majority of smartphone users navigate away from a website if the load time takes three seconds or longer. Even worse, every delayed second leads to a 12% slump in conversion rates.

You can run Google’s Mobile Speed Test and a few other tools to see whether there are any issues with your pages. Making changes will help to reduce bounce rates and generally deliver a better experience to mobile users.

Install a responsive web design

Google’s imminent switch to a mobile-first index highlights its preference for mobile web design. You need responsive HTML that is capable of adapting content to different smartphone screen sizes and orientations. This will ensure every image and character is displayed correctly. Using WordPress makes things easier as there is a selection of responsive themes that can be installed with just a couple of clicks.

Publish great content

Mobile users have different viewing and scrolling habits to desktop users, but one thing is constant across both platforms. Publishing great content will keep users glued to the screen for longer. Mobile readers generally pay most attention to the upper left portion of the display and are also likely to scroll more. Engaging blogs and articles with a mix of images and catchy subtitles will help to keep mobile users hooked from start to finish.


23/Jul/2020
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Marketers will have to use organic digital marketing to unearth new leads and drive brand awareness after a new study by Martech found that professionals in the industry do not expect in-person events to take place until the second half of 2021.

The latest ‘Event Participation Index’ polled 300 marketers in the US and found that on average, there is currently a 30% chance that respondents will attend an in-person event during the next twelve months as concerns about the global pandemic continue.

With social distancing guidelines and measures still in place both in the US and across Europe, marketers are facing up to a lengthy period where traditional marketing channels like events will not be available to them.

While this would have been a major blow in the past, the study found digital is picking up the slack as the vast majority of professionals are satisfied with the marketing alternatives they have at their disposal.

Live events are usually a great way for brands to meet new contacts and clients, establish relationships, build brand awareness and affinity, all of which feed into increasing sales and revenue and generally helping companies to thrive.

Fortunately, marketers can deploy content marketing to support many of these objectives and push thought leadership and credibility.

The Martech study stated that “content is still king” and that the pause in live events will give marketers ample opportunity to focus on the quality of content that is published.

In addition to blogs, articles, news and videos, brands can also host events online where they can make use of new features like live polling and interactive question and answer elements to engage the audience.

However, Martech sounds a note of caution, adding that virtual events can be more challenging to manage than live events as a robust tech infrastructure and talented team of producers are usually required.

Marketers will have time to hone their skills though as 70% of respondents said online-based will be the only form of event they would consider attending until a vaccine for Covid-19 is available.

Eight in ten say they have already attended a virtual event experience since the outbreak in March and three-quarters were happy with how it went and what they were able to take away from it.

For companies that have been forced to cancel in-person events this year, 80% say they decided to switch to a virtual event but many have also been supplementing the new experience with different forms of content.

Almost two-thirds say they have hosted online education sessions during the last three months and almost half (47%) have published sponsored or exhibitor content during the same period.

It seems the disruption has prompted many companies to not only embrace digital marketing but to get more creative with formats and channels to reach out to customers and potential clients.

Whether many will switch back to live events in the future remains to be seen but for now, virtual events and other forms of content will be a top priority for brands during the remainder of 2020 and into 2021.


21/Jul/2020
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The humble blog post continues to be one of the most effective tools in a marketers content arsenal but what length of copy is the best for driving better returns from SEO?

Most experts agree that blogs should be more than 300+ words in length as this gives the writer the ability to answer a question or two and impart some advice that the reader can act upon. However, merely hitting a large word count for the sake of it should not be the aim either as blogs need to be consistently engaging to increase a user’s page time.

While blogs both short and long are excellent options and should be used regularly by brands, research shows that there are certain benefits to posting content with 1,000 words or more.

More words, more traffic, to a point

Higher word counts generally lead to higher amounts of organic traffic on average, though the gains do increase on a gentle curve rather than being substantial jumps. This means there is a moderate positive correlation, which is probably good news for marketers as targeting lengthy editorials for every piece would be exhausting.

As ever, doing everything in moderation is key. You can mix in some simpler 300 word blogs with larger 1,000 or 2,000 word pieces and everything else in between to deliver results. Google is generally biased towards longer content as it usually satiates a user’s desire for a query to be answered comprehensively but this is not always the case.

Research does show that there is a steep drop off in organic traffic when posts go on for longer than 2,000 words, which means all the effort put into a 10,000 word piece is likely to be wasted as it won’t perform as well as a much shorter blog.

Be succinct as possible

The max word limit highlights how marketers need to be succinct and to the point. A blog should cover everything that’s important and leave things that are unimportant to one side. Top ranking pages in search generally provide similar coverage for important points that need to be made to answer a search query.

For example, top performers in SERPs for the term “keto diet” often provide a definition of what the diet is and the foods you should eat. You can conduct your own content gap analysis by employing the same methodology for keywords or topics you want to target with blogs. Is there anything that you definitely need to include to compete with others on the first page?

Attempt to cover all of these crucial points and build on them to make your blogs unique. While certain data shows that longer content can work best, The University of Chicago found that a reader’s engagement drops off fast after they have been consuming content for seven minutes. This is another argument for a quick and breezy style.

To conclude, rather than obsessing over word count and always thinking big, you should instead greenlight blogs that can do a topic justice while entertaining and engaging readers consistently.


17/Jul/2020
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Managing standard SEO strategies can be challenging enough, but the task becomes much harder when you go international and attempt to deliver better experiences for visitors in other regions around the world.

If you have recently started optimising your website to help search engines deliver content to users you want to target in different countries and languages, then you will be better prepared to succeed if you know some of the reasons why strategies can falter.

Technical issues

You need search engines to access and crawl your webpages so that you can feature in rankings.

This process is known as technical SEO, and it requires more work when you are managing multiple versions of a website based on locations and languages.

With more to optimise, there is a greater likelihood of technical mix-ups that can hold your international SEO strategies back.

Two of the most prevalent problems that webmasters run into are poor domain and URL structures.

Don’t worry, as even the biggest companies run into these issues.

Netflix had indexing problems back in 2017 and struggled to deliver content to each of the 180-plus countries it operates in.

In addition to optimising domain and URL structures, try to correct any XML sitemap conflicts, poor use of tags, internal linking issues, and mixed hreflang signals.

Slow loading times

A report by Unbounce found that 81% of marketers believe that page speed has a direct impact on conversions, but just 3% focus optimisation efforts on loading times.

Google prefers to serve content that loads quickly, and you will benefit in search performance if you can reduce the time it takes for pages to be usable.

You can improve your page speed times by compressing images, using the best hosting service available to you, reducing the amount of server requests, and minimising redirects.

Strategies that have not been localised

Cutting and pasting a domestic SEO strategy template for international efforts rarely works as it does not take into account the cultures, needs and interests of audiences in each market.

You need to localise your SEO and content campaigns so that they are tailored by language and location.

Merely translating copy with Google is not enough either – you need natural content crafted by native speakers to really engage with audiences overseas.

This will boost your international SEO as content will be search engine optimised for the country and language you are targeting while retaining the authentic and authoritative voice you want to present.

Relying on geo-targeting

Geo-targeting and the practice of delivering content to visitors based on their location is cost-effective and very useful, but you need to be aware of its limitations.

For example, there are countries where multiple languages are spoken or a large expat community does not speak the national language.

This is where website accessibility comes in.

You should try to offer an accessible UI that allows users to change language, location and currency via an intuitive dropdown menu. By doing this, you reduce the risk of alienating visitors who may not be able to navigate your webpages.


16/Jul/2020
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Content marketing investment continues to skyrocket according to a new study by the Association of National Advertisers that shows the average spend on campaigns soared 73% during the two years to early 2020.

The ANA partnered with the The Content Council to conduct the new survey which was completed prior to the outbreak of Covid-19 but nonetheless highlights just how crucial content now is for many major companies around the world.

One hundred twenty-six people took part in the report, 90% of them classed as marketers and 10% as other professionals and key decision makers.

On average, brands were spending $8.9m on content marketing annually in 2018 but that figure has since climbed 73% to $15.3m as more companies devote a greater share of marketing budgets to the practice to reach and engage with customers organically.

The marked growth in investment is indicative of the “strong commitment” that 52% of respondents now say they have for content marketing. Just 26% said the same in the survey two years ago.

As noted, content is now taking up a larger share of budgets. The respondents are using 18% of funds to support content marketing campaigns and other processes that attempt to influence target audiences and deliver a sustainable return on investment.

Funnelling more money into content will continue as respondents expect their average content marketing budgets to increase by a further 42% by 2022. That means the total spend will increase to almost $21m.

While content becomes more a focus for companies, many of the respondents still admit to struggling with measuring its impact, mirroring the findings from other recent studies.

Six in ten say they do not unearth enough actionable insights using current tracking methods, and almost a third are overwhelmed by the amount of data that needs to be processed and analysed. 31% also say they find it challenging to decide on key performance indicators.

These factors that are not helped by the fact that 52% of respondents admit to not having a documented content strategy in place, something which makes measuring and tracking campaigns more difficult.

Just over a third (35%) said they have a clear documented strategy and not unsurprisingly, half of this group claim to have a positive outlook for their efforts. The findings show that a unified plan is a crucial first step for those struggling with certain aspects of content marketing.

Implementing new technology is a priority for marketers during the next twelve months, with 46% saying they would test and learn new strategies. Four in ten say they will aim to implement automation and more than a third want geotargeting and actionable reporting.

Finally, many companies will look to outsource content marketing responsibilities after the study found that in-housing often amplifies certain issues. That insight is similar to comments made to website Marketing Dive by marketers earlier this year.

Forrester’s Jay Pattisall revealed: “Companies will likely want to outsource those to the extent that they can, because in the long-run, that’s a more cost-effective way to deal with it than making significant investments in employee infrastructure.”


29/Jun/2020
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Branded content is better at improving brand perception and eliciting positive emotions from consumers compared to traditional linear ads according to a new study published by Channel 4.

The research found 60% of viewers had a positive view of branded entertainment and 70% rated it highly in terms of originality, entertainment value and quality, suggesting content funded and produced by companies can have a greater impact than standard ad campaigns.

Channel 4 recently worked with Age UK to create a series of branded entertainment titled ‘Old Peoples Home for 4 Year Olds’ and it found that brand perceptions changed considerably after it aired.

The number of people that viewed Age UK as an ‘uplifting brand’ soared by 51% and 29% more saw the charity as ‘caring and compassionate’.

The publication of videos and other forms of content with a branded yet grounded and organic feel is the way forward according to Sophie Lloyd, Channel 4’s Branded Entertainment and Creative Leader.

She says the research shows that entertaining and engaging content allows brands to deliver the authentic messages and high quality storytelling that viewers and customers crave and are willing to engage with.

For the study, Channel 4 partnered with the BVA Group for the research and published many of its key findings last week.

It found branded content is particularly effective at communicating with younger audiences who are more sceptical of traditional advertising. Gen Z views this sort of entertainment as a softer sell which leads to better brand resonance and higher levels of engagement.

However, brand alignment is important. 84% of respondents believe the brand needs to be a “logical fit” for the tone and type of content it publishes. This helps brands too as they are more likely to be closely associated with the content without the need to mention themselves or showcase logos or mottos.

A seamless alignment between content and brand leads to higher rates of approval from audiences which in turn drives more positive results across all KPIs for a brand. This increases return on investment and makes campaigns more likely to succeed in the long term.

The research also found that the power of content can result in a notable boost to brand perceptions, something that is more difficult to achieve with traditional spot advertisement. This is because it is easier to put forward a compelling message in an environment where viewers are more receptive to it.

High quality content then leads to positive brand associations. 44% of respondents said they had a more favourable view of a brand after consuming branded content and programming.

Uber saw the benefits after its ‘Where to Britain?’ campaign. The perception that the brand had a ‘sense of humour’ climbed 105% afterwards, as did the view that it had friendly drivers (+95%).

Sophie Lloyd concluded: “We’ve always believed branded entertainment delivers for brands but with this – the first research of its kind – we now have proof. It’s an opportunity for brands to co create quality editorial entertainment and weave their values and messages through storytelling and narratives that viewers want to engage with.”