The Weekly Shop (16th – 20th December)

Welcome to the last Weekly Shop of the year. In this last edition, we take a look at why ecommerce retailers are still failing provide information on Christmas delivery dates, which country spends the most online and some insight into SEO in 2014 and why link building is not enough anymore.

Ecommerce and Christmas delivery: some retailers still don’t get it

For anyone doing some last minute online Christmas shopping, one of the biggest questions will be ‘can this retailer deliver in time for Christmas?’ This information is essential to manage customer expectations and improve retention through clear messaging and delivering on promises. In this article, Graham Charlton from Econsultancy looks at how ecommerce sites are failing to inform customers about delivery dates at Christmas time and he also sheds some light on best practice approaches.

Key Christmas trends to keep in mind this season: stats

With higher-then-usual retail activity, Christmas is always an interesting time for digital trends and statistics. Using their vast pool of research and data, Econsultancy have helpfully put together some of the key Christmas trends which are worth bearing in mind in the lead up to the 25th and beyond.

The UK spends more online per head than the rest of the world: stats

OFCOM’s 2013 International Communications Market Report has found that the average person in the UK spends £1,175 online, making us the biggest online spenders in the world. According to the OFCOM report, the UK also has a higher level of trust in online retailers than the rest of the globe. More stats over on Econsultancy.

Silver surfers show their online confidence: research

Following on from the above, we’re clearly becoming more confident with the idea of online shopping and new research has shown that Senior Citizens have also embraced the digital shopping revolution.

From Old School to New School: SEO in Transition

This article from Search Engine Watch looks at some of the transitions that have taken place in the world of SEO by comparing the way SEO was practiced a few years ago to how it should be approached today.

Link building vs. content strategy: why link building alone is not enough anymore

In light of the above, our last link is a post from our Senior Social Media and Content Consultant, Alice, about why link building alone is not enough anymore. Her post really sums up our approach to link building and Alice has put together an infographic to illustrate the key aspects of a holistic natural search strategy.

And that’s it for this week. We’ll be taking a short break over Christmas, but we will be back on the 10th of January to fill you in on all digital marketing and retail news for the New Year.

Until then, Merry Christmas!

 

Link building vs. content strategy: why link building alone is not enough anymore

Here at Leapfrogg, we’ve always followed the mantra ‘users first, search engine second,’ when it comes to natural search. In other words, whatever we do to improve the visibility of your website should also benefit the user. You can read more about our customer-driven approach in one of Ben’s guest posts for Econsultancy, found here.

It used to be the case for many others that by simply building lots of links to your site – no matter where those links came from – you’d be able to “game” the search engines into thinking that your website was worthy of a high position in the search engine results page (SERP). Targeting specific keywords with links to specific pages would see your Google rankings steadily climb for those terms. Unfortunately (and quite rightly) it’s not that easy anymore. Your website has to genuinely add value to your readers if you want it to be noticed.

Since Google released its first Panda update back in 2011 with the aim of filtering out low quality content from search results, increasing emphasis has been placed on building a content-rich, well-structured website as a starting point for any natural search strategy. Following the latest Hummingbird update, which very much places users’ needs at the centre of search, Google is going to notice faster than ever before if your site doesn’t cut it when it comes to content.

Links are still important, there’s no denying that. Links count as editorial votes of confidence, but whereas this used to work in a silo Google is getting better at catching you out if you’re building links to a less-than-brilliant site. We’ve put together the accompanying graphic to illustrate the key aspects of a holistic natural search strategy. It’s not about gaming Google, it’s about creating a site that’s worthy of its position in the SERPs and making sure that the right people know about it.

Link Building vs Content Strategy Diagram

Click to enlarge

Make your website awesome

Your website shouldn’t just be the place where people can buy your products; it should be an indispensable information resource for your customers. User-focused content that sits on your site such as how to guides, a comprehensive FAQ section, customer competitions, white papers, surveys, videos, news stories, images, infographics and an active company blog – provided it’s all properly structured – will significantly increase the size of your site and give you a wealth of content that people will naturally want to link to.

Share your content with the world

Now that you’ve built an amazing site, it’s time to shout about it. Ensure that you are regularly sharing links to your on-site content via your social media channels – Google will notice when links to your site are being shared on social platforms and these positive social signals generally correlate with the authority of your site and your natural search visibility.

Encourage the world to share your content

It’s not just about YOU sharing your content though; it’s about getting others to share it. Use your social media channels to reach out to influencers including industry publications, potential and existing brand advocates, bloggers, influencers and – most importantly – customers by initiating conversations and volunteering links to your content. Also, ensure that every page of content on your site has sharing buttons, making it possible for others to promote your content with one click.

Nurture your brand advocates

Social media is undoubtedly the most effective way of building your army of online brand advocates. If you deliver a great experience via your social channels as well as having an amazing product or service, you’ll find that you’ll reap the rewards in the form of online recommendations which goes towards maintaining that all-important social buzz and engagement around your brand.

Get the links you deserve

By having a well-structured website with fantastic content, you will likely find that sites will link to you naturally as a result of discovering you via social media or natural search. Most of the time, however, securing links needs a lot more work. Do something that’s newsworthy, come up with a killer content collaboration idea, host an event for fans or influencers or launch an exciting competition and actively reach out to the people you want to links from – whether that’s news sites, industry publications or bloggers.

Get on Google+

Unsurprisingly, Google really wants you to use its own social media platform. Having a Google+ page for your business will help to enhance your presence in natural search. Firstly, by tagging your site up with rel=publisher, your Google+ page and latest Google+ post will appear in search results for relevant queries. Secondly, tagging individual content pages on your site (e.g. guest blog posts from industry influencers) with rel=author promotes the transparency and integrity of the content, helping users scan and read content by people they want to read more from. It also helps pages stand out in the SERPs by having the author’s image next to the listing which can help improve CTRs to your site. Additionally, blog owners should contribute to others’ blogs as an author which adds more weight to your brand and improves individual identity.

In summary…

Securing links should still be an integral part of your natural search strategy. We’ve known for a while that buying hundreds of links from low-quality sites won’t work, but now the quality of YOUR site is of primary importance. Even if you’re regularly gaining links from blogs and other online publications, Google will be looking at a whole host of other factors including your on-site content, how your site is structured, how many times links to your content have been shared on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc. and whether or not you’re making use of Google+ as a social brand hub.

By getting all of these elements right, you’ll drastically increase the chances of your content being seen by the right people: your potential customers. What’s more, as is always the end goal, this should ultimately have a positive impact on your bottom line.

Alice Reeves on Google+

Festive fashion online campaigns

After a particularly unsuccessful Christmas shopping trip last weekend, I decided to do the only sensible thing and take matters online.

Obviously, being me, I soon ended up doing a bit of ‘wish list’ shopping for myself on a couple of my favourite sites and I was met with number of different Christmas campaigns and homepages. I thought it was really interesting to see how brands were using their digital platforms to create a memorable online customer experience and engage their customers this festive season. It definitely makes the whole Christmas shopping experience a lot less tedious and any gift ideas and inspiration is always appreciated in my book! Below is a round-up of some of my favourites from this year.

Dear Topshop

Dear Topshop

Topshop’s homepage has recently been taken over by the launch of ‘Dear Topshop’ – the brands first global and fully-integrated Pinterest Christmas campaign.

‘Dear Topshop’ allows users to pull together Topshop items from across all of the brands platforms. By searching through categories such as ‘A Gift that will wow’ and ‘all things that sparkle’ consumers can pin items and share them on their own boards, while the top pinned products are showcased on Topshop.com’s homepage each day. To add an element of competition, Topshop have also given customers the opportunity to win a Topshop Shopping Spree by submitting their Pinterest boards to them.

Topshop also bought the campaign in-store by producing giant touchscreens in their flagship stores which allow shoppers to interact with the campaign. The campaign is a really nice example of how retailers are using Pinterest’s newly launched API and it really capitalises on the popularity of Pinterest as a place to collect fashion inspirations and ideas.

Whistles Advent Calendar

Whistles Advent Calendar

This is a regular Christmas campaign for Whistles, being their fourth advent calendar, but they’ve proved really popular with Whistles fans and are always very creative.

Every day, Whistles invites users to visit the advent calendar and ‘crack the ice’ by clicking their mouse repeatedly to reveal a different prize, discount or offer. I really liked the addition of interactivity here as it creates a bit of suspense as to what the prize might be. Once the prize has been revealed, users are given the chance to win by providing Whistles with their e-mail address which signs them up to their mailing list. They are also encouraged to tweet and share on Facebook to win.

By taking part in the advent calendar, Whistles are creating a desire to go back to the website each day and users are also able to look back through the previous days at what prizes they missed and also get a sneaky peek of future prizes through the ‘ice.’ It’s a really nice way to showcase Whistles range of stock and encourage repeat custom.

Harvey Nichols #sorryispentitonmyself

I love this tongue-in-cheek viral campaign from Harvey Nichols, which definitely takes an alternative view of Christmas shopping. Through their #imsorryispentitonmyself campaign, Harvey Nichols encourage shoppers to spend as little on their loved ones as possible in favour of indulging themselves. They have also produced a limited range of ultra-low cost Harvey Nichols branded gifts for those who understand that a cheap gift for their nearest and dearest means a bigger gift for themselves. I particularly like the real plastic door stop for £1.43 and authentic Lincolnshire gravel for £1.61 which amazingly sold out within a few days of the campaign launch. Genius!

Harvey Nichols ultra low cost gifts

Burberry

The British luxury brand Burberry has launched a festive campaign called ‘Burberry with Love.’ The advert is a culmination of their entire year’s worth of campaigns celebrating love and romance including its Burberry Kisses campaign in collaboration with Google.

The campaign is supported by a ‘full festive takeover’ of their social media and they are also celebrating ‘25 days of Christmas’ by publishing images and videos on their Instagram each day.

Mulberry

Mulberry Fairy Tales

This is a really nice example of a brand combining its offline and online presence to create a festive campaign. The iconic handbag and fashion brand has taken over five windows at Harrods to tell a branded fairy tale to engage consumers this holiday season. A theme that is likely to tap into consumer’s nostalgia for the childhood fairy stories and to provide a memorable customer experience when shopping for Mulberry gifts.

Online, the Mulberry website has also been transformed into a fairy tale wonderland, and they’ve used the theme to display its gifts, allowing you to ‘Shop the Fairy Story.’ Mulberry also allowed all of its followers to join in its window unveiling by tweeting from the event and sharing photos on its Instagram account and transformed its Twitter profile page to match the snowy fairy tale theme of its campaign.

ASOS

ASOS have been running their #tonightis campaign since September which embraces the idea of ‘living in the moment.’

For Christmas they have teamed up with the @OfficialSanta Twitter account and asked consumers to build their ultimate ASOS wish list and tweet it straight into him with the hashtag #tonightis.

@OfficialSanta has been replying to people’s wishes using personalised Vine’s and handing out on the spot prizes from people’s wish lists. I really like the effort they’ve gone too with creating personalised videos and it definitely created lots of buzz around the campaign.

The Goodhood Store

Probably, one of the lesser known brands on this list but Goodhood Store is definitely one of my favourite online stores to have a browse around. It stocks a wide range of contemporary menswear, women’s wear and homeware and its online shop is an excellent extension of its physical store in Shoreditch.

I’m a big fan of clean, minimalist, colour co-ordinated design and I really do like their beautifully curated gift guides which allow you to click on the items to buy and also share them via Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest etc. There are various gift guides on the site including gifts for men, women and home all of which are aesthetically pleasing. I like the way they’ve used their online shop in a similar way to a physical shop by choosing products that really complement each other. The whole experience is really user-friendly and really is a pleasure to shop.

Goodhood Store

Liberty of London

While this is not exactly an online campaign, I still thought it was worth including because I love the shop and equally loved the documentary.

While many of the big retailers are investing millions in television adverts and campaigns, Liberty of London has opened its doors to Channel 4 to produce a three part documentary that follows their eccentric employees in the run up to Christmas. You can also meet the staff over on their website and they’ve embedded footage of the staff on various department pages on their website. Other retailers must be green with envy as Liberty has managed to wangle approximately 156 hours of free coverage in the busiest shopping month of the year and I don’t doubt that the series will have a huge impact on the footfall to their shop and visits to their website.

Liberty London Documentary

So there you have it; just a few of the festive fashion campaigns I’ve seen floating around the internet this Christmas. Which one is your favourite and are there any other good ones that I have missed?

10 tips for planning your New Year sales customer journey

In the build up to Christmas many retailers will be focusing on getting as many sales as possible and providing the best possible experience for their customers before the big day. Once Christmas is over and we move into the sales period, many retailers rely on just the price cuts to gain revenue and consequently place the customer experience at the bottom of priorities.

But how many retailers really understand how many of their customers buy at full price in the run up to Christmas and will purchase again in sale period opposed to their number of one-time sales customers?

If a large proportion of those who buy during sales period are those that buy items at full price during the rest of the year, ensuring they receive the right experience at all times is the key to high retention and loyalty.

On the flip side, those new customers you acquire during sale period could well move on to be full price buyers in the long term if they are given a good experience during their first purchase, no matter what discount they are given.

With this in mind, here are our top 10 tips to using the sales period to increase retention and loyalty as well as revenue by placing the customer at the heart of the buying experience.

1. Segment your database into those customers who have bought items at full price and those that only ever buy from you during the sales period. Set up your Electronic Customer Relationship Management (ECRM) program to send two different sets of emails before and during sale period to those segments.

2. One week before your sale period, send an exclusive ‘sneak peek’ sale email to your full price customers highlighting items featured in the sale that match the items they have bought from you recently. On sale start day send another email to launch the sale and give an exclusive discount to your loyal customers or offer free delivery on all sale items during sale period.

3. On sale launch day send an email to your sale only buyers with no special offer but just highlighting the great savings and deals to be made during the sales period.

4. Send each segment sale reminder emails twice a week throughout the sales period with special offers tailored to previous items they have bought or viewed/added to basket on the site. Switch between product focused and editorial content. Customers still want to engage with the brand when buying in sale as well as getting the discount!

5. Ensure all new customers you win during sales period are welcomed properly and given the best possible delivery and post purchase communication. Make sure you bring them into your ECRM program for future engagement.

6. Select key items from your sale and invite significant bloggers to style the ‘best of the sale’ using them. Feature the content on your site as you go into the sale and include across your website and email campaigns as engaging and inspirational sale content.

7. Ensure that you encourage as many reviews as possible on all items you sell pre-Christmas through post purchase correspondence and on flyers within your packaging. The rise in reviews will help sell products during sale period.

8. Encourage sale buyers to engage on social media and share pictures of their sale purchases. You could perhaps run a competition where those sharing their sale items can win the chance to do a trolley dash in store or online on the last day of sale. Again, feature this content on your site and in editorial emails as inspiration to others.

9. Ensure you maintain your high standards of delivery and packaging for sale items. One bad delivery experience can put a full price buyer off for life.

10. Ensure you keep on top of stock levels and remove all those out of stock items from the site immediately. There really is nothing worse for your customers than seeing a great deal online and not being able to purchase.

Of course, there are many other ways you can keep delivering a tailored experience to your customers. However, these are the areas that will have the most impact on the buying experience during the sales period that will not cost you extra budget when you are slashing margin.

Remember, your customers demand a seamless brand experience at all times from you.
Good luck!

The Weekly Shop (11th – 15th November)

In The Weekly Shop this week…we have some Christmas ecommerce tips, a study into customer service expectations on Twitter and the ten most common mistakes of blogger outreach.

Seven out of ten would spend more online this Christmas if websites were ‘better’

A study by PEER 1 Hosting has found that seven out of ten online shoppers in the UK will be put off spending online this Christmas because of the quality of the websites they are browsing. They questioned over 1,000 British adults and found that nearly 70% would do more of their seasonal spending on the Internet if websites were better.

20+ Christmas ecommerce tips from the experts

Following on from the above, it’s probably too late to be making any substantial changes to your website before Christmas, but there is still time to make a few tweaks for improvement. Our friends over at Econsultancy have put together the views on the best Christmas strategies from a number of ecommerce and UX experts. Topics include last minute changes that could aid conversions, the importance of mobile, and how retailers can sell right up to Christmas. Our commercial director also put together a similar post with his top tips for Christmas for the Froggblog last week. Read it here.

72% of customers expect complaints on Twitter to be answered in one hour

Nowadays, disgruntled customers are more likely to flock to Twitter to voice their queries and complaints rather than write letters or make expensive calls, which if not dealt with correctly can easily spiral out of control. A new study from Lithium has found that 53% of customers who ask a brand a question on Twitter expect a response within the hour. If a customer makes a complaint then that figure goes up to 72%. They also found that 38% of people feel more negatively towards a brand if they don’t get a response within that time frame. Definitely something to bare in mind with the busy Christmas season just around the corner.

The 10 most common mistakes of blogger outreach

The practice of blogging or influencer ‘engagement’ is one of the most widely-used tactics in marketing these days, yet as relatively new industry, people are still getting to grips with it. This article from Henry Ellis at Econsultancy hits the nail on the head with his round-up of examples of painful blogger engagement.

So that’s it for this week! Remember that we will soon be sending out The Weekly Shop every week by email. If you’d like to receive it then please do pop your email in the footer below.

The Weekly Shop (28th Oct – 1st Nov)

Unbelievably, it’s Friday again (where did the week go and how is it November already?) which means it’s time for The Weekly Shop! This week, we take a look at a new coalition which aims to take 200 high streets online, an infographic about what shoppers want from retailers this festive season, some updates from Matt Cutts and an article from Ben for Econsultancy examining the percentage of spend PPC payment model.

New coalition aims to take 200 UK high streets online

In retail news this week, a new coalition launched with the aim of taking 200 UK high streets online. The coalition, which had its formal launch at Westminster yesterday, is launching an ecommerce network built on the foundations of the MyHigh.St project in order to give independent high street retailers across the UK an online shop window. Read more over on Internet Retailing.

Infographic: What Holiday Shoppers Want From Retailers In 2013

There’s no escaping that Christmas is now just around the corner, are you ready? Here’s a preview of what holiday shoppers are looking for from retailers following a survey of over 3,000 online shoppers in the U.S last month. Take a look at the stats and an infographic of the results over on Marketing Land.

Matt Cutts on SEO, PageRank, Spam & the Future of Google Search at Pubcon Las Vegas

Now on to developments in the world of search. Interesting, Matt Cutts was the keynote speaker at Pubcon in Las Vegas last week. Cutts talked extensively about the changes Google has been making recently and offered a few juicy insights into their future developments. More over on Search Engine Watch.

Don’t believe the hype: Google+ does not mean great SEO

Whilst speaking at Pubcon, Cutts also revealed that social signals like Likes, retweets and +1s will have no short-term impact on search performance and won’t help you rank better. Following on from this, this article from Econsultancy looks at the evidence that Google+ does not mean great SEO.

Successful Social Marketing is So Much More Than Social Media

While we’re on the topic of social media, this article from Clickz looks at how social media has evolved into much more than just a channel or tactic and how it should be an ever-present strategy in all aspects of your marketing.

PPC agency payment models: percentage of spend

And to finish us off, here’s an article from our commercial director Ben which is the first in his series of posts for Econsultancy which will dissect three of the most common PPC payment models. In his first post Ben looks at the most commonly used model in the industry – percentage of spend.

So, that’s it for this week. Happy reading!

Five (Apprentice contestant-free) Christmas tips

This time last year, I sat on a panel at the ECMOD conference. The theme? Tips for a successful Christmas.

The whole affair was somewhat surreal in that a former Apprentice contestant was pulled in at the last minute to sit on the panel. I am assuming that the good people at ECMOD saw him wondering around and thought “Hey, he was on The Apprentice, he’ll have something useful to share.”

For his sake I won’t mention him by name. However, to say he missed the point of the panel would be an understatement of gigantic proportions. Interspersed between the quick-fire tips from those panellists that had understood the brief, was a series of grandiose ramblings containing just about every cheesy business cliché you are ever likely to hear. Christmas tips they were not.

Slipping away quietly and slightly embarrassed by the whole affair, I had completely forgotten that my well-intentioned tips were left sitting on my iPad. As Christmas is almost upon us, a time when many retailers generate as much as 50% of their annual revenue, I thought I should put the ghost to rest and publish the tips on the Froggblog. No cheesy business speak, I promise.

So, here goes…

1) Paid search

Competition – and therefore click costs, are very likely to increase over the festive period for most retailers. If you are not careful, your cost-per-acquisition will do the same.

Very few retailers have an unlimited media budget. Therefore, making it work harder and smarter over the festive period is critical to driving a positive ROI. With this in mind:

  • Pick your battles – focus on categories and products where you have an advantage over the competition. For example, if you offer the lowest price, free delivery, free returns or a discount on the next order. Ensure these messages are prominent in advert copy.
  • In turn, ensure budgets are allocated to the highest performing products and keywords to avoid wasting budget. This means watching campaign performance like a hawk. The world of retail moves fast. At Christmas it’s even faster. There is no place for setting up a campaign in October and simply leaving it to run.
  • Be prepared to boost your bids whilst demand and competition is at its highest (whilst ensuring that the click cost and cost per acquisition remain within acceptable boundaries).
  • Consider the longer term value of a new customer in your bidding strategy. This allows you to work out how much you are prepared to spend to acquire a new customer. Reflect this in your bidding strategy (more on this below).

2) Look beyond the first sale

Consider the following scenario. I am looking for a particular beauty product that my wife has subtly dropped a hint she would like for Christmas. I do my research and make a purchase through a site I have never bought from before (and am unlikely ever to again).

From the retailer’s point of view they have got the initial sale (win!) but sending me their catalogue or signing me up to their newsletter is a complete waste of time. I’m just not their target audience. In short, people like me, making one-time gifting purchases, offer very little long term value to the retailer.

Therefore, the retailer, making an educated guess that I am purchasing a gift, should be looking at ways they can ‘get to Mrs Potter’ (for want of a better phrase).

At the checkout, you could ask if the item being purchased is a gift. You could ask who it is for. You could ask if the gift recipient would like to receive special offers and promotions in the future (after Christmas of course – you don’t want them to spoil the surprise!)

Alternatively, you could insert a card in the packaging with a promo code to be used in the New Year.

In short, consider how you can build a longer-term relationship with the customer even if that person isn’t the one who actually made the purchase.

3) Offer free returns, even if this is only a temporary change of policy

Research carried out last year by fit.me found that 60% of UK consumers will not even consider making a purchase unless free returns are offered.

A free returns policy at Christmas is even more important to allay any fears that a gift recipient may not like a present or it may not fit, for example.

Whatever you decide to do where returns are concerned, ensure that the policy is prominent on the website and in ad messaging to counter any potential barriers to conversion.4

4) Deliver on your promises

When it comes to delivery for example, most people don’t mind waiting a few days for an item to arrive, as long as it drops through the letterbox when promised by the retailer.

However, when this fails to happen, especially in the week leading up to the big day, customer dissatisfaction will be amplified ten fold. It’s a pretty stressful time of year for many. The last thing someone needs is a mad dash to the shops on Christmas Eve to hunt down a gift they had assumed would arrive days ago.

This is just one example of where you must ensure (as far as is humanly possible) that you can fulfil those promises you shout so proudly about in ad messaging and web copy. Failing to do so means a disgruntled customer who will a) probably not buy from you again and b) moan. Not just to their mates down the pub but across their social media channels, amplifying your failures to hundreds, maybe thousands of people.

5) Review success and failures in January

Finally, ensure you make time to review what worked and what didn’t immediately after Christmas (well, you can at least let the Christmas pudding settle in your belly, but you know what I mean).

Start preparing for next Christmas whilst things are fresh in your mind.

Hurrah! Tips shared without an Apprentice contestant in sight.

Have a very prosperous Christmas one and all.

Image courtesy of christmasstockimages.com

The Weekly Shop (9th – 13th Sept)

In our Weekly Shop this week – reasons to increase your SEO budget, why site optimisation is necessary throughout the site redesign process and the findings from two research studies, as well as some other useful bits and bobs!

4 Reasons to Spend More on SEO

Significant Google updates, such as Panda and Penguin, have meant many businesses are rightly moving away from low quality tactics and services, yet are reluctant to increase their SEO budget in line with the more complex and multi-disciplined approach required to succeed. This article from Search Engine Watch outlines four reasons why small business owners should consider spending more on SEO.

Why site optimisation is necessary before, during and after site redesigns

This article from Econsultancy highlights the important of testing a new website throughout the re-design process rather than as separate project post-launch. With huge resources poured into site re-design projects, testing can help to ensure the project is on the right track and the end result will deliver enhanced site performance and conversions.

Facebook Organic and Paid Posts with Photos Get Most Clicks, Engagement [Study]

This week ShopIgniter released findings of research that showed Facebook posts with photos received the highest click-throughs in organic and the most engagement on the paid side compared to other updates. This article from Search Engine Watch highlights the key findings from the study and offers best practices tips for Facebook posts and paid content. You can also download the full report here.

2 Reasons to Love the New Google AdWords Paid & Organic Report

Google recently launched a brand new report that shows the total traffic by keyword from paid and organic search. This is the first report of its kind and it’s available in the dimensions tab once you’ve linked your Google Adwords and Webmaster Tools accounts. This article highlights two reasons why the report will be valuable to marketers – co-exposure monitoring and keyword identification.

Why Google Wants to Know About Small Websites That Aren’t Ranking Well

Google’s Head of Web Spam recently tweeted about a new Google Doc which can be used to submit details of small websites that users think should rank higher in the engine’s SERPs for related terms. The form collects two pieces of information:

(1) The name and URL of the small site you think should rank well.

(2) Why do you think that small site should rank better?

This is great news for small businesses who have to compete with big brands for visibility, but the document does state that respondents  should not “expect this survey to affect any site’s ranking” and they are just collecting feedback. This also throws up questions as to why Google needs this feedback rather than using own data to rank websites.

Why are people showrooming and how should retailers respond?

Columbia Business School and Aimia have recently produced a study on showrooming, which they define as when an individual actively chooses to buy something after carrying out actions on mobile. The report contains some useful statistics on showrooming and also some tips on what retailers can do to provide an excellent in-store experience that cannot be replicated online.

Google Webmaster Tools Give Users More Link Data

This week, Matt Cutts kicked off SES San Francisco and announced a change to the way Google Webmaster Tools serves backlinks to users. Now, instead of getting a huge list of backlinks in alphabetical order, they are giving a better representation of all the backlinks as they are sampled uniformly from the full spectrum of backlinks. Shortly after this announcement was made, Google published a blog post detailing their changes. This is great news for webmasters, especially when trying to clean up after a bad backlink warning or penalty. This was a problem for larger sites that had thousands of low-quality/spammy backlinks pointing to a site.

Why every brand needs a social media policy

Over the last 12 months, as to be expected, there has been further acceleration in the uptake of social media amongst retailers. This is a result of increasing usage amongst a wider demographic, new networks popping up (such as Pinterest), as well as the role social plays in wider search, content and customer experience strategies.

Regardless of the goals you have for your social presence (whether customer acquisition, retention, customer care, brand awareness, etc.) a key foundation for success is a comprehensive social media policy. This should include:

  • Branding, tone and vocabulary guidelines
  • Customer service guidelines
  • Negative interaction protocol
  • Respectful practice guidelines
  • Legal practice and copyright awareness

Remember one size doesn’t fit all – a social media policy should be tailored to the brand. Depending on the nature of your organisation, there may be unique factors you need to consider, so don’t be tempted to use a template for your social media policy.

Here are a few important roles a good policy can fulfil:

Branded communication
Use your social media policy to guide branding across channels. We all use social media in our free time; clearly stating key buzz words, brand values and vocabulary to avoid prepares your employees to interact as brand representatives, communicating your values and writing in the correct tone of voice.

Protection for yourself and your employees
Clearly stating procedures within a social policy will help to safeguard you and your employees from negative situations and mistakes. Outlining  employee roles (for example, who leads customer service dialogue) reduces confusion around responsibility and optimises time and resource. Highlighting  legal practice, platform rules and copyright awareness is vital to ensure you aren’t in breach of the CAP digital remit.

Deliver  seamless customer service
A good social media policy will guide the customer service process, ensuring the employees responsible are aware of correct protocol for escalation and importantly, who to notify within the company if a volatile situation occurs. Negative comments are inevitable in every social space – it’s how you deal with them that will set you apart from competitors.

Avoid social faux pas:
We all know how much negative media attention the wrong tweet or post can generate. Remember Urban Outfitters’ ill-considered sales tweet amid the devastation of super storm Sandy in October 2012?

It’s tempting to think that if you have a small social team you’re unlikely to commit a social faux pas. The real time nature of social coupled with human nature can be a recipe for unintentional disaster. Neatly outlining the rules encourages employees to think twice before they tweet.

While it’s important to lay out the rules, make sure your policy isn’t too restrictive. Social media is a leisure space for consumers and interaction should be responsive and flexible; in most cases it should also be fun for all involved, both the brand and the consumer. Therefore, whilst social media policies are necessary don’t let them suffocate the spirit of social media.

What we learnt in 2012 and what we look forward to in 2013

At the end of each year, I encourage the Leapfrogg team to take some time out to review what they have learnt from the events of the last 12 months. It’s an opportunity to take a step back and think about what we have witnessed in digital marketing, retail and the luxury sector, as well as the strategies and tactics we have employed for an ever-growing portfolio of high-end retailers.

So here are a few of our main observations from another eventful year, with comments from members of the Leapfrogg team, along with what we look forward to (hopefully) seeing in 2013.

Panda’s and penguins changed the game…for the better

Google’s Panda and Penguin updates dominated the search landscape in 2012. Scores of websites found their search engine rankings negatively impacted by the updates. The techniques they had been using to unnaturally garner search rankings (or that agencies were adopting on their behalf, such as buying links) were hit hard by Google’s aggressive, and very public, attempts to clean up their search results.

As Ben Adam, Senior Natural Search Consultant, comments ‘it seems that Google has finally found a means of taking action against web spam; the kind of action that most search marketers have been asking for, for years.’

Website Optimisation Manager, Suzanne Taylor adds, ‘The search engines have got wiser and duly penalised sites that have been chasing rankings with ‘black hat’ tactics. For some businesses, this re-education has cost them time and money, however businesses that have focused, first and foremost, on creating a good experience for their customers have benefitted.’

These updates have had a significant (and in our view, positive) impact on the discipline of natural search (SEO). As Senior Content and Social Media Consultant, Emma-Jane comments, the updates place greater emphasis and reward on traditional content based and PR-style marketing, making quick-win techniques, such as sharing keyword stuffed articles and mass-submitting to thousands of low quality directories, riskier than ever before. A PR-led approach to building a holistic and sustainable link profile has seen a welcome move towards creating editorially-led, consumer facing content. This not only benefits search, but becomes an important part of the customer journey.’

As natural search is now so closely entwined with other marketing activities, such as content planning and PR, Head of Search, Matt, expects to see search getting greater recognition as a strategic business operation in 2013, commenting ‘successful search engine optimisation requires a sophisticated approach to relationship building meaning companies need to work harder to engage with customers, suppliers, partners, press and commentators. This means that SEO should, for the most forward thinking companies, be at the heart of a business not on the fringes, which can only be a good thing.’

Content marketing is nothing new

What was particularly interesting to witness in 2012, as a result of the Panda update in particular, was the sudden surge in interest for ‘content marketing’ services. I’ve been amazed at the number of agencies suddenly changing tact (and in some cases their straplines) to place content marketing at the core of their offering (as if creating genuinely engaging, useful content has always been their approach to search…when quite frankly, it wasn’t.).

‘Content is king’ they said again…and again…and again…

Content marketing, even in the online world, is not a new discipline. Neither is it one that should be getting any more, or less, attention just because Google has found a way to combat the poor quality content that for so long could be used to manipulate your way to the top of the rankings.

Managing Director, Rosie, comments ‘content is not king. Instead, the customer’ is king. Regardless of the marketing activity, whether on or offline, single or multichannel, you must put the customer at the heart of it. Good customer insight is the rocket fuel for your content and wider retail strategy…and always has been. Nothing has changed other than Google getting better at separating the wheat from the chaff.’

In 2013, we hope to see the (somewhat artificially inflated) industry furore around content marketing calm down. We’ll continue to apply a back to basics attitude where content is concerned, namely that strategies are driven by a genuine understanding of the customer, as Senior Content and Social Media Consultant, Emily, explains, ‘delving deeper into our clients’ consumer demographics with detailed customer surveys and audits of each touch point in their retail journey will further develop our customer-orientated focus in 2013, which continues to be at the heart of our approach to content strategy.’

Consumer expectations are moving faster than most retailers can keep up

Driven mainly by technology (the growth in smartphones and tablets, for example), there have been significant changes in consumer behaviour in recent years and, in turn, the expectations that consumers have of the retailers they choose to shop with.

As I noted in an Econsultancy article back in November, ‘what is a ‘nice to have’ now will be the expected norm in 2013. As consumers become conditioned to in-store consoles, delivery on their own terms and a more personalised shopping experience (to give just three examples), they will more readily question those retailers not offering the same. In short, consumers won’t put up with average when exceptional becomes the norm.’

As such, we will undoubtedly see more retail casualties in 2013. However, it would be too simplistic to blame economic factors alone for these failing businesses. Instead, there will be some retailers who simply cannot evolve their business models in line with customer expectations and, as such, will disappear from our high streets.

In 2013, the successful retailers will be those who place much greater emphasis on customer insight and ‘big data’ to drive marketing decisions. Gone are the days when retailers can afford to throw money at something on a whim. The customer needs to be at the heart of every decision. As such, we expect to see customer experience become more and more of a focus during 2013 to the extent it occupies board level discussions.

Social media is evolving to become a mind-set, not just a tactic

Alongside Google’s well publicised efforts to clean up their search results, 2012 also saw social media’s influence on search results increase. As Client Services Director, Greg, comments ‘Google+ started to show real signs of traction in 2012 – especially with regards to having an impact on natural search visibility within the search results’.

We still think the jury is out when it comes to the role Google+ plays in meeting wider customer engagement objectives (simply put it hasn’t reached critical mass) but, without question, Google is making a massive push for it to a part of our everyday lives. I just hope consumers, brands and agencies invest in the platform in 2013 because it adds genuine value to their retail strategies, not just because it is a necessary vehicle to improving Google search rankings.

Aside from Google+, in 2012 we saw a definite step change in how clients’ perceive social media and the role it plays at every stage of the customer journey. As Emily notes, ‘across our client portfolio, we’ve seen an increased interest in (and understanding of), the importance of social, both for accessing and expanding their consumer bases, as well as becoming an increasingly important factor in search.’

Greg continues ‘brands have been much more willing to at least ‘have a go’ in social media even if specific objectives and KPIs are unclear at the start.’

Measurement and attribution remains a challenge

Mobile and tablet use exploded during 2012 with Matt commenting ‘adoption of mobile devices was notable last year. Customers of premium brands are more likely to own a smartphone and tablet with some of our clients seeing up to 40% of their website traffic coming from mobile devices.’

As consumers move so freely between channels and devices whilst researching, considering and making their purchase, tracking this journey and attributing revenue to the appropriate channel presented a major challenge in 2012…and it will continue to do so in 2013.

Head of Search, Matt, sees part of the solution in social media. He comments, ‘Social media offers a solution to attribution issues created by multiple devices and cookie deletion. With a billion people on Facebook and other networks such as Twitter and Pinterest growing quickly, people logged in to social media platforms and email services, especially on their mobile devices, could be the solution to the attribution conundrum’.

Watch this space!

Things get better with age

In December, we will be celebrating our tenth birthday. Quite frankly, I don’t know where the years have gone!

One thing I do know is that Leapfrogg is evolving all of the time. Each day, month and year we improve, never satisfied with our approach, processes and knowledge. For me, that is what makes a great agency; the constant desire to be better than you were yesterday.

Therefore, we look forward most to celebrating 10 years in business by continuing to work with some fantastic retail brands, constantly innovating to help them meet their commercial objectives.

Account Manager, Nick, sums this up best; ‘for me, what I’m most looking forward to in 2013 is pushing our fantastic clients to be bold, experimental and ultimately, successful. With the green shoots of an economic recovery beginning to show, 2013 will be the year when forward-thinking and innovative clients can really get the jump of their competitors. I’m looking forward to leading the way with Leapfrogg’s fully integrated approach and setting the standards.’

With that, we’d like to wish you a happy and prosperous New Year!