The importance of content planning to search, sales & social media

For a long time, we’ve been driving home the importance of content to meeting your online objectives. In fact, Ben wrote about the relationship between content, search marketing and social media back in 2009.

Content can be used to connect with and engage your audience at each stage of their buying journey. As such, I believe that content planning should be core to your digital marketing strategy. A solid content plan gives all of your disciplines creative direction, streamlines resource, ensures messaging is consistent and works to enforce the role that each stakeholder (internal and external) plays in meeting online goals.

At the heart of content planning is a strong understanding of your target audience. By understanding the needs and motivations of your prospects and customers it will help you to create content that is in line with how your audience wants to consume it and therefore where to market that content to support search, website optimisation and social media objectives.

How customer insight and content supports these three channels is best reflected in the infographic below:

Starting with search, the information presented back to us when searching comes in a range of content types i.e. maps, images, video and shopping feeds (in Google’s case, this is called Universal Search). In turn, this means brands must create, optimise and market useful and engaging content that benefits both the target audience and supports SEO objectives.  In light of Google’s Panda update earlier this year, good quality, relevant and interesting content for the end user is more important than ever. Adopting old hat techniques such as keyword-stuffed press releases and articles, created purely for SEO purposes, might just bring you to Google’s attention…and not in a good way!

Content also has an integral role to play once visitors arrive at your website. A content driven approach to e-commerce helps create a richer and more rounded website experience, which in turn aids conversion rates and average order values. Strong imagery and video, for example, are proven to engage visitors and drive up sales. Marks and Spencer, with its pioneering ‘M&S TV’, has reportedly seen three times as many product views when supported with video and an average uplift in basket size of 23%.

Content is also vitally important in giving your brand a voice across your social media channels. Too many brands fall in to the trap of using social media to simply broadcast special offers and promotions. Content is the foundation of which a truly engaging social media experience is built and therefore how you can build a following by having your customers share your news, views and stories with their colleagues and peers.

This diagram reflects the interdependency between search, social media and content; one discipline cannot operate in isolation of the other two.

Practical steps to creating a content plan

So with content playing such a vital role in search, conversion rates and social media outreach, where should you start?

I recommend working from a central content plan as it helps to ensure consistent and clear messaging from each of your company’s communication channels and ensures any content output is aligned to your business objectives.

The first step to creating great content is to align all communication channels to work together. Holding regular content workshops involving all those responsible for creating content is a great way to achieve this. The objective of these workshops is to mine the business for all marketing plans across online and offline disciplines and brainstorm raw ideas, thoughts and materials.

You can then shape the resulting output into a comprehensive six-12 month content plan that cascades into all online communication channels, for example:

  • Content to support sales, such as buyers guides
  • Blog content
  • Emails / newsletters
  • On and offline PR
  • On and offline advertising, such as catalogues
  • In-store event ideas

This level of planning provides the necessary structure and formalising of responsibilities to maximise the value of the content created by all stakeholders.

The output is a month by month plan (it can be as simple as using an Excel spreadsheet) that details what content will be created, in what format, by whom and through which channels it will marketed and when. It sounds simple but I’m amazed at how many businesses we speak to are creating content in a totally disjointed manner meaning they fail to maximise its value to meeting digital marketing objectives.


Don’t fall into the trap of creating content purely for the purposes of gaming search engines. Really think about your customer and create content that is genuinely useful and engaging. Get all of your content creators in a room and plan, plan, plan. In turn, you’ll be rewarded with stronger search engine rankings, higher conversion rates and more fans and followers who feel a genuine connection to your brand.

Top ten Froggblog posts of 2010

As we draw towards the end of 2010, we thought we’d compile a list of the ten most popular posts from the Froggblog over the course of the last 12 months. These mainly cover advice in strategy and online retail.

Infographic – the online retail wheel of fortune

Rosie created the ultimate in infographics back in April; this is a graphical representation of the tactics, and how they are employed at each stage of the buying cycle, that go into creating a holistic digital strategy for retailers.

Why preparation is integral to success in digital marketing

Ben argues the importance of due diligence, research and planning to implement a successful digital marketing strategy.

25 questions to ask yourself before taking digital marketing in-house

Focusing on core skills, technology and resource, Ben shares a number of questions to ask of your business when deciding if in-house, outsourced or a combination of the two solutions is best for managing your digital marketing efforts.

Digital marketing benchmarking report for premium home and garden retailers

This was the first of a number of studies looking at premium retailers’ use of, and attitudes towards digital marketing. The second report looking at food and drink retailers is due for release in January 2011.

How multichannel retailers can benefit from Google’s new search results layout

Rosie looks at how retailers can take maximum advantage of Google’ advanced search layout.

Applying store decompression zones for online retail

Rosie looks at how the theory of store decompression zones (the area just inside the entrance of a physical store) can be applied to websites.

Online strategy: to discount or not to discount?

Traditionally considered a method of clearing stock, discounting has now grown to be a significant element to online marketing strategy. Ben looks at what you should consider when incorporating discounting into your online marketing strategy.

Christmas retail: gearing up for Cyber Monday (part 1- research and planning)

With contributions from various Leapfrogg experts, this five part series looked at how online retailers can maximise sales over the Christmas and New Year period. Beginning with this post covering research and planning, advice was then given in website optimisation, paid search, editorial link building and social media.

Google Place Search – the potential impact on retailers without physical stores

In October, Google made some significant changes to how local search results are displayed. Andy takes a look at what it might mean for retailers, particularly online-only retailers, who by their very nature do not have a physical store, or ‘local footprint’ if you like.

What to include in a brief to a search marketing agency

Before approaching an agency, be sure you are prepared with the information they are likely to need in putting together a focused proposal. Ben provides some useful advice.

Keep following the Froggblog in 2011 – we’ll continue to provide regular advice and commentary on all things digital marketing and online retail, as well as some insightful studies and benchmark reports planned.

Christmas retail: gearing up for Cyber Monday (part 2 – website optimisation)

Yesterday, Ben looked at how careful research and planning is essential to maximising sales on Cyber Monday, and over the course of the Christmas period. Now that you have established your ‘hero’ products, target audience and key messages, I turn attention to your website. After all, dedicating time to research and planning, and increasing investment to acquire traffic over the Christmas period, will be wasted if your website fails to convert that traffic into sales.

With this in mind, and time against you, we recommend you spend day two of five preparing your website for the uplift in traffic you can expect by executing tactics in paid search, link building and social media, all of which we will be looking at as the week unfolds.

Day 2 – Website optimisation

According to Logan Tod‘s Annual Online Shopping Index, the factors most important to consumers online shopping experience last Christmas were listed as delivery options, site search and product availability, and well-written copy.

On this basis, here are some relatively quick-win considerations in each of these areas:

Delivery information and options

  • There is nothing worse than getting to the very end of the checkout to be hit with a larger than expected delivery charge. Ensure your delivery costs are made clear from outset, ideally on product pages
  • If you can, offer a range of delivery options and prices. For some customers next day delivery will be essential. For others, as long as it received prior to Christmas, next day will not be so much of a priority
  • Consider using delivery options as an extra incentive to encourage sales, for example by offering free delivery on orders made between certain dates, or for orders over a certain value
  • Do not make promises you cannot keep when it comes to delivery. Let down a customer by failing to deliver to them what was promised and on time, and they are unlikely to be as forgiving at Christmas as they may be at other times of the year

Site search

  • As we get closer to Christmas, search queries will become more specific as prospects get closer to the point of making their purchase (having already worked through the research and consideration stages of the buying cycle). Does your site search function stand up to this by displaying relevant results for longer tail searches?
  • Ensure that your site search functionality is set up to account for different methods by which customers may search. For example, do you send out a catalogue? Do products therefore have codes attached to them? If so, customers may search using these codes so ensure the site search function will deliver results on this basis
  • If there are no search results to return, be sure to offer alternatives. Nothing is more likely to drive a prospect away than the message ‘sorry this product is not available’ accompanied by little or no accompanying help or advice

Product availability

  • Do not allow customers to add a product to their basket only to get to the checkout and be informed it is actually not available. Or worse still, pay for the product, receive the confirmation email only to then be informed later on that stock is not available (I’m amazed so many retail sites still allow this to happen!). Therefore, ensure your stocking information on the website is as up to date as it can possibly be. If you are utilising an automated back end system that maintains live stocking information on the front-end website this should be straightforward. If not, you need to establish a manual process to update stock levels at least every couple of hours
  • If products are not available, be sure to display information detailing when they will be back in stock. Better still, allow customers the functionality to reserve the product when it becomes available again. If it’s too late to build this automated functionality into your website, add a call to action that encourages the visitor to ‘call and reserve’

Copy (and other types of content)

  • Ensure your product descriptions are accurate, well written and optimised with relevant search terms. Are you REALLY selling the features and benefits of not only the product itself but also why the prospect should buy from you?
  • Ensure your product images are of good quality and tagged with appropriate descriptions
  • Create content that will help support your product descriptions, and therefore sales, especially if your research and planning has indicated that you are targeting a different audience at Christmas to the one you would normally attract. What content can you create that will help a male audience, for example, to make a more considered purchase of ladies underwear? Your aim is to make the buying process as straightforward and pain free as possible. Make sure this complementary content, buyers guides for example, is highly visible alongside product descriptions, downloadable and shareable
  • If you have promotional areas on your homepage, for example a banner, ensure they are pushing the ‘hero products’ and key messages you have established during the research and planning stage
  • When attempting to cross sell, ensure the products you deem as complementary are indeed so in the eyes of your customer. The disappointment of finding a product is out of stock is hard enough to bear, offering alternative products that are almost entirely different just adds insult to injury and will not be seen as at all helpful
  • Make sure your contact details are obvious and if offering support, particularly by phone, have a clearly visible number on every page

Checkout process

  • Importantly, test your checkout process now to make sure it is running normally
  • Assuming you have conversion funnels set up in your Analytics software, you should be able to identify where visitors typically drop out of the checkout process and to what extent. Based on this data are there any quick and easy tests you can run to increase conversion rates, such as:
  1. Removing the need to register an account before making a purchase. This is a sure fire way to have potential customers drop out of the checkout process in their droves yet so many retail sites still insist on it
  2. Where you do have forms, can you remove any of the fields, which if you really thought about it are unnecessary?
  3. Can you add progression indicators so users know how long the process will be i.e. this is step 1 of 2?
  4. Are you providing too many distractions at the point of purchase? Attempting to sell other products at this late stage, although admirable, may actually lead to abandonment, the exact opposite of what you were looking for
  5. Are the payment methods clear?
  6. Do you need to reinforce the security of your checkout. Shoppers may be more wary of fraud around Christmas
  7. Are you communicating the next steps clearly, for example will the customer receive a confirmation email? Will they receive an email when their product is dispatched?

And finally…

Increasing sales over the Christmas period is somewhat wasted if you do not seek to build relationships with newly acquired customers. Any promotional efforts over the Christmas period should be aimed at developing ongoing dialogue with new customers.

Therefore, ensure you offer newly acquired customers an incentive to come back. Consider how to collect data so you can engage with these customers again in the future. Request that they join your social networks for further offers and add them to your mailing list, for example (the latter with their permission of course).

Now that you your website is ready to go, you can focus on efforts to increase targeted traffic. Tomorrow, Amelia looks at paid search.

Until then…

Christmas retail: gearing up for Cyber Monday (part 1- research and planning)

Back in January, Logan Tod‘s Annual Online Shopping Index predicted that online sales will hit £1.26 billion during the Christmas 2010 shopping season, with UK consumers intending to do 23% more shopping online than they did in 2009.

If you’ve not yet put plans in place to take full advantage of Christmas 2010, you’re not too late…just. Although we’d usually recommend retailers start planning for Christmas during the height of the summer, there’s still enough time to execute tactics to make this Christmas your most successful yet.

Every day this week, we’ll be publishing a post looking at a different area of your online strategy, covering website optimisation, paid search, editorial link building and social media. If you’re in the early stages of your Christmas planning, we recommend you follow suit by dedicating a day to each of your main online marketing channels for brainstorming, planning and execution…but do it quickly…the clock is ticking!

The culmination of your efforts should be aimed at maximising sales on Cyber Monday, recognised as the biggest Internet shopping day of the year. It is the first Monday in December, this year falling on the 6th.

With that target in mind, we start by looking at research and planning.

So, down tools, take some time out and let’s get started:

Day 1: Research and planning

To maximise sales over the Christmas period you need a solid plan in place. Before looking at specific channels, such as paid search, we recommend focusing some thought on five key areas; products, target audience, key messages, marketing channels, and ensuring your business is prepared for the uplift in sales you can expect by executing your tactical plan.

By taking some time out to consider these five areas it will provide much needed focus for your Christmas marketing efforts, ensuring you are selling the right products, to the right audience, at a profit.


Think about the products that are most commercially viable to push over the Christmas period. There is a lot to consider here; first and foremost, are you price competitive, especially compared to major players such as Amazon? If you don’t consider Amazon a competitor, think again; they sell products crossing virtually every market from consumer electronics to clothing…and they do so at very competitive prices. This highlights how you might need to re-think your competitive landscape; run searches across Google for your key product lines to see who is present and their price points.

Also, think about your margins as these are likely to be squeezed as marketing costs, such as those for paid search advertising, increase over the ultra-competitive Christmas period. Once you factor in these costs, you may find that the products you thought you wanted to push may not be the ones that make commercial sense to do so.

In summary, consider products that are unique to you, where you can compete on price or where you offer such a compelling reason to shop with you that price is of secondary importance. Based on this analysis, select your ‘hero’ or ‘champion’ products; those that have the potential to perform best for you, and focus your Christmas marketing efforts around them. And then consider other products that compliment your ‘hero’s’, using cross selling techniques on your website; dynamic merchandising for example, to increase basket values. We’ll look at this further on day 2.

Target audience

Once you have established your ‘hero’ products, consider who you are trying to sell these products to; appreciate that your target audience may be different at Christmas to other times of the year; adjust your web content and marketing messages accordingly to appeal to this new audience. For example, if you sell ladies clothing, your audience will typically be female. But in the build up to Christmas, your site is likely to attract a male audience searching for that perfect gift. Think about the motivating factors for this audience. Unlike your typical female shopper, who may be happier to spend time browsing, men will typically be looking for ease and immediacy. Consider how you can tweak your messaging to account for this. Also, begin to consider additional content you can create to aid the target audience, in this instance helpful advice or buyers guides you can offer to men. Again, we develop this further on Day 2.

Key messages

Talking of key messages, what is it that will make you stand out on Cyber Monday and over the Christmas shopping period as a whole? Are you offering the cheapest prices, the widest selection of products or no quibble returns? Competition is fierce over the Christmas period – establish these key messages as they will be integral to your web content, paid search ad copy, press releases and so on.


Consumers expect the ability to connect with your brand across a number of channels…seamlessly. You must therefore ensure that if running promotions around Cyber Monday, for example, that they are timed to hit all channels, and therefore customers, simultaneously whether they are on your website, following you on social networks, using your mobile app or of course, in-store.

Ensure your channels are well established before dedicating too much time and resource to them. I would argue now is not the time to be moving into mobile marketing, for example, unless planned well in advance. Focus on those channels you are familiar with and that you have already demonstrated provide the business with a return.

Be prepared to deliver on your promises

For consumers, Christmas is a stressful time. Many view shopping online as means of avoiding the high street, instead enjoying pain free shopping from the comfort of their armchair.

Use this to your advantage by ensuring information concerning delivery and returns policies are highly visible across the website. But, be absolutely sure you deliver on these promises. Failure to do so at any other time of year might be forgivable – but let down a customer in the build up to Christmas and they are unlikely to show you much in the way of festive goodwill. Any future relationship you hoped to build will be destroyed in an instant, not to mention the likelihood of their anger being vented across social networks, thereby spreading this negative experience to a wider audience.

Therefore, ensure the business is prepared for the uplift in sales you can expect. Are you well stocked with the items available on your website (especially those ‘hero’ products), do you have appropriate staffing levels in place and can your fulfilment channels cope with a sudden increase in demand?

With time dedicated to thinking around each of the above areas, you should feel ready to move onto day 2; getting your website ready…

Until then, happy planning…

Infographic – the online retail wheel of fortune

With ever-increasing competition online and the demand to deliver a multi-channel shopping experience, online retailers have a never ending list of actions they need to take in implementing a successful digital marketing strategy.

Add to that the growing sophistication in how search engines display their results; the introduction of blended search, personalised search, social search and real-time search demand a much more holistic approach to search engine optimisation (SEO); an approach that combines traditional activities, such as keyword selection and link building, with more contemporary tactics in social media and content marketing.

A successful online retail strategy is therefore made up of many parts that are continually growing and repeating throughout the customer buying cycle. This can at times be overwhelming as retailers struggle to find the resource, time and skills to succeed in every necessary area.

Understanding this, we thought we would lend a helping hand to online retailers by creating the infographic to end all infographics; the online retail wheel of fortune. This is a graphical representation of the main elements to be incorporated into your online strategy to maximise success.

And here it is! Now being rather large, and very detailed, you will need to download the pdf version to digest it fully, which you can access by clicking here.

As you will see we have split our graphic into four main sections, representing key stages of the customer buying cycle as follows:

Covering the top line projects and tactics aimed at maximising your online exposure, therefore enabling you to connect with as many prospects as possible, which in turn drives more of the right traffic to your website.

The tools and techniques you can use to ‘talk’ to your audience once you have found them.

How to turn those engaged prospects into customers by optimising the user experience on your site, for example.

The actions you need to take to encourage repeat sales and develop advocates of your brand.

For each key stage of the buying cycle, we have detailed areas of attack, top level projects, specific actions within those  projects and some of the key benefits you will experience. Start with ‘reach’ before working your way out and then around to the next stage.

We realise it is a lot to take in…but this should also highlight just how much is involved in researching, planning and implementing an integrated digital marketing strategy for retailers.

We’d love to hear from you with your comments.

25 questions to ask yourself before taking digital marketing in-house

From time to time, our clients will decide to take their entire digital marketing strategy, or perhaps certain activities, in-house. As an agency we have no problem with this. We accept that relationships built on transparency and trust will inevitably see some clients learn enough from our team, and develop the confidence, to eventually feel they can take things forward without the use of an agency.

Where this is the case, we like to help clients on their way by ensuring they fully understand the range of required skills, technology and resource to manage their online strategy to maximum effect. We do this by working with them to assess their capability and capacity through a series of questions, often with a workshop tagged on for good measure.

The agency vs in-house conundrum is one that you may well face at some stage. To help you decide whether in-house, outsourced or a combination of the two solutions is best for you, I thought I’d share a number of the questions we pose to our clients when they’re considering their options.

You’ll notice the questions tend to be more general than highly specific as responses will inevitably lead to further discussion. What we try and highlight to clients during this process is that search engine marketing has become increasingly complex over the years. This means a greater amount of expertise, experience and resource is needed than ever before if they are to maximise the effectiveness of their in-house efforts.

So with that in mind, here are 25 questions to help you assess whether you have the skills and resource to manage an integrated search, social media and content strategy in-house:

Search engine optimisation

1) What is your knowledge and understanding of search engine algorithms?

2) Are you aware of ‘blended search’, ‘personalised search’, ‘social search’ and ‘real-time search’, and what they mean for your search engine marketing efforts?

3) Do you know how to research and categorise search terms? What is your experience of incorporating these terms naturally into highly engaging web copy?

4) How will you be continuously building links to your website? What is your experience / knowledge of good practice in this area?

5) What knowledge do you have of user-experience and the impact this has on both search engine rankings and conversion rates?

6) Do you understand what needs to be considered when the time comes to redevelop your website, such as the choice of technology / content management system (CMS) and how to migrate from the old site to the new without negative impact?

7) What is your experience of using freely available tools, such as those in the Google Webmaster console and their role in analysing search engine performance?

Paid Search

8 What experience do you have in setting up and managing Paid Search campaigns?

9) Do you know how to analyse campaign data on an ongoing basis and optimise campaigns with a view to maximising ROI?

10) Do you have experience in landing page testing with the aim of improving conversion rates?

11) How much time can you dedicate each day to managing your Paid Search campaign?


12) What provisions/plans/schedules do you have in place for creating content, on a regular basis, in formats, such as articles, press releases, blogs and video?

13) Do you know how to properly optimise all of the above formats?

14) Do you know how to most effectively distribute the above formats to maximise reach?

15) Do you know how to measure the impact of your content strategy?

Social Media

16) What research tools do you have to identify the websites, blogs, forums and communities where your target audience is most active?

17) Have you got a social media strategy in place based on this research?

18) Do you understand the ‘rules of engagement’ when it comes to using social media tools, such as Twitter?

19) How will you be monitoring where your brand is being talked about online?

20) Have you had experience in dealing with negative comments about your brand or service online?

21) Do you monitor buzz on your industry so you can proactively respond?

22) How will you monitor / measure the success of your social media efforts?

23) What efforts do you make to retain customers and develop advocates of your brand?


24) How will you set and measure goals and objectives? Do you have the appropriate experience, tools and processes in place to measure the variables that really matter, such as conversions, cost per conversion, lifetime value of customer and ROI?

25) Do you have experience in studying web analytics to make informed decisions about your website aimed at improving conversion rates?

As well as the above questions we also recommend people consider how they are going to keep pace with latest trends and developments  i.e. how much time can they dedicate to reading, attending conferences and so on? This is an important, but often overlooked, aspect of managing things in-house.

One point I would like to highlight is that even though I operate agency side I do not automatically assume outsourced is the best solution. It is entirely dependent on the organisation in question. It is rare amongst SME’s in particular, that one solution is more effective than the other. Usually, companies will have certain in-house skills and a certain amount of capacity to look after aspects of their strategy. But an agency will usually have invested in technology and a team of people possessing a wide range of skills that can be brought to the table to complement those possessed in-house.

Another equally important point to consider is that even when outsourcing to an agency, your involvement in the project is integral to its success. Digital marketing is never 100% outsourced because to a certain degree the success of a project is dictated by you, the client. I’ll be exploring this in more detail next time around.

Until then…

Froggblog top posts of 2009

As we draw towards the end of 2009, we thought it would be useful to compile a list of the most useful articles from the Froggblog written by our team of experts over the course of the last 12 months. It is by no means a definitive list of the key events of 2009 (there have been just too many for us to find the time to write about all of them!). However, there has been some really useful advice shared by our team this year, so with that, here we go…


Looking to succeed online? Be guided by these three words

Acquisition, conversion and retention should be at the centre of your digital marketing strategy. Ben Potter explains why.

Digital marketing snakes and ladders

Client Relations Manager, Christos, provides some great advice on developing and maintaining a fruitful relationship with your agency.

All good things come in threes; search, social media and content is another

Ben Potter explains the intrinsic relationship between search, social media and content-based marketing techniques and why they need to work together as part of an integrated digital marketing strategy.

The importance of customer care ‘after the click’

Dan Richardson endured a frustrating afternoon with a customer services rep; this got him angry and he blogged about it with advice all brands should take heed of.

Website Optimisation

Pretty websites do not automatically win popularity contests

Website optimisation executive, Claire Mason, looks at why a successful website has to do a lot more than simply look good.

Quick tips to increase your online conversion rate

It’s one thing getting visitors to your website but quite another turning them into customers. Suzanne Taylor offers some quick tips aimed at increasing those all-important conversion rates.

Improving your bounce rates…Jump to it!

More advice on making your website more sticky!

The case of SEO ‘Boondoggle’ – Leapfrogg’s view

Search guru Jill Whalen wrote a thought provoking article earlier in the year debunking many of the SEO myths that agencies and individuals, in the worse cases, hoodwink their clients into believing are more important than perhaps they actually are. Claire Mason gives her view.

Logical URL structure that benefits users and search engines

The structure of your website sets the foundations for how search engines spider and index your content, and also the ease by which visitors navigate the site to reach the point of conversion. A logical site structure is therefore integral to the success of your digital marketing efforts. Suzanne Taylor explains more…

How to optimise your site for Bing

Another big story in 2009 was the release of Bing; Microsoft’s new search engine. Claire Mason investigated whether this new engine required anything different to the traditional methods of optimising a website.

25 things to remember when launching a new website

Mistakes made when launching a new website are all too common and can have some pretty dire consequences. Account Manager, Laurence West, well experienced in these matters provides an extensive checklist of things to consider when taking down your old website and launching a replacement.


How to sell your web copy

Some quick-tips from in-house copywriter Matt Crick on creating great web copy.

Syndicating content without losing authority

Publishing content, such as articles, online is a great way of extending your reach and gaining links. But you want to ensure that you are credited with being the originator of this content. Some tips from Suzanne on how.

How to create and formulate an effective blog schedule

Blogging in undoubtedly an important tool for the vast majority of online marketers. But all too often writers are stuck for ideas. If this is the case, you need to create a blog schedule for those moments where inspiration is not forthcoming. Matt explains how.

Social Media

Social capital, getting among the buzz, and what this all means

A good overview of social media and what it all means from in-house consultant Catherine Pryce.

Video: Social media tools you can start using today, for free!

Earlier this year I delivered a seminar on the beauty of free social media tools. Unbeknown to me the whole thing was recorded!

Twitter – A Quick Start Guide

If they handed out an award for social media tool of the year, Twitter would get it. There has been a huge amount of buzz around it and even I was converted! Some useful tips on how to get started.

Paid Search

Top tips on setting up your Google AdWords campaign for maximum ROI

Advice from Paid Search extraordinaire Amelia Dawson on setting up your Paid Search campaign to ensure maximum ROI.

Top tips on optimising your Paid Search campaign to maximise ROI

Part two of Amelia’s mission to stop you wasting money on Paid Search; this time, how to optimise your campaign on an ongoing basis.

How the Yahoo-Microsoft deal will affect SME paid search campaigns

Another major news story in 2009 was the Yahoo – Microsoft deal. Amelia went straight to work investigating what this means for those currently advertising across both networks.

Paid Search; bidding on competitors brand terms…the why’s and wherefores

Just because Google now allows you to bid on competitor brand names, it doesn’t mean you should! Amelia explains the pros and con’s.

That just leaves me to thank our team for some useful and insightful articles over the course of 2009 and to you, our readers, for tuning in. Expect the Froggblog to continue evolving next year, especially in light of a new niche offering we will be announcing during the early part of 2010.

Merry Xmas and a prosperous New Year!

Don’t neglect your visitors by providing bad web copy

I’m not sure why it always surprises, shocks or baffles me when people don’t understand that website copy is not there purely for search engines. What is there not to understand? Only visitors will convert into hard cash, not search engines. Therefore, copy should be optimised for both search engines and visitors. It’s not a case of writing copy for one or the other.

So, bearing this in mind I “whoop whooped” for joy when I read Keith Gibbons’ article “Five reasons your content is damaging your brand”. The snippet that especially pleased me was this:

“Google is clever, but it isn’t a person. Filling your site with utterly useless but unique and keyword rich content will sometimes drive traffic through the search engines and onto your pages, especially for less competitive terms.

However, lots of companies seem to forget that, after they’ve risen in the Google ratings, they need to actually appeal to the individuals who have clicked onto the site.

If the content isn’t useful, doesn’t immediately direct them to something useful, or is badly written then they will leave and your efforts have been wasted.”

Not only does engaging, useful copy encourage visitors to stay on the site, but copy which is structured in a way that makes it easy to read, whilst including plenty of calls to action is more likely to persuade visitors to convert, whether that be completing a purchase, making an enquiry or downloading a piece of content. The value of website copy in getting the most out of your visitors is not something to be overlooked. This is why we always stress the importance of getting it right to our clients. Good copy can be responsible for the following:

  • Increased rankings on the search engines
  • …and therefore increased traffic from search engines
  • Reduced bounce rates as visitors can immediately see that a web page is relevant to their search query
  • Increased conversion rates
  • Increased trust in the company’s professionalism
  • Increased perception of authority within the industry

So, before you sit down to write web copy take time to think about what you expect when visiting a website, especially for the first time. Do you expect it to inform you of who the company is and what they do? Do you want to know fairly quickly that a site can fulfil your needs, especially following a search query? Do you want to be told how you can achieve your goal on the site? Would you like information on the products / services on offer? Do you want to be able to read their content easily? Do you want to feel that the company knows its stuff?

If you expect these things from your own experience of navigating the web then it only make senses that your website visitors will demand the same of you.

With this in mind, when writing copy for your website I urge you to consider the following:

  • Include relevant search terms in page titles and throughout the copy, but remember to avoid keyword stuffing and please, please make it readable!
  • Keep your language clear and simple
  • Maintain a consistent style and tone throughout the site
  • Limit each paragraph to one idea and use descriptive sub headings to split copy into easily digestible chunks. This aids visitors in scanning your web copy
  • Consider using lists or bullet points for the same reason as above
  • Front load your copy so the conclusion is first followed by the how, where, when and why. This helps people to understand the nature of the content and decide if they want to continue reading
  • Include plenty of calls to action to encourage visitors to convert according to the goals of the website; ‘add to basket’, ‘call us now’, ‘compare products’ are just a few examples. Calls to action are important because, generally speaking, if you do not instruct your site visitors on what you want them to do, chance are, they wont do it!
  • Make bold important words, phrases or calls to action
  • Cross link relevant words and phrases within the copy to direct visitors to other pages of relevance on your site

By following this common sense approach you will soon get into the habit of creating copy which is valuable to both your search engine optimisation efforts and the experience of visitors to your site. Bear in mind that, increasingly, search engines are analysing user data, such as bounce rates and time spent on site, and beginning to incorporate this data into their ranking algorithms (which in turn determine where your web pages are ranked on the search engine results page (SERP)). With the quality and relevancy of web copy playing a major part in a users experience of your site, and therefore whether they stick around (or not as the case may be), it’s vital to follow the golden rule of web copy…

Write for users first, search engines second

Until next time…

The benefits of an E-newsletter (and the news it should have in it)

Hands up please those of you who’ve subscribed to a highly anticipated newsletter, to then be let down by its content? Worse still, receive a newsletter with content aimed for a different target audience (FYI: I have often received promotions for women’s wear since subscribing to a very large, online fashion retailer). Both outcomes are frustrating, but both can be prevented.

We encourage all of our clients’ to introduce an E-newsletter if there’s significant benefit in doing so, but time and effort is required to launch and manage one. However, there are a host of individual benefits that a well engineered E-newsletter provides which can collectively meet your commercial objectives. A newsletter is no longer hard copy information that people divert to the nearest bin; it is personalised, compelling content all at the click of a button. So, here are my top 10 benefits of an E-newsletter:

1. It’s an extremely quick, cost-effective way to communicate with your demographic (compared to print)
2. It amplifies your business’s brand and reputation – showcasing your authority on up-to-the-minute industry news
3. It extends the loyalty and commitment of your customer base
4. It offers immediate, trackable results
5. It identifies ‘undeliverables’ which can be rectified and resent
6. It ensures a higher response rate due to the researched target audience
7. It supports your overall marketing, advertising and sales agenda
8. It is perfect for linking back to specific pages on your site or blog, encouraging quality, targeted traffic
9. It serves as a vehicle for promotional content, competitions and news feeds
10. It is similar to an online press release in the way that it can extend your media reach

So, could an E-newsletter do wonders for your business? I’m fairly sure that one of your key business goals is customer retention, so all of the benefits above essentially join forces in keeping your existing customers happy, as well as up-to-speed with company/industry developments – but what about gaining new customers?

Well, this is where I suggest you be controlled and cautious with your mailing. As I mentioned at the start, it’s annoying when a subscriber receives the wrong content, but you will severely lose trust and opportunity if you bombard prospective customers with irrelevant ‘salesy’ emails. Do comprehensive market research, combined with a quality (not quantity) mailing list and you’re almost ready to go.

Give your E-newsletter value and a voice
You know the benefits and your customers and commercial goals, now you need to fill your E-newsletter with, well, news. This is of course your choice, but it’s very important that the content is insightful, educational and fun.

All about the Intro
I would certainly recommend a personalised introduction, for example: “Hi Matt…with the colder months now upon us, we want to make sure you’re wrapped up well this winter. Check out our favourite cardigans and jackets that we think you’ll love…” etc, etc. This personal approach will go a long way, and compel your customer to read on.

Pearls of wisdom
Share any useful tips, advice and ‘How to’s’, as this will enhance your service or product. By incorporating our “top tip of the month’ or ‘five ways to cook with Asparagus’ it will reinforce authority within your industry and create a distinct, consistent voice. And, if you’re producing content in-house regularly, say as bloggers, then that can also be fed into the newsletter.

Look who’s talking
You can go one step further by accommodating a ‘Meet the team’ or ‘Staff Profile’ each month so your customers can put a face to a name. I don’t know about you, but I always like to know who I’m working with, but this will also give you an advantage when mailing your newsletter to a prospective list.

So, I think you’re pretty much good to go. The layout of your E-newsletter will of course reflect your brand and website, but remember that this is an opportunity to be flexible, creative and have a little bit of fun. Every business wants a positive and strong identity that extends to their customers in a refreshing and personal way. An E-newsletter is one the most inexpensive ways to communicate with your target audience, but more importantly, the most effective. So, what you waiting for?

How to pitch out your content

As a copywriter or journalist, pitching your content is something you either enjoy or tolerate doing – and unless you have someone to consistently do this task for you – you have to do it.

So, if you have to pitch your own work (which I think you should, as representation of your labour expresses your personality and reinforces the style and tone of your content) then you need to ensure that you’re doing so effectively; without being mechanical and assuming.

The ways in which freelance journalists and copywriters pitched their work was a far more convoluted process during the 80s and 90s. Invariably the editor or sub editor was more illusive than Lord Lucan, and you’d have to verbally contend with the PA from hell in order to get your copy in front of those desired eyes – irrespective whether a relationship was already in place.

Fast forward a few decades, and the social media millennium arrived with an almighty, deafening bang. Once we Internet users regained our hearing, we were greeted with a whole host of channels that our intangible editorial contacts were now accessible. With the more recent aid of LinkedIn and Twitter in particular, these very people are exposed to the online world; susceptible to hungry writers kicking down their firewall, and not a hostile PA in sight. Thank God.

This is great news for all us online writers, but we can’t forget that although we’re spoilt with avenues to reach existing and new contacts, we still have to be conscious of our delivery. We also have to bear in mind the high volume of people who have the exact same intentions as we do, so competition to publish content has never been so fierce.

So, before I go into what you need to say in your opening pitch email, there are some questions that you need to ask yourself first:

1) Are you completely happy with your content?
This may be an obvious one, but you could have rushed work due to a tight deadline, or not injected your usual amount of brilliance. Ask a colleague to check your work to ensure that your high standards are maintained; then check yourself again.

2) Is your client completely happy with your content?
If you’ve created content on behalf of a client, their sign off is crucial. Unless you have a carte blanche relationship on all content syndication, then I don’t need to stress the consequences should unapproved copy get published.

3) Have you optimised your content and incorporated links?
Keywords, keywords, keywords! However, integrate them subtly so not to disrupt the flow of your copy, but enough so that key search terms – say for your client’s new product page, or a seasonal promotional push – are covered. More often than not you will want to link back to the home page, so you can simply conclude with: For more information on how XXXX can reduce your commercial utility overheads, visit www……

4) Have you researched the sites and publications you’re approaching?
Again this may seem obvious, but you have to make sure that your content is appropriate to the site’s ‘house style’, demographic, editorial policies and archived content. You will look rather silly when your prospect informs you that your article on ‘Why a blog is beneficial to your business growth’ was covered two weeks ago. And, although most websites accept free content, it doesn’t always guarantee submission, so don’t assume it!

5) How should I construct my pitch email?
Right, you’re now ready to craft your pitch email. What you say and how you deliver these words will make or break your pitching mission, so as I mentioned earlier, try to be yourself; almost as if you’re talking to this person face to face. However, it is equally important you introduce your client, background and intent. I also strongly advise that you use relevant keywords in your email. Try this as your template:

Hi there (name),

I hope you’re well. My name is (name) and I am (qualification or title – I tend to use ‘NCTJ-accredited journalist’, but it depends how relevant your qualification is).

Please find attached an article I’ve written recently about (description of the article with keyword). This is a current story that I believe would compliment your demographic, as well as raise the necessary awareness for this popular subject matter. You can have this article for free as fresh content on your site, as we’re currently trying to promote (article title with keyword).

I hope you enjoy reading the article and if you have any questions please feel free to get back to me via the contact details at the bottom of this email. Below are my terms:

•  I’m fully qualified and accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists, and abide by all current standards.

•  Articles will be original – I will be the author of the work and not obtained from the public domain. All work will be original and written specifically with your publication in mind.

• Articles will be unique for a period of time – The article written for you will not published elsewhere either electronically or offline. The article will be offered exclusively to your site for 30 days. After this period is over the article may be duplicated.

•  Articles will be Legal and Free of Spam – I will not submit any work that is a violation of any law, or that is defamatory, libelous or that contains content that is intended to promote click fraud or arbitrage. •  Articles will be about a specific agreed subject – Submissions will to relate to an agreed specific or newsworthy topic or event.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me.

I very much look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,


Naturally the tone, style and formality of each email with depend on your target website, but just remember that they do receive a lot of similar requests on a daily basis, so think what kind of email would grab your attention? Avoid being too direct, but a dose of charisma is always welcome. Good luck!

For further information on pitching out your content, or on training opportunities, contact me via Twitter