The Weekly Shop (26th – 30th August)

Here at Leapfrogg, we spend time a great deal of time reading, sharing and bookmarking interesting articles and developments from the world of digital marketing and online retail. We figured that this would be a really useful resource for our blog readers, so from today, and every Friday, you’ll find a round-up of all the interesting articles we’ve been reading that week. We are calling it ‘The Weekly Shop’. So without further ado, here’s what has been making our ears prick up this week:

6 SEO Challenges Every Business Owner & Marketer Must Contend with in 2014

With the remainder of 2013 flying by, we all need to start thinking about our marketing strategy and budgeting for 2014. This article outlines the importance of looking beyond Web analytics to decide where to invest time and money and the six SEO challenges business owners and marketers will need to contend with when planning their marketing strategy for 2014.

Facebook Removes App Requirement for Promotions: Let the Giveaways Begin

Facebook made an announcement this week that they’ve removed the partner app requirement for running promotions on a Facebook page. Previously, you had to use a third party app to run a promotion which stopped businesses from ‘buying’ likes and also kept Facebook out of the legal issues surrounding competitions. Now, Facebook has removed the app requirement but there are still a few rules that you must follow. Great news for businesses, as competitions and promotions are a great way to drive traffic to your Facebook Page and website.

Turbocharge your retail strategy with customer data and insight

Recently, our Commercial Director Ben wrote an article for Econsultancy which explored the importance of insight and customer data when defining a search strategy. In this article he discusses the value of both transactional data and qualitative insights and how they can help turbo charge your search efforts and deliver a more informed and successful search strategy.

Ten Tips to the Top of Google

With Google’s recent quest for quality, authenticity, authority and usability, many of the tips that used to help get your site to the top of Google have been made redundant. This article from Search Engine Watch provides us with their 10 top tips on how to optimise your site for Google’s algorithm today and beyond.

‘Tis the Season to Get Ready for Your Busiest Time of Year

Last year, Clickz produced a helpful article on the importance of auditing your metrics from the holiday season. Following on from this, they have produced five tactics to focus on now that will help turn holiday browsers into buyers. Essential reading for retailers that are gearing up for the busy festive season.

Product Listing Ads Click-Through Rate 21% Higher Than Text Ads

Earlier in the week, Marin (PPC Management Software) released a report that showed Google’s Product Listing Ads (PLA) are winning in the paid search results with PLA click-through rates (CTR) remaining higher than standard text ads since November 2012. We’ve seen some great results from PLAs from nearly all our clients this year which shows that Shoppers continue to find PLAs more relevant to their searches than standard text ads. This article summarises the key findings from the report and Kye Mou from Marin gives four tips on how to maximise the performance of PLAs.

Ways to Optimize Press Releases & Avoid Google Penalties

The big bit of news which has been is dominating the SEO headlines is that Google recently announced that links in press releases carry zero SEO value. For a long time press releases, good and bad, were seen as a viable link building method, but not any longer. However, the press release still has a vital role to play in creating awareness of your brand, event, product or service and this article provides some great advice on how to optimise press releases and avoid being penalised.

Google’s Matt Cutts: I Recommend NoFollowing Links On Widgets

Following on from Google’s continued assault on questionable link building techniques; Google’s own Matt Cutts has posted a video to answer questions around the inclusion of embedded links in widgets. He explains that as these link sources have been abused in the past, he recommends using adding the rel=“nofollow” attribute on all widgets. This mainly stems from people using widgets on their websites but not realising there was a link back to a site embedded within it. He also recommends using the rel=no follow on any infographics. Watch the full video from Matt Cutts here.

Understanding Google’s Latest Assault On Unnatural Links

Without much fanfare or publicity, Google quietly updated the Link Schemes/Unnatural Links document inside the Webmaster Tools section of their site last month. Much of it is rather ambiguous and this article attempts to dissect the fact from fiction. Essential reading to understand what you should and shouldn’t be doing when it comes to building links.

Vince: The Google Update We Should Be Talking About

Back in 2009, Google released an update, named Vince (definitely the coolest named update!) This article revisits the basic premise of the Vince update what it means with regards to how SEO should be approached, namely that you must try and build a brand online to establish “trust” (with your target audience, as well as the search engines).

Amazing Correlation Between Google +1s and Higher Search Rankings 

No sooner did the highly respected guys over at Moz release a study that (seemingly) demonstrated a direct correlation between +1’s and search engine rankings, did Matt Cutts swiftly refute the theory. Cutts posted on Hacker News that he was “Just trying to decide the politest way to debunk the idea that more Google +1s lead to higher Google web rankings. Let’s start with correlation != causation” and explained that it all simply boils down to the quality of the content. Not the amount of +1’s or shares the content has. His belief lies in what we’ve always been done for long term SEO success where creating great quality content which is likely to be shared is the best kind of strategy.

Government rules out online sales tax

And lastly, some good news for retailers – the government will not be introducing an online sales tax. Phew!

So that’s it for this week. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the news stories featured, so please do leave us a comment in the box below and keep an eye out for the next Weekly Digest next Friday!

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!

Top ten Froggblog posts of 2012

As we draw towards the end of another eventful year in the worlds of digital marketing and retail, it’s time for our annual round up of the top posts from the Froggblog.

I’ve been lucky enough to write a number of guest posts for Econsultancy this year, some of which are also included below.

Also, be sure to keep a look-out for our summary of what we have learnt this year and what we look forward to in 2013.

For now, here is a run-down of our top posts in 2012:

Stick, twist or bust: Thoughts for digital marketing investment in 2012

Right at the start of the year I argued that retailers should ignore much of the doom and gloom they are exposed to through the mainstream media and instead formulate their strategies by taking other external factors into account. With the somewhat depressing Autumn Statement fresh in our minds, my advice remains as relevant today as at the turn of the year so it’s well worth revisiting.

The retailer’s guide to using AdWords Ad Extensions

Ad extensions allow you to make your Google paid search adverts more relevant and useful to prospects. Paid search analyst, Andy Miller takes a look at each of those ad extensions and how to utilise them to improve the performance of your Adwords campaign.

Ten ways retailers can maximise digital sales of high-value items

Over the years, we’ve worked with a number of retailers selling high-value items, such as furniture, online. Website optimisation expert, Suzanne, offers advice for retailers in operating in this space where a complex sales journey, involving multiple channels, is common, as well as a long consideration period.

First steps towards multichannel marketing for independent retailers

It has undoubtedly been the year that multichannel retailing (and more recently omnichannel) has stolen all of the headlines. The need to deliver a seamless and consistent experience for customers as they move between store, website, mobile and catalogue is much easier said than done. With this in mind, our Managing Director, Rosie, offers advice for independent retailers looking to make their first moves into multichannel.

How stores should embrace digital to provide an innovative shopping experience

‘Showrooming’, when a customer visits a brick and mortar retail store to touch and feel a product with the intention of making the purchase online, has become common customer behaviour in recent times. Suzanne looks at how a retailer can deliver an in-store experience that takes advantage of this behaviour rather than viewing it as a threat.

Survey results: Inside the mind of your premium retail customer

At the start of the year, we conducted some research to explore the habits and behaviours of consumers purchasing premium products and services. It revealed some interesting insight not least that 61% of consumers said they would not reduce their online spending habits in 2012. Take a look at the full report to see how your experiences in 2012 marry up.

The agency vs in-house conundrum…the impact of Google Panda on staff resourcing

The big news in search this year centred on the Panda and Penguin updates. I take a look at the impact these updates have had on the discipline of natural search (or SEO if you prefer) and what this means for a brand considering managing their search strategy in-house.

The importance of customer insight to search strategy

No marketing campaign can be truly effective unless you have a genuine understanding of the audience you are targeting. Head of Social Media and Content, Lucy, looks at the importance of customer insight to delivering a winning search strategy.

Essential e-commerce features & functionality to drive great customer experience

This two part post from Ben Adam looks at the importance of choosing the right website platform or technology with an emphasis on the features and functionality that help drive a positive and engaging web and cross channel experience. Part 2 can be found here.

Content marketing – applying the principle of ‘form follows function’ to deliver great customer experience

Rosie looks at the challenges brought about by multiple stakeholders creating content seemingly to serve different objectives and how the principle of ‘form follows function’ can act as a means of delivering a more joined up and consistent approach.

Articles featured on Econsultancy

Earlier this year I started guest blogging for Econsultancy. My articles reflect a passion for demystifying the many half-truths that surround disciplines, such as natural search, and in turn helping businesses make informed decisions when it comes to shaping their online strategy, choosing the right partners and allocating appropriate resource.

SEO: search experience optimisation

I explain how a change to the ‘E’ in SEO can encourage a subtle (but significant) change of mind set that, in turn, can help marketers take a more objective view to what they should be doing (and more importantly what they shouldn’t) when it comes to shaping and executing their SEO strategies.

Four SEO payment models you need to seriously question

I take a look at a number of SEO payment models that, for me, don’t come under nearly enough scrutiny and why, in my view, they just don’t work in the context of today’s search landscape.

Will Panda kill the freelance SEO star?

The well-publicised Panda and Penguin updates have had a significant (and in my view, positive) impact on the discipline of SEO. I ask whether it Is possible for one person to manage a full end-to-end SEO strategy when the discipline involves such a multitude of skill sets.

Writing a search marketing brief in a multichannel world

In the context of an evolving search landscape and multichannel environment, retailers need to re-evaluate the information they include in a brief when sourcing a search agency.
This article explores firstly why the search marketing brief needs to evolve before providing practical advice on what retailers should include in it.

Keep up to date with our latest articles and news in 2013 by following us on Twitter or LinkedIn, or by adding Leapfrogg to your circles on Google+.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at Leapfrogg.

One simple question to ask yourself when assessing the validity of a search marketing tactic

Last week, my latest article was published on the Econsultancy website.

It explores SEO payment models that buyers need to seriously question before committing to (or in some cases avoid completely!).

The payment models under scrutiny are:

 

  • Fixed fee, quoted up-front
  • Pay-on-performance (based on rankings)
  • Pay-on-performance (based on sales without proper attribution)
  • Anything less than £200 per month

Head over to the Econsultancy blog to read why, in my view, these models just don’t work in the context of today’s search landscape.

At the end of the article I introduce a theme that I am going to briefly expand on below but which I’ll also be exploring in more detail next time.

The theme is ‘experience’. As I state in the article, here at Leapfrogg we believe it is ‘experience’ that, in time, will separate the winners from the losers. Those businesses that can deliver a superlative experience at every stage of the buying journey from awareness to advocacy will prosper. Those that don’t will fail.

For me, search marketing (and in particular the approach that is taken to natural search) can play an integral role in how a brand delivers a positive, engaging and memorable experience; the kind of experience that drives repeat business and brand advocacy. This is for a number of reasons, not least the fact that search engines remains the number one method by which prospects begin their discovery of a new product or brand. According to a report from Hitwise, on average, the UK is making an additional 93m visits per month to search engines compared with last year, representing an average year-on-year growth of 4.3%.

Therefore, the route a prospect will take in discovering your brand and products will more than likely involve a search engine. In turn, the first impression a prospect may have of your brand will come as a result of how you present yourself (or fail to present yourself) in search listings. With this in mind, search can either act as the starting point to delivering a superlative experience for the prospect OR the means by which you lose the game before they’ve even visited your website.

I’ll be exploring how specific naturals search techniques and tactics contribute to driving a positive experience (or not, as the case may be!) in my next article.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the same question I concluded my latest Econsultancy article with; a question that I believe all marketers should ask themselves when considering a natural search technique or tactic:

‘How will this approach or activity deliver a memorable & superior experience for my customers?’

By starting with this question it will allow you to take a more objective view to what you should be doing (and more importantly what you shouldn’t) when it comes to shaping and executing your natural search strategy.

This is what I’ll be exploring further next time around.

Until then…

A summary of great client results in Q2

What’s happened to 2012?  Bleak weather, bleak economic conditions, some light relief courtesy of the Olympics, but otherwise an air of uncertainty prevails.

In this climate, then, we’re so proud of the great work – and great results – we have delivered so far for our clients this year.   They reflect;

  • the confidence of our clients to put their money where their mouths are by investing in digital to start with
  • our own expertise to identify areas for improvement in client digital activity and then execute our work to deliver these improvements

Following on from my last post looking at results achieved in Q1, here are some highlights from our efforts during Q2:

Premium retail;

  • Luxury bedroom furniture retailer, Feather & Black; their non-brand term natural traffic increased by over 60% year-on-year.  Whilst I cannot disclose the actual figure, revenue from online sales is a very healthy % higher than this time last year
  • High-end fashion brand, Bastyan; for every £1 they spent on paid search the campaign generates ten times the amount in sales revenue
  • Emma Bridgewater; again, for paid search their campaign delivers return investment at a ratio of 19/1
  • Posturite; online revenue has increased by over 80%
  • Filofax; we have more than doubled their click-thru rates on paid search

Travel;

  • Cox & Kings; their non-brand term natural traffic has increased by 60% year-on-year.  Revenue attributed to online also more than doubled year-on-year

Business Services;

  • Fruitdrop; their non-brand term natural traffic increased by over 100% year-on-year delivering return on investment at  a ratio of 5/1
  • Flexioffices; we’ve recently exceeded conversion rate targets by over 40%

This is a flavour of the great results we’ve delivered to our clients.  So far this year, then, we have helped them to win, to meet or exceed their own targets, about which we’re all delighted.

That said, we’re not letting the euphoria (nor the Olympic distraction) run away with us.  Our clients each have challenging targets and business environments.  Great results so far are lovely – but nothing like as important as making sure we’re focused on delivering more great results for them this year and beyond.

The economic outlook remains uncertain – the only thing that everyone seems to agree on is that growth is still a long way off.  Therefore, strategies need to be regularly reviewed, tactics revised where necessary, results have to be maintained and improved, sales and revenue must be generated.

In some ways there is freedom among the uncertainty.  If this causes the main focus to be on the here and now and making sure what we’re doing today and into the immediate future is working, then that’s what we’ll do.

That doesn’t mean we’re retreating into a tactical, short term shell, however.  In July we hosted an event at RIBA in London where we presented our Retail Marketing Machine, which will underpin our strategic approach for our work for the 2nd half of this year, into 2013, and beyond (with apologies to Mr Lightyear…)

I’ll be back with an update on more great results from Leapfrogg later in 2012

The agency vs in-house conundrum…the impact of Google Panda on staff resourcing

The downturn of the last few years has inevitably led brands to scrutinise every pound spent on marketing. In some cases, brands have concluded that it is more cost effective and efficient to manage their search marketing activity in-house. Although I have always worked agency side, I have no problem with this and see it as inevitable for certain businesses as they scale up their operations.

However, recent Google updates, Panda for example, represent perhaps Google’s most aggressive attempt to clean up its search results and in turn, this is having a significant impact on the skill sets required to deliver an effective natural search strategy (also known as SEO if you prefer).

Essentially, Panda targets those websites creating and hosting poor quality content. In other words, content that is usually created purely for the purposes of gaming search engines. We’ve all seen this type of content; pretty pointless, keyword stuffed articles, for example, that too often find their way into prominent search engine positions impacting the quality and relevancy of search results.

Google has been hammering well known article sharing sites, as well as blog networks in recent months, which in turn has impacted search results for businesses overly reliant on links from these sites.

Continuing the animal theme, we’ve also seen the Penguin update, focused specifically on targeting web spam, as well as the introduction of ‘over-optimisation’ penalties.

What impact have these updates had on natural search?

The extent to which your natural search strategy needs to adapt as a result of these updates will very much depend on how you have historically approached the discipline.

Here at Leapfrogg, we’ve always lived by the mantra ‘users first, search engines second’. In other words, we don’t subscribe to adopting any technique which is purely about garnering a search engine ranking. Instead, we ask the question; ‘will this benefit the target audience?’ As such, we have never bought links, subscribed to blog networks or ‘spun’ poor quality content because we deem these as techniques which offer no benefit to the target audience of a particular client. Therefore, we have seen very little, if any, of our clients negatively impacted by these updates.

But of course if you have subscribed to these techniques (and any others that go against Google’s published quality guidelines), then, in all likelihood, you are having to make significant changes to how your approach natural search and may even have found your website negatively impacted by these algorithm changes i.e. a drop in rankings and therefore traffic and sales.

Post Panda, today’s natural search strategies need to be underpinned by genuinely engaging and useful content and supported by social media and PR activity to deliver a sustainable and reputable search engine presence. As such, natural search, in the traditional sense, is not the stand-alone discipline it perhaps was once. The winners will ultimately be those that can join the dots between search, social media, content strategy and PR.

How have these updates impacted the skills required to deliver an effective natural search strategy?

In years gone by, it is fair to say you could probably hire one person to look after your natural search activity in-house. In all likelihood they probably came from a technical background and could do a pretty decent job in improving your search engine rankings.

However, in light of how search has evolved in the last couple of years, one person is no longer equipped to manage a highly effective search strategy on their own. Whilst there remains a technical aspect to search, there is now a multitude of other skill sets that have heightened in importance following the recent Google updates described above, for example:

•    Customer insight, analysis, segmentation and persona development
•    Online PR and brand building
•    Content strategy and execution
•    Social media

The freelance world might disagree with me but I simply cannot see how one person can be an expert in all of the above areas, not to mention those disciplines that haven’t been cited above such as conversion optimisation and data analysis. Quite simply, the complexity of today’s search engines, along with ever-increasing competition, requires a skillset which is beyond the ability of one person alone.

What does this mean for a brand considering managing their search strategy in-house?

It means you will need to build a team probably consisting of at least four or five people. Broadly speaking, this might include a website optimisation expert, covering everything from keyword strategy through to testing. It would require a content strategist covering content creation, optimisation and an ability to market that content effectively using online PR skills. A social media expert would be integral to the team, not just because of the ‘social search’ angle but also to develop a community around the brand and products, whilst using social tools to communicate with customers at every stage of their buying journey from promotions to customer service. I’d also argue an analyst would be needed who can interrogate tools such as Google Analytics to understand the buying journey of customers and make informed decisions on how to optimise marketing channels and drive efficiency.

It will also need one of those people, or somebody senior to them, to have the expertise and vision to develop the strategy and ensure it is working in unison with offline marketing and PR activity. Nothing can work in a silo.

Of course, the specific skills required will differ from business to business and will be dependent on the sector but the point I seek to make here is that both in terms of skill and man hours, it is simply impossible for one person to deliver an effective search strategy on their own.

Inevitably, this means that the cost of taking search in-house is much higher than might be initially anticipated. Hiring a team of four or five is a very different proposition to hiring one person, not just in terms of salary but also the many other costs associated with recruitment and the wellbeing of staff. More often than not, it simply does not make commercial sense to build an in-house team. At least the same level of expertise and experience can be bought in at a significantly lower rate by partnering with an agency.

Another issue to consider when it comes to resourcing is the availability of skilled staff. In Econsultancy’s recent SEO Buyers Guide one of the key industry issues cited by agencies was the shortage of skilled and experienced workers. In short, there are just not enough digital marketers to satisfy a growing agency market. Therefore, brands will often find themselves competing with agencies for staff. Yet agencies can offer something that many brands cannot; the opportunity to work across a wide variety of clients and campaigns which adds greatly to the experience an employee can gain. So whilst it is by no means impossible to attract the best talent to work client side, it is by no means easy and will require a competitive package to do so.

Conclusion

As the recession continues to bite, brands will rightly question the value they receive from agencies and whether costs can be cut and efficiency improved by managing their search strategy in-house.
But to do so, requires a greater investment than many brands may plan for. Natural search has evolved greatly in recent years to require a broad range of skills that, in turn, impact the resource required to deliver an effective strategy. This needs to be carefully considered before brands make the decision to manage search marketing in-house.

Event: Multichannel marketing for premium retailers

Retailers need to integrate online and offline marketing activity to succeed in the current tough economic climate.  Today’s savvy consumers expect a consistent and seamless experience as they move between website, mobile, store and catalogue. Delivering this experience is a monumental challenge, but one retailers big and small need to overcome and marketers need to grasp.

But where to start? How to prioritise channels and budget? How to break down on- and off-line silos to increase customer acquisition, loyalty and brand advocacy in a complex and challenging market?

Leapfrogg has developed a model to visualise the complex journey consumers make when researching, considering and purchasing high-end products, along with every touch point that shapes and influences their decision; our Retail Marketing Machine.

The model helps premium retailers understand the needs and expectations of existing and potential customers at each stage of the buying journey, assess gaps and opportunities in their multichannel approach and develop strategies that join the dots between on- and off-line marketing.

For an introduction to the Retail Marketing Machine, please take a few minutes out to watch the video below:

 

 

Leapfrogg and our partners, eTailWorks and Metamorphosis, invite you to a free event on Thursday 12th July where expert speakers will present The Retail Machine to outline:

  • The different stages consumers work through and behaviours they exhibit, whilst researching, considering and purchasing premium products
  • The many factors that influence a sale as consumers make that journey
  • Tactics you need to employ to maximise chances of acquiring and retaining customers at each stage of the buying journey
  • Questions to ask of your strategy and team, to help apply The Retail Marketing Machine to your business and start putting into place a truly integrated approach to your marketing efforts

Case studies will illustrate premium and luxury retailers who already execute successful marketing tactics at each stage of The Retail Marketing Machine.

The morning will finish with a Q and A session.

Date:
Thursday 12th July

Time:
9.30am – 12.30pm

Venue:
The Royal Institute of  British Architects, London

Please sign up for free at:
www.leapfroggretailmachine.eventbrite.co.uk

About the Speakers

Rosie Freshwater: Leapfrogg Digital Marketing
Founder and managing director of Leapfrogg Ltd.

Rosie set up Leapfrogg in 2003 and has developed the agency to specialise in digital and online retail marketing for premium retailers.  Passionate about helping retailers realise the potential of the Internet as part of a wider multichannel marketing strategy, Rosie regularly speaks at events and contributes to the digital and retail industries.

James Akin-Smith: eTailWorks
James was one of the first to spot the significant commercial potential online, launching his first online shop in 1999.  After a series of online retail successes, James launched BeCheeky.com in 2004 – now the UK’s second largest branded lingerie and swimwear e-tailer.

With more than 20 years experience owning and running successful online consumer-facing businesses, including a corporate giftware distributor and wholesaler. James’ expertise extends from buying and marketing, to logistics and finance.  He uses his experience to help businesses develop ecommerce sites and fit the pieces of their online retail jigsaw seamlessly together.

Eve Reid: Metamorphosis Group
Eve has worked for leading retail brands gaining insight and developing retail solutions in visual merchandising, brand evolution and concept design. Eve is a merchandising specialist, whose strengths include team building, project management and motivation.

Before founding Metamorphosis, Eve was a visual merchandiser for 10 years, working extensively for Habitat UK, managing teams and measuring success based on the visual appearance and profitability of all stores.  She has personally supported a huge variety of retail businesses, undertaking visual retail audits, working with stores to create new concepts and effective store layouts, supporting large retailers with specialist visual merchandising solutions and providing visual training and coaching.

 

Stick, twist or bust: Thoughts for digital marketing investment in 2012

After the recent news that Britain could be sliding back into recession , it might appear a strange time to argue for increased investment in digital marketing channels, such as search. Inevitably, battening down the hatches and hoping for the best will be the default strategy for many retailers.

However, burying your head in the sand is likely to see you lose market share in an increasingly complex online and multichannel environment, or worse, not survive what is expected to be another tough year for trading. For that reason, I argue that retailers should ignore much of the doom and gloom they are exposed to through the mainstream media and instead base investment decisions by taking other external factors into account, namely:

  • Basic economic theory, specifically the shape of the economic recovery
  • The continued growth in online sales
  • Sector specific trends

Let’s look at each of them in turn.

The shape of the economic recovery

I know what you’re thinking; ‘this is a digital marketing blog, why the lesson in economics?’ With that in mind, I’ll keep this as brief as I can. However, it is important to appreciate economic trends so you can time your investments and take maximum advantage of the upturn, which, despite recent news, will come. The uncertainty, even for the experts, is just how long it will take.

I’ve been fortunate enough in recent weeks to hear a couple of different perspectives from some rather knowledgeable people. On Tuesday 24th January, I attended a dinner for Mervyn King at the Grand Hotel, Brighton. Whilst it would be fair to say that Mr King didn’t give a huge amount away, he did state that he expects the road to recovery to be “long, arduous and uneven”. On the face of it, not particularly positive news.

I’ve also spent some time with Shirlaws, a highly respected group of business coaches. I’ve been studying their free ebookA guide for every business owner to thrive, not just survive through the biggest depression in 100 years’, which I recommend all business owners and senior decision makers to read.

Now I don’t pretend to be an expert in economics (grade D at ‘A’ Level if I remember correctly!) but what I have gleaned from my time with Shirlaws is greater context around where we are in terms of the economic cycle and therefore, in their view, where we are heading. So, if you will entertain my attempts at explaining economic theory for one moment, here goes…

In short, economists talk of three main types of economic recovery. The first is the common V-shaped. The economy goes steadily down over time and then steadily back up again.

The more dramatic but fortunately rare, L-shaped recovery involves a sharp plummet followed by a flat line. Not good.

The third, W-shaped, historically occurs every 30 – 40 years. If output should fall again between January and March, as many expect, the UK will officially be back in recession. As such, we will be well on the way to a W-shaped recovery or ‘double-dip’. In this instance, the economy climbs after the initial recession then flattens out for a period before dipping for a second time. Only after the second dip do we then see a full recovery, as demonstrated below:


Why does this brief lesson in economics matter to you? Because as Shirlaws make the point in their ebook, most business owners implement strategies in response to a change in the economy as opposed to taking a more proactive approach based on well documented economic cycles.  During recession, businesses tend to wait until there are clear signs of economic recovery before investing in new markets, products, marketing, staff and so on. Considering the return on such investments can take many months, perhaps years to fully materialise, businesses taking this approach fail to maximise sales at the point the economy actually turns. By the time they do so, it is too late to ‘catch the first wave’, as Shirlaws put it.

Of course, the skill is in timing investments to catch that first wave. For many business owners and managers that is where the uncertainty lies. But let’s take a guess that ‘the turn’ is 12-18 months away. If you are looking to take maximum advantage of the increase in real earnings (as inflations falls) and increased consumer confidence, you should be reassessing your investment in digital marketing opportunities now. Natural search (or SEO), for example, is one example of an online marketing investment that takes time to mature. With this in mind, waiting until the recovery actually arrives to invest in a natural search strategy will essentially mean you miss maximising sales during the early, buoyant stages increased consumer confidence and spending.

Those businesses that carefully consider and time their online marketing investments during the downturn by increasing resource in existing, profitable channels, whilst investing in emerging ones, will be best positioned to overtake more cautious competitors and therefore take full advantage of increasing demand as the economy turns for the better.

Growth in online and mobile sales

In 2008, UK online retail expenditure accounted for an 8% share of total retail expenditure. By the end of 2012, it is estimated to be over 14% (Verdict Retail).

And according to CBI figures, ecommerce was the only part of the UK retail market to report growth in the first two weeks of January 2012.

Whereas the specific figures may vary, industry bodies, research groups and trade organisations all report significant year-on-year increases in Internet sales. All expect these trends to continue upwards.

Simply put, the ease and convenience of the web, combined with technology (mobile for example) is fundamentally changing how we research and purchase goods and services. As such, your business model might already be outdated if it does not account for these seismic shifts in consumer behaviour. We have experienced this first hand with a number of our clients; store sales are down, online and mobile sales significantly up. They’ve invested at the right time and at the right level to account for changes in their customers’ buying behaviour.

Therefore, regardless of the economic situation, businesses need to be investing in online operations simply on the basis that this is where your consumers are and therefore expect you to be. ‘Fish where the fish are’ as they say.

So whilst the high street is faltering and the mainstream media focusing on the negativity surrounding a potential double-dip, online continues to flourish. Look beyond the doom and gloom to plan and execute online marketing initiatives that follow changing consumer habits. Consumers are still buying; they are just doing it in different ways.

Sector specific trends

If you operate in the luxury sector, for example, I’d strongly advise avoiding mainstream media altogether! According to the UK Luxury Benchmark Report, the British luxury goods market is expected to grow by 57% in the next five years.  In essence, the demand for high quality goods and services has completely defied the recession, in part driven by consumers choosing to trade up to purchase fewer but better quality items and also of course, demand from the Far East, particularly China.

These trends are prevalent on the high street. Consider the winners and losers over the Christmas period; John Lewis, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s reporting strong trading figures, Tesco and Argos the opposite.

In this instance, a recovering economy, combined with increasing demand for premium and luxury products, means retailers and brands catering to the affluent consumer are presented with a once in a lifetime opportunity to increase customer acquisition with carefully considered investments in their online retail and wider multichannel strategies. The common misconception is that customers remain unwilling to purchase high ticket items online. For some, this may be the case. However, the internet has a significant role to play in the sales journey, from research through to the opinions of friends and peers, even if it isn’t where the customer actually converts.

Therefore, research the trends associated with your sector. And remember downward trends should not necessarily mean reduced investment in marketing. If anything, you need to be working even harder and smarter to attract and retain a smaller pool of customers.

Conclusion

During challenging times, it is all too easy to get caught up in the negativity thrust upon us by mainstream media. What I hope I have demonstrated however is that news of a double dip might not be quite as grim as it appears on the surface. When you take other external factors into account, such as economic trends and changes in consumer behaviour, you will build a more robust business case for investment in your online retail marketing strategy.

One thing is clear; being available where your customers expect you to be, and presenting a consistent and seamless experience for those customers as they move between channels, will separate the winners from the losers in the next few years.

So what’s your next move? Stick, twist…or bust?

‘W shaped recovery’ image courtesy of Shirlaws

My two pence worth on the IR Expo 2011

I was fortunate enough to attend the Internet Retailing Conference 2011 last Tuesday. The overriding thought of the day was that retailers must be thinking Multi-Channel. Nearly every talk focussed on the importance of building your brand and creating a seamless user experience across all channels. This is of course sage advice however, in my view there was a notable absence in retailers talking about search as part of this experience, particularly the benefits of optimising your website and social media presence for non-brand searches.

Building your brand with targeted and engaging content across channels is great for existing customers but what about potential new customers who don’t already know your brand? Search is absolutely fundamental to increasing non-brand exposure and starting to engage with those not familiar with your brand.

Many niche brands come to us with the same problems: they are getting zero traffic for non-brand terms and their home page accounts for the vast number of entrances to the site (which is being driven by brand domain authority).

So what do you need to do to increase visibility for non-brand terms? You need to go back to basics to ensure all of the content you create on and off site is optimised in a way that search engines can understand.

Optimise your meta titles, page headers, internal links and include areas of optimised copy on every page. The search engines will then be able to effectively evaluate and rank your pages for more product-focussed, non-brand terms. Link build to those pages and other engaging site content you are creating using those non-brand terms. Natural search visibility has to be a fundamental part of any multi-channel strategy as it is the starting point of the customer user journey for so many new customers.

It is refreshing to see that retailers are taking strides towards multi-channel and talking seriously about the customer experience. Just don’t forget that search is a key part of this.

I’ll finish with some of my key take outs from the conference:

  • Embrace, invest and commit to multi-channel – You need to make sure you evolve your strategy. Customer behavior and trends and changing, driven mainly by technology so in turn search campaigns, payments methods, user-experience and so also need to evolve.
  • Demonstrate ROI across the business (rather than for each channel) – Make sure you have good multi-channel analytics tool in place to understand the journey customers take from research through to sale. In turn, this allows you to optimise marketing channels properly.
  • Be agnostic about where a sale takes place – Customers shop wherever they want, whenever they want. So you need to embrace technology and provide a cohesive user experience across all channels.
  • Understand your customer – Make them feel good.  Listen and engage with them, find out what they want, what they like, what’s important to them and find out where they spend their time (both on and offline). Use this insight to align your strategy.
  • Make your brand accessible across channels – Strive to provide a unique brand experience but ensure the brand experience is consistent across all your channels. Bring your brand to life with hot spotting videos, creative content, dynamic merchandising, contextual product imagery etc.
  • Mobile is (still) the next big thing – If you haven’t got a mobile site, get one! Use your customer insight to find out what your customers do on their mobiles and match your mobile offering to this. Mobiles add locality so don’t forget your local strategy.

A review of day 1 at SMX Advanced London (part 4)

In my previous three blog posts I have been discussing the key sessions from day 1 of SMX Advanced London on Monday 16th May.  Today’s blog post discusses some new features and tools to use when advertising on Google AdWords’ Display Network.  Key points highlighted in this post were in the Best Practises with Google’s New Ad Features session, from Biren Kalaria, Sales Development Manager, YouTube & Display, Google UK.

The Google AdWords Display Network

The industry average click through rate (CTR) of display ads on the Internet is 0.07%; Google’s data on their Display Network records a 0.45% CTR.  This is a higher average than we have experienced, but potentially possible with a very small, highly targeted campaign.

Biren Kalaria discussed tools that are available or coming soon:

1.Contextual targeting tools
a. Available now, great tool for quickly generating comprehensive display targeted campaigns

2. Interest Category Marketing
a. Allowing advertisers to reach a demographic based on their interests, i.e. travel enthusiasts, sports fan, etc.
b. This product should be released this quarter, and will give the ability to advertise to  800-1000 custom demographic segments

3. Demographic Targeting
a. The first iteration of the tool will allow you to target male/female audience specifically in the Display Network
b. The second iteration of the tool will allow age targeting

4. “Similar Users”
a.  This will allow you to extend the reach of your remarketing campaigns by allowing you to reach demographically “similar users” to those on your remarketing list

5. Audience Insights
a. This will provide top level insight reporting on the people within your remarketing lists.  This information will enable you to scale marketing campaigns, and uncover new opportunities
b. Biren hoped the tool would be available before the end of Q3

Google’s display network offers a relatively cheap opportunity to gain more traffic. In previous years, the lack of control or tools when advertising on Google’s display network made activity uncontrollable and untargeted. The tools now in place and those coming later this year will allow further control and enable more specific targeting of users.

Well, this is the last in my series of blogs posts discussing key points made at SMX Advanced; I hope you have found them informative.