The Weekly Shop (19th – 23rd May)

It’s Friday so that means a new edition of our Weekly Shop! This week, we look at insights from Social Media London, ugly websites, Google’s release of the Panda 4.0 algorithm and insights from Econsultancy’s new Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report.

Real-time Twitter marketing & personalisation – top takeaways from #smlondon

This week, Alice Reeves, our senior social media and content consultant attended Social Media London’s May event, which was focused on how brands can make the most of ‘real-time’ Twitter marketing and personalise their social channels to boost engagement. You can read her key takeaways from the conference here.

What if Your Ugly Website is Holding Back Your Marketing Efforts? – Whiteboard Friday

Last week, in Moz’s weekly Whiteboard Friday series they discussed the subject of ugly websites and whether they can actually hold you back from the kinds of levels of engagement and progress that you could be making.

Google Begins Rolling Out Panda 4.0 Now

This week Google’s Matt Cutts announced on Twitter that they have released version 4.0 of the Google Panda algorithm which is designed to prevent sites with poor quality content from working their way into Google’s top search results. It sounds like this update will be a gentler Panda Algorithm and lay the groundwork for future changes in that direction.

Five key insights from our Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report

This next article from Econsultancy highlights five of the key insights from their Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report which contains a comprehensive analysis of the UK search marketing environment. The report, covering search engine optimisation (SEO or natural search), paid search (PPC), social media marketing and display advertising, is based on an online survey of more than 700 client-side digital marketers and agencies and reveals some interesting insights.

Thanks for reading. See you next week!

The Weekly Shop (12th – 16th May)

In the Weekly Shop this week, five things our clients learnt just by asking, a new retail concept – the Inspiration Corridor, how ecommerce sites can boost profits and Google’s new Panda patent.

Five things you can learn about customers just by asking

We start this week with an article from Leapfrogg’s commercial director, Ben Potter, who has written about the importance of customer insight for the Econsultancy blog. To illustrate his point, Ben has shared five very simple insights that we have gathered from surveys we have created and run for our clients.

Inspiration Corridor

Inspiration Corridor is new retail concept developed by the France-based shopping centre Klepierre and creative agency DigitasLBI Paris. It utilises facial recognition technology, profiling algorithms and purchase history in order to give consumers personalised style advice consisting of items that can be found inside the building.

Inspiration Corridor by DigitasLBi Paris & Klepierre from DigitasLBi Paris on Vimeo.

Five ways ecommerce sites can boost profits

Profit margins determine whether businesses sink or swim and this is especially true in the hypercompetitive ecommerce industry. This article from Econsultancy looks at the price related issues that retailers must address and provides five tips on how ecommerce sites can start to boost their profits.

Dot luxury domain names going on general release

This week saw new top-level domain name .luxury go on general sale, which provides a dedicated digital platform for all things luxury, giving brands the opportunity to further define their status online. Around 500 brands from Bvlgari to Versace, signed up for their own .luxury top-level domain name during a 60-day period where only trademarked brands could register.

In pictures: Waitrose showcases new technologies in Swindon store

Last week, we featured an article about the new Waitrose store in Swindon and how they are using omnichannel in a strategy aimed at setting itself apart. This week, Essential Retail visited the new store to check out their new technologies which includes digital signage, in-store tablets and geo-location mobile systems.

The Panda Patent: Brand Mentions Are the Future of Link Building

There has long been speculation about how Google measures “brand authority” and last month Google filed a new patent, which some say could be the Panda patent which may have gone some way to answering that question. If the recently filed patent is any clue, Google is now working on major algorithmic changes to measure authority outside of followed links. This post from Moz explores the new patent and other supporting evidence in an attempt to understand what the opportunity may be for digital marketers in the future.

6 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Search Marketing Agency

Next up is a useful article from Search Engine Watch for anyone working with, or considering working with a search marketing agency, as it provides advice on how to create a happy, profitable, and pleasant agency/client relationship to get the best results.

10 Google Chrome Extensions guaranteed to improve your life

To finish up, our senior natural search consultant Ben Adam, has helpfully rounded-up his 10 Google Chrome Extensions which he guarantees will improve your life!

 

A round-up of Brighton SEO

At the end of last month I attended the best Brighton SEO yet. From the opening keynote to the afternoon’s content-focused talks in the Corn Exchange, the day was packed with actionable takeaways. However, the five talks that really stood out for me were:

  • How I Earned Loads of Links by Ignoring SEO – Malcolm Coles
  • The Habits That Land You Links – Stacey Cavanagh
  • How journalistic principles will shape the digital marketing of tomorrow – Julia Ogden
  • Using Content for Direct Response – Matt Evans
  • The Content Marketing Blueprint for Boring Industries – Mike Essex

Below, you’ll find my summaries (largely taken from my frantically scrawled notes) of the key points from each talk plus links to slide decks where available.

How I Earned Loads of Links by Ignoring SEO – Malcolm Coles

The conference kicked off with a keynote from Malcolm Coles, General Manager at The Daily Mirror and founder of UsVsTh3m. Malcolm spoke about how UsVsTh3m’s goal has always been to gain the biggest share of their traffic through social rather than search. They’ve achieved this through creating topical, highly shareable content in the form of games and quizzes, such as:

  • The ‘Where’s Damascus?’ Game – thousands of people played the game online and failed miserably, including people from the Houses of Parliament, which resulted in news coverage.
  • How Much Are You Hated By The Daily Mail? – though impossible to get to the end of unless you’re Michael Gove, this short piece of interactive content attracted over a million players, multiple pieces of online coverage with hugely authoritative links and caused UsVsTh3m to rank 3rd for the search term ‘Daily Mail’ for months.

Malcolm also spoke about how The Daily Mirror now sees more mobile traffic than desktop. Therefore, you must ensure that any content you outreach to publications (e.g. infographics) needs to look good on mobile. Your outreach email will probably be read in mobile too. What’s more, infographics sent as huge JPEGs won’t look good on mobile – these should be created in HTML and should be responsive. When UsVsTh3m launched their ‘Northometer’ quiz, 85% of plays came from mobile. In fact, the entire UsVsTh3m site is designed for mobile – Malcolm even went as far as to say that they “don’t really care” how it looks on desktop.

The most important takeaway of Malcolm’s talk was about content headlines. The best-performing headlines are interesting (you want to read them) and mysterious (they don’t give too much away) – these are the headlines that get you clicks AND shares.

Essentially, online content can be divided down into four categories: 

  • Gets clicked AND shared (what goes viral)
  • Gets clicked NOT shared (tends to be content that includes swearing – after all, “your Mum is on Facebook”)
  • Gets shared NOT clicked (rubbish headlines, but good content)
  • Doesn’t get shared OR clicked (most online content) 

You want your content to fall into the top category and sites like Buzzfeed work extremely hard to get this right – it’s standard for them to A/B test up to 25 different headlines for each piece of content.

Three more key points from Malcolm’s talk were:

  • If you’re creating content that’s getting shared, the most important thing is that it’s visual – this means people writing about it are forced to link to it because it’s not something that they can describe with the same level of impact
  • The reason quizzes work so well when it comes to generating content that gets shared is because people want to share content that’s self-affirming – i.e. it reinforces the way that people perceive themselves and/or want to be perceived by others
  • Use Facebook Ads to deliver niche content to the right people – when people in a niche start talking about something, it’s likely to get picked up by relevant publications

The Habits That Land You Links – Stacey Cavanagh

Next up was Stacey Cavanagh, Head of Search at Tecmark, talking about getting into the habits that land you links. Stacey spoke about the importance of allowing time to be creative, championing the 6-3-5 method which enables six people to generate 108 ideas in 30 minutes. Next, you should use NUF testing (New, Useful, Feasible) to work out which ideas are worth following up – score each idea out of ten for each of these things and prioritise the highest scoring ideas.

Additional takeaways from Stacey’s talk were:

  • Use a tool such as fivesecondtest.com to A/B test the effectiveness of your tweets
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of having a Flickr page with high quality, original images – ensure all images have a Creative Commons attribution license and include direction as to how to attribute
  • Have regular image reclamation sessions – imageraider.com helps to find sites using your images, then you can request attribution and a link
  • Create stories from surveys – this is a great tactic for getting news links, even if you just write a story about it (you don’t need a fancy infographic to get quality links)
  • Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of offline content – e.g. doing something “real” that results in coverage; links are a by-product of coverage
  • Old-fashioned communications are disruptive – when it comes to outreaching to your contacts, doing something like sending a hand-written letter will get you more attention than an email

How journalistic principles will shape the digital marketing of tomorrow Julia Ogden 

Julia was a journalist before she went on to work at Zazzle. Her talk was about how she’s used the skills she learnt while working in local media to inform her digital marketing tactics. Key points were:

  • Most people don’t read more than 250 words of a piece of content so make sure all the important information is at the top – the introduction to any piece of content needs to hook the reader and make them want to read on
  • The internet is crying out for high quality, well-written content – in essence, this is all that “SEO content” is
  • Content marketers should take advantage of the citizen journalism approach and crowd-source content from brand advocates and social influencers
  • Google rewards a website/business which has a range of followed links, no follow links and even just online mentions – Google recently released a patent to reward content that just mentions a brand or associated keywords, but has no links
  • When you’re creating content, always think about what’s new or different – why should people care about what you have to say?

 Using Content for Direct Response Matt Evans

It was Matt’s first time speaking at Brighton SEO and I thought his talk was one of the most useful from the day. Matt spoke at length about selling through content and provided some really great takeaways.

In essence, we’ve stopped stuffing Google with keywords and started stuffing it with content – but what so many online marketers overlook is that the sales funnel is content.

Matt outlined that there are four stages of the sales funnel that your consumers go through:

  • Unaware – content at this stage should catch peoples’ attention
  • Know the situation – content at this stage should inform people of the situation
  • Product awareness – content at this stage should inform people about the product
  • Purchase intent – content at this stage should push people to sale

Too often, content created “for SEO” overlooks this and completely misses the sales process:

  • Your content should inform your audience – because an informed audience is more likely to purchase
  • Get your content in the right place at the right time – tailor your content to what your audience want / need to see at each stage of the buying journey 
  • Re-market to your content, not just your products – use your content to move your potential customers down the funnel until they’re ready to purchase
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of post-purchase campaigns – it costs 5 x more to acquire a new customer than to sell again to an existing customer
  • Stop thinking about links first – create content with a real purpose

The Content Marketing Blueprint for Boring Industries – Mike Essex

Mike Essex from Koozai spoke about how we’re so obsessed with “great content” that we often totally overlook that fact that “boring content” is actually the best opportunity in content marketing. Great content might achieve awareness, but boring content is what sells.

Opportunities to create boring content include:

  • Your ‘About’ section
  • Technical specifications
  • Press releases (these are still important and great for targeting niche audiences, which can be critically important)
  • Company location pages

Ways that you can achieve stand-out “boring content” are:

  • Repackage boring content in a visually interesting way  – e.g. highly visual technical specification pages
  • Distil your product information down into simple-to-follow comparisons – sometimes you have to focus on what stops people buying and create content to address this
  • Think about customer aftercare – for example, other sites were ranking for Vax user guides so Vax invested in creating their own
  • Have great product pages – Aviva are a great example of a company which uses its product pages to give them a competitive edge

Above all, remember that on-site content such as this MUST convert – that should always be your end goal!

 

 

 

The Weekly Shop (7th – 11th April)

Welcome to a new edition of The Weekly Shop. This week, we take a look at customer lifetime value, the importance of post-purchase interactions, an example of brands using Google’s Shoppable Hangouts, and the rumours that Google could be about to block paid search keyword data.

Just 42% of companies are able to measure customer lifetime value

Econsultancy’s new Building Loyalty and Driving Revenue in the Digital Age report looks at how customer lifetime value (CLV) is a crucial concept for companies looking to improve retention rate, but one which companies find hard to measure. Econsultancy surveyed almost 900 agency and company respondents, and found that, though the vast majority agreed that CLV was an important concept, just 42% said they were able to measure it. Head over to Econsultancy for more on the findings.

The sale doesn’t end at checkout: survey shows the importance of post-purchase interactions

A new survey has shown that 86% of consumers said it was important to them that they have a positive experience after making a purchase, highlighting the importance of post-purchase interactions. This article highlights some of the findings from the study and how you can make improvements to your post-purchase communications to encourage repeat customers.

Asos and Nike team up for first shoppable Google Hangout

Last week, we featured a new concept from Google, Shoppable Hangouts, and recently ASOS and Nike have teamed up for the first shoppable video web chat to celebrate 27 years of Nike’s Air max trainer. On the day of the hangout, users could shop while they watched, and make purchases directly from the promotion.

Mobile is now the main driver of global ad spend growth: stats

Forecasts suggest that mobile advertising will continue to grow by an average of 50% a year between 2013 and 2016, thanks to the widening penetration of smartphones and tablets. These figures come from ZenithOptimedia’s latest advertising expenditure forecast, which reveal that overall global advertising spend will rise from 3.9% in 2013 to 5.5% in 2014, with further growth expected to increase to 6.1% in 2016. More over on Econsultancy.

10 Surprising Facts About “Keyword (Not Provided)” For Paid Search

The big news in digital marketing this week was the rumour that Google could be about to block paid search keyword data. Last year, Google did this with organic search data which was a major setback to publishers, who began to losing data about the keywords used to reach their sites. This article from Search Engine Land aims to clarify fact from fiction and provides 10 things you need to know about the Keyword (Not-Provided) for paid search issue.

‘No-Links Ranking’ – The Battle for Better Organic SERPs

In light of all the changes from Google, this last article from Search Engine Watch explores the possibility that links may no longer be a ranking factor in the future. Yandex, the biggest search engine in Russia, has just recently announced that they will be no longer using links as a ranking factor and this article looks at how this change might actually have an international impact and indicate the way in which search is heading.

Thanks for reading!

Wedding Rings Direct ‘Bride of the Year’ campaign

In light of our recent nomination for the European Search Awards we thought the time was ripe to share a few more details about our work with Wedding Rings Direct and the ’Bride of the Year campaign’, which earned us a nomination in the ‘Best Use of PR in a Search Campaign’ category.

Wedding Rings Direct offers the largest collection of quality engagement, wedding and eternity rings in the UK. We first started working with them at the beginning of 2013 when they approached us to help them increase brand exposure, customer acquisition and revenue having suffered a significant drop in natural search traffic as a result of Google updates and subsequent penalties.

As part of their strategy, we came up with the idea of a Bride of The Year campaign, aimed at raising brand awareness and boosting social media engagement, whilst also building a number of high quality editorial links.

At the launch of the campaign, we asked friends and family of brides set to marry in 2014 to nominate the brides-to-be with photo and the reason they deserved to be Bride of the Year. We then approached wedding related businesses with strong blog domains to help us publicise the competition, whilst also inviting them to donate items or services for the winner’s prize package in return for media coverage.

When the competition launched, we used an ‘old school’ PR approach via press releases and calls to the local media and relevant wedding bloggers. This secured us coverage in the main local newspaper, whilst also gaining editorial links from bloggers.

In order to generate social media buzz, we created a contest app for Wedding Rings Direct’s Facebook page where brides-to-be could be nominated and then voted for by family and friends. To encourage the highest number of entries possible, we supported Facebook activity with advertising, accompanied by sponsored stories to extend reach even further.

Bride of The Year Competition

There were a total of 28 entries to the competition with each entry receiving an average of 65 votes and six comments per entry. Bride of the Year content was shared on Facebook 12,322 times during the two months the competition was live.

In October– after receiving more than 800 public votes– Rosa Lee from Brighton was crowned Bride of the Year 2014, receiving a set of bespoke wedding rings as part of a prize package worth more than £1,500.

The winning bride receiving her wedding rings from Wedding Rings Direct

Campaign highlights included:

  • 17 pieces of coverage from the media and wedding bloggers about the competition and winner
  • 10,185 unique visitors to the competition on Facebook
  • 84% increase in Facebook fans
  • 41 high quality, editorial links from a variety of domains over the four months of the campaign (exceeding the target of 30)

In addition, year-on-year natural search traffic is now tracking above the pre-penalty level for the first time in twelve months.

Kate Rivera, Marketing Manager at Wedding Rings Direct said “We are so pleased with how the Bride of the Year campaign performed from both a brand awareness and social activity perspective. We increased our Facebook followers significantly and the campaign also allowed three months of daily social interaction with our audience across multiple social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, G+ and Pinterest.”

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed working on this campaign and were very happy to hear that due to the success of the competition, Wedding Rings Direct would like us to repeat and expand the competition nationally in 2014.

Watch this space for more details… and wish us luck with the European Search Awards!

 

European Search Awards Shortlist Badge

 

 

 

The Weekly Shop (3rd – 7th February)

In the Weekly Shop this week…we take a look at how there has been a huge rise in overseas shoppers searching for UK retailers, how giving consumers fewer options could actually boost conversions, a bad customer experience from a well-known high street retailer and some more thoughts on SEO in 2014.

One in five US and UK consumers did all of their Christmas shopping online: stats

This won’t come as a surprise to many but findings from a new Econsultancy survey have found that 61% of people in the UK said that they completed more than half or all of their Christmas shopping online in 2013, while just 7% completed all of their shopping offline. More on the findings over on Econsultancy. Read more.

New figures reveal huge rise in overseas shoppers searching for UK retailers online

According to data from the British Retail Consortium and Google, UK retailers are also benefiting from huge rises in online searches from overseas shoppers. The figureshave revealed that  the UK is now the world’s second biggest online retail exporter. Read more.

Want more sales? Give consumers fewer options

This is an interesting article from Econsultancy which looks at how giving consumers fewer options could actually help boost conversions. Blair Keen from Adobe looks at two psychological studies which show behaviour that might help explain cart abandonment and gives his suggestions for testing this theory on your website. Read more.

How to lose friends and alienate people: Mango

When our commercial director, Ben, attempted to purchase a Christmas gift for his wife from fashion etailer Mango, the service and experience was he received was far from what he expected. You can read more about his frustrating experience over on the Econsultancy blog. Read more.

Super rich shift their thrills from luxury goods to costly experiences

According to this article from Guardian, luxury is shifting from ‘having’ to ‘being’ with consumers moving away from owning a luxury product to experiencing luxury. Figures from the Boston Consulting Group hsve shown that of the $1.8tn spent on luxuries in 2013 an estimated $1tn went on services such gourmet dining, private flights, bespoke safaris, slimming clinics and art auctions. Read more.

Now you have to do SEO, thanks to Google

There have been many debates on the right approach to SEO recently and this is an insightful article from The Drum looks at how brands really need to do SEO and how Google has made the case for this easier in recent weeks. Read more.

2014 SEO — 6 Key Pointers

Following on from the above…this last article from Clickz looks at six key things every SEO professional should be concerned about in 2014 to overcome future update issues. Read more.

Thanks for reading!

The Weekly Shop (27th – 31st January)

In the Weekly Shop this week…more search news from Matt Cutts, the importance of differentiating between content marketing and content for links, how reviews and trust signals can double your conversions and some updates on the EU Consumer Rights Directive.

How trust signals can double your conversions

As we mentioned last week, the role customer reviews are playing on the conversion landscape is increasing significantly with more and more shoppers looking for guidance on their purchasing decisions. This article from Econsultancy looks at how reviews and other trust signals can reassure your customers that they are safe when shopping with you and help to double conversions.

The EU Consumer Rights Directive: should etailers be worried?

You’ve probably heard murmurs of a new EU directive, which has implications for UK retail. It’s called the Directive on Consumer Rights and aims to improve consumer protection when shopping online. There are some good points in the directive, but also some that may concern retailers which this article from Econsultancy explores.

What’s the Difference Between Content Marketing and Content for Links? The Wrong Answer Could Cost You

This next article explores the importance of differentiating between content for links and content for customers and how the wrong answer could be costly in terms of risk, return on investment and performance.

Study: 34% Of Google Search Results Have Rich Media, 9 Organic Links & 9 Search Ads

Moving onto some search news, a new study has been released that showed that there was rich media on the search results page 34% of the time. The breakdown of rich media showed images appear on 28% of search results pages, news 9%, and shopping 1%. Head over to Search Engine Land for more details of the findings.

Google’s Matt Cutts: Don’t Try To Build Links Through Article Directories

Matt Cutts has popped up once again this week encouraging webmasters not to use article directory websites with the goal of building links. He also tweeted his thoughts on his and you can view his video answer here.

Google & Bing Agree: Past SEO Success Guarantees You Nothing Today

Matt Cutts has also released a new Google webmaster help video which addresses the topic of what an older site can do to maintain its ranking over time. Some useful tips here if you have an older website.

6 SEO predictions for 2014

And to finish off, here are six SEO predictions for 2014 from Search Engine Watch.

The Weekly Shop (6th -10th January)

Welcome to the first The Weekly Shop of 2014.

To kick things off, we take a look at Christmas 2013’s ecommerce stats, how UK online shoppers’ satisfaction has slipped, retail trends in customer experience and how to link build in 2014.

Christmas 2013 ecommerce stats round up: John Lewis, Amazon, m-commerce

Our first article this week is from Econsultancy, who have rounded up some of Christmas 2013’s ecommerce stats using financial results from several of the big multichannel retailers including John Lewis and Debenhams, as well as data from IBM showing the rise in m-commerce.

UK online shoppers’ satisfaction slips, annual study shows

Every Christmas, customer experience analytics company ForeSee measures the performance of the UK’s top 40 online retailers. For the first time in six years, overall satisfaction levels have fallen. Head over to Internet Retailing to find out more.

Retail trends in customer experience for 2014

As we’ve seen in the above, customer experience is becoming more important than ever in online retail – being empathetic to your customers’ needs and expectations is essential if you are to deliver a meaningful brand experience. This article looks at the four trends that will help shape the retail customer experience in 2014.

Link building the right way in 2014

Link building has changed considerably in recent months, and contrary to what you may have heard, it’s far from being dead but the process has become harder and more time consuming. This article from Clickz looks at how link building is still the best way to improve visibility in the SERPS and how you can safely and successfully link build in 2014.

Build an Audience by Creating Content, not Crap

This article from Clickz really hits the nail on the head with the point of content marketing, which they define as the process of creating and distributing highly relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage clearly defined and understood target audiences. Well worth a read.

Happy reading!

The Weekly Shop (16th – 20th December)

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

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

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

Key Christmas trends to keep in mind this season: stats

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

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

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

Silver surfers show their online confidence: research

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

From Old School to New School: SEO in Transition

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

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

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

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

Until then, Merry Christmas!

 

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

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

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

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

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

Link Building vs Content Strategy Diagram

Click to enlarge

Make your website awesome

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

Share your content with the world

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

Encourage the world to share your content

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

Nurture your brand advocates

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

Get the links you deserve

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

Get on Google+

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

In summary…

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

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

Alice Reeves on Google+