Happy Valentines Day!

Last year, I wrote a blog post about some of my favourite Christmas digital marketing campaigns from fashion retailers. With the recent build up to Valentine’s Day, I spotted some really innovative digital marketing campaigns from various brands and I thought I’d once again share a couple of my favourites on the Froggblog…

Not On the High Street #LoveYourStory

Not On The High Street have produced a very cute digital campaign celebrating real and everyday love stories. They asked nine couples to share the story of their relationship on film and these videos are featured on their website and across their social media channels.

Using the hashtag #loveyourstory, the brand has encouraged consumers to also tweet their love stories which have created a real buzz around the campaign. The brand has also created a bespoke webpage for the campaign which also features inspiring gifts, quizzes and other valentine’s day content such as wrapping inspiration, date ideas and quotes from the couples. It draws attention to their products but in subtle way.

Ann Summers #HappyAnnSummersDay

Here’s another rather cheeky guerrilla marketing campaign from lingerie brand, Ann Summers, who must have annoyed their competitors when they projected mischievous messages onto their store fronts.

Shops such as Thorntons and Liberty’s fell victim to Ann Summers and have had messages such as ‘Chocolates are for hospitals’ and ‘Roses belong in the Eighties’ projected onto their shop fronts alongside the slogan ‘Happy Ann Summers Day.’ They’ve also sprayed the messages onto London pavements and encouraged consumers to tweet @Ann_Summers with the hashtag #AnnSummersDay.

Virgin #EverydayValentine

This campaign from Virgin celebrates the idea of an ‘Everyday Valentine,’ which they describe as being anyone from a childhood chum, favourite food or even a pet. They’ve asked consumers to send them a picture via Twitter, Instagram or Vine of their #EverydayValentine with the aim to win prizes such as a dinner for two or customised chocolates. The best responses are also featured on the Virgin website throughout the week.

Evian #ILoveYouLike

Mineral water brand Evian is helping consumers avoid typical Valentine’s Day clichés with its #ILoveYouLike multi-channel campaign which pushes their ‘Live Young’ philosophy.

In the run up to Valentines Day, consumers who tweet @evianwater or @evian_uk using the hashtag #ILoveYouLike will receive a response with an image depicting an alternative Valentine’s message. Fans are then encouraged to share suggestions on how to complete the sentence ‘I love you like’ on Facebook in order to win special Valentine’s Day prizes.

According to Clickz, this campaign has already notched up an impressive 87,000 impressions in the week before the campaign launched and 1.2 million estimated impressions in its first 48 hours as a result of about 200 Twitter messages.

Ted Baker #FollowTedsHeart

I spotted this campaign earlier in the week on Ted Baker’s Facebook page. They’ve created a digital ‘FollowTedsHeart’ Facebook app campaign to increase engagement with their fans and compliment their in store activities.

The app lets users release virtual balloons around the globe in a bid to win a shopping spree and features really lovely visuals of the balloon flying across the world as it’s released. It’s nicely executed but I was pretty disappointed that my balloon only traveled 3557.55 miles to Washington putting me in 4151st place.

Heineken #DateInABox

Last but not least, a campaign aimed at the boys from Heineken. The beer brand has launched a #DateInABox social media campaign which consists of an actual box containing an adventurous, prearranged mystery date ranging from a jujitsu lesson for two to a couples’ tattoo session. To get this date, women can tweet to @Heinken_US and have a box mailed to their partner but he can only unlock it if he embarrasses himself and shares his feelings of love on Instagram with the photo of the box.

Creating dream living rooms with Heal’s

Towards the end of last year, we were very privileged to work with iconic designer furniture store Heal’s on a blogger outreach project for their brand new collection of designer sofas.

Here at Leapfrogg, we all love Heal’s homeware and equally love any project that gets our creative juices flowing, so this quickly became one of our favourite pieces of work from last year. For this reason, we thought it would be nice to share a few more details about the project, the results, and also showcase some the inspirational images that came out of the campaign.

Established in 1810, Heal’s is the home of modern, designer and contemporary furniture, lighting and homewares. In September 2013, they launched a microsite for their new sofa collection and approached Leapfrogg to help develop a creative PR campaign to create awareness, drive traffic and build links from credible, relevant websites.

Heal’s had previously only targeted interiors and design blogs and wanted to capture a new audience of fashion and style-conscious consumers, in addition to re-engaging their existing customer base with their new products.

After brainstorming ideas, we came up with the concept of a #Healschallenge. We approached high-profile fashion and lifestyle bloggers and challenged them to design their ‘dream living room’ using a sofa from Heal’s new collection as the focal point, as well as featuring complementary items from Heal’s online store.

#Heal'sChallenge Screenshot

We asked our bloggers to document their design process by creating accompanying Pinterest boards to showcase their inspiration and the products which made up their ‘dream living room’, using the hashtag #HealsChallenge to extend the reach of the campaign even further.

The final room designs were judged by Heal’s, who selected Helena from A Diary of Lovely as a winner due to her colour scheme choices and fashion sense, which Heal’s felt brought a new dimension to their furniture.

A Diary of Lovely #healschallenge

The winning design was then turned into an in-store display at the Heal’s flagship store in Tottenham Court Road.

#HealsChallenge Filming

The creation of the room set with commentary from Heal’s Head of Design was made into a video which we pushed out through Heal’s social media channels.

The content produced by the winning blogger A Diary of Lovely can be seen below:

http://adiaryoflovely.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/dream-living-room-with-heals.html

http://adiaryoflovely.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/the-heals-challenge-video.html

https://www.pinterest.com/adiaryoflovely/a-diary-of-lovely-+-heals-healschallenge/

#Healschallenge Sofa Display

We were happy to report that our blogger outreach project resulted in significant coverage across a number of high-profile fashion and lifestyle blogs, generating content and traffic for Heal’s, whilst securing high quality, editorial links. Previously, there had been no link building activity for Heal’s new website.

The campaign also engaged and reached a new audience of style conscious fashion consumers and social buzz around the new sofa collection was created via the use of the hashtag #HealsChallenge and the bloggers’ Pinterest boards with reach potential of 6740 followers.

We thoroughly enjoyed working with Heal’s on this project and are very much look forward to working with the brand further in 2014.

 

How small retailers can compete against big brand stockists

An issue many smaller retailers face is when their competition online is their stockists or wholesalers. The desire to grow direct sales whilst keeping stockists and wholesalers happy is a difficult balancing act.

This is particularly prevalent for fashion brands where larger stockists can more often than not, be more competitive on price and offer free or next day delivery. They are also likely to have much higher marketing budgets and be able to promote products to gain a higher percentage of sales.

There are many industry pressures facing smaller retailers today, not least the constant markdowns and discounts made available by big brand retailers, such as Amazon. The dominance of big retailers entices more customers to hunt for the best price, something that is supported by the prevalence of mobile, where customers can compare prices online while shopping on the high street.

Ultimately, the marketplace is one where price is a key influencer, and one that supports big brand retailers. But what does this mean for the smaller retailer who cannot continually offer discounts or offer free/next day delivery as standard, especially if they operate in the premium/luxury space? Are consumers these days only really interested in grabbing a bargain? I think some are, but some are not.

I was chatting to my Dad over Christmas and we were both having a moan about bad service. It got me thinking about how easy it is to remember when you get poor service, but equally you do remember when you get a great service. People are much more likely to remember, recommend and return to businesses that go the extra mile and provide a great experience, which makes you feel valued as a customer, even if their prices are not the cheapest.

This article looks at how I think smaller retailers can compete against the big boys, which in time may negate the need for them to have a wholesale channel at all. We have certainly seen this with one or two of our clients. To build brand awareness and drive revenue during the early years, they need wholesale. But as the business grows and their direct channels to market mature (website, catalogue and so on), they are able to go it alone.

So where to start?

It has to be the customer.

Who is your typical customer?

  • Who are they demographically and geographically?
  • How often do they buy?
  • What are their interests?
  • What is important to them?
  • What do they like or dislike?
  • What are their daily challenges?

These are just a few of the questions you should ask to try understand exactly who your customers are, enabling you to plan and execute an experience that meets, and exceeds, their expectations.

Emotions are always involved in purchases, so recognising and understanding individual customer circumstances, as well as what is important to them will help you provide a more superior service then your stockists.

Think about building relationships

Customer relationships are different to customer experience. Relationships are not with a product or service, they are with a company or even an individual within that company. You therefore need to build trust with your customers and really develop a relationship to incite loyalty. Have a conversation with your customers, engage with them and stay in touch via social media, email marketing, newsletters and catalogues.

Remember that customer journeys are not linear and people are fickle, so investing time building relationships is what will help keep your brand front of mind when customers are thinking about their next purchase.

The next step is to ensure you have a quality product, informative website and a great delivery service.

When customers are actively browsing, one of the most important things they consider is the product itself. Is it good quality? Is it durable? What are the features? What do other people think? Additionally, be sure to let customers know how the product will make them feel or how will it change their daily life for the better. Again, consider the emotional value of the product.

Add value with great content

Create supplementary product content including detailed style and fit guides, inspirational product development stories, trend or seasonally-focused content, product videos, product reviews and so on. The benefits of this kind of information will be two-fold. You are providing rich, quality content to support your natural search visibility, but you are also enticing customers to buy directly on your site. People will always have doubts or questions about products, so if your content can answers these questions, there is no need for them to go elsewhere.

Consider bespoke incentives

If you cannot compete on price, what other incentives can you offer customers e.g. a ‘3 for 2’ offer or a ‘buy one get one half price’? This still reflects a saving to the customer but you are also encouraging people to buy more.

User experience is key

Ensure your website is easy to use and that your checkout process is quick, intuitive and user friendly. If you’ve got them this far, you definitely don’t want to lose the sale!

Add value to your delivery and personalise your packaging
If you cannot offer free or next day delivery, consider what other benefits you can offer as part of your delivery service. Could you text the customer with updates about the status of their delivery? Can you personalise the packaging? Customers love interesting packaging as well as receiving unique offers, small freebies and personalised messaging in their delivery. Use your customer insight to support what is important to them and use this to your advantage.

These are the small things that will make customers feel special and make the purchase a memorable one.

Loyalty programs

If providing a great product and experience, make sure you offer a loyalty program which can further incentivise customers to come back and buy directly from you. Ensure details are placed in each delivery.

Customer service

Ensure your problem handling process and service recovery is watertight. This is an important part of building trust, loyalty and brand advocacy. If you do everything to fix a problem (or demonstrate that you are doing everything you can) you will instil a good memory over the negative problem they have encountered.

This customer service needs to be delivered via multiple channels. Customers will complain via Facebook just as readily as they will via your contact number.

Managing stockists

Finally, some things to consider when setting up and developing relationships with stockists:

  • If possible, release your collections on your site first, and allow at least two weeks exclusivity on your site. This should enable the search engines to index your content as the primary source which should see your retain high natural visibility for product related searches.
  • If possible, do not allow stockists to bid on your brand name (or similar derivatives) via paid search.
  • Consider limiting the range you sell through stockists, whether this is a limit on product range, or just a limit on selling all product variations.
  • Do not give stockists all your product imagery, videos, etc. This will ensure you retain exclusive ownership of your full range of assets.

With all the above being considered, smaller retailers should not feel like they have to compete against their stockists on price or free/next day delivery. Getting a better understanding of your customer, engaging them in relevant ways and nurturing relationships will help you provide an unbeatable experience for them. Only until you know what your customers truly value, can you deliver a memorable and delightful experience that perhaps your stockists don’t.

People don’t tend to remember where they got the cheapest deal last time, but they do remember where they had a truly great customer experience.

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!

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

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

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

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

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

Link Building vs Content Strategy Diagram

Click to enlarge

Make your website awesome

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

Share your content with the world

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

Encourage the world to share your content

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

Nurture your brand advocates

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

Get the links you deserve

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

Get on Google+

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

In summary…

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

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

Alice Reeves on Google+

Festive fashion online campaigns

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

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

Dear Topshop

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

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

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

Whistles Advent Calendar

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

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

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

Harvey Nichols #sorryispentitonmyself

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

Burberry

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

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

Mulberry

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

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

ASOS

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

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

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

The Goodhood Store

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

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

Liberty of London

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

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

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

The Weekly Shop (11th – 15th November)

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

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

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

20+ Christmas ecommerce tips from the experts

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

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

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

The 10 most common mistakes of blogger outreach

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

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

The Weekly Shop (2nd Sept – 6th Sept)

The Weekly Shop is our regular blog series that endeavours to keep you fully stocked up every week with interesting news and developments from the digital marketing and online retail realms.

This week, we look at Google Trends for SEO and how Google has killed PageRank in the Google Toolbar as well as some common link building techniques, in addition to some more positive news for online retailers.

5 Link Building Techniques Google (Supposedly) Killed in 2013

As of late, Google has been telling webmasters to nofollow different types of links pointing to their sites and has recently updated their Webmaster Guidelines with examples of link building practices that they now consider manipulative. These examples refer to extreme ‘spammy’ methods but some of the advice is a little ambiguous and therefore open to (mis)interpretation. In light of this, this article from Search Engine People explains how you can still employ methods, such as Press Releases, Guest Blogging, Infographics, Advertorials and Comment Links but with the primary objective of attracting attention and traffic, which in turn can attract backlinks. In other words, link are the by-product of good marketing, not the primary objective.

How to use Google Trends for SEO

GoogleTrends is a tool that shows how often a particular search term is entered relative to the total search volume across various regions of the world. It is one of the best and most versatile tools available for natural search. This article from Search Engine Watch is a great overview of how to use the tool to develop content ideas to generate traffic and great links. Definitely check it out!

Is PageRank Finally Dead? It Seems To Be, At Least In The Google Toolbar

Previously, if you wanted to know how much Google trusted a webpage, you could use the PageRank value in the Google Toolbar. However, over the years, Google’s support for PageRank has declined drastically with that little green bar now only being available in Internet Explorer (after they dropped it from Chrome and Firebox). Now, the latest blow is that the data that flows into the display hasn’t been updated for over six months. Despite Google saying PageRank wouldn’t be going away, we’re left wondering if the lack of updates means exactly the opposite.

In any case, its true value is questionable at best. In our experience, too many website owners obsess over their PageRank when, frankly, there are bigger fish to fry!

Don’t Believe a Word – Debunking the Lies That SEO Agencies Tell

This article from Clickz focuses on some of the lies that the worst SEO agencies often tell, from ranking guarantees to long term contracts and selling unnecessary website design. We’re always shocked to about these kind of scams, which sadly gives SEO agencies a bad reputation.

Consumer confidence rises to the highest level since 2009

Some good news for retailers this week, official figures released by GfK have shown that consumer confidence has risen to its highest level since October 2009 this month.  The research firm’s headline index increased by three points in August to -13. This means that the index has risen by 14 points in the last four months to mark the first time since 1982 that it has increased so substantially in a four month period.  GfK put this growth down to a steady flow of economic good news during the last few months showing the economy growing, despite recent official figures revealing a fall in UK living standards.

Survey: one in five UK consumers buys more online than in-store

Figures from the latest E-commerce index from online marketplace Rakuten (owners of Play.com) have shown that precisely a fifth (20%) of Brits now spend more on items purchased online then they do in store, while for a further 18% say their online/in-store spending is in perfect balance. Clothing and accessories are now the most commonly purchased items online worldwide (I can definitely vouch for this!) followed by books and magazines, and consumer electronics.  The research highlights how the fashion industry is successfully engaging the online shopping community despite for importance of ‘fit’ being a natural obstacle. We’re currently working with some really exciting fashion brands, so watch this space for project updates.

 

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!