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Leapfrogg presentation at Screen Pages client event Sept 2012

Leapfrogg presentation at Screen Pages client event Sept 2012

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  • My passion lies in demystifying the many half-truths that surround disciplines, such as SEO, and in turn helping businesses make informed decisions when it comes to shaping their online strategy, choosing the right partners and allocating appropriate resource. Therefore, today will focus on top line strategic advice as opposed to the nitty gritty stuff!
  • Ask audience what they think?It is when promises are delivered onThe parcel arrives on time, the product is exactly as described, the customer service team call when they say they are going or respond to a Twitter comment You don’t always need to be exceptional, you just need to do what you say you are going to do – this can be enough to deliver a superlative experienceIt is when things work as expectedSonos exampleSomething out of ordinary / personal to the individualIt’s the expertise of the shop assistant, the beautiful packaging, the personalised note, the targeted follow up communicationIt is effective communication of your brand vision / valuesAnd your target audience relating to these / they need to marry up to the values of your customers
  • Because buying things is emotiveWe buy things to satisfy a need, be that practical or emotional.If I am excited by a purchase I am making but the brand or retailer lets me down in some way, the entire experience is tarnishedThe approach you take…My mantra to natural search has always been ‘users first, search engine second’. Extending that theme further, if you can put the experience of your target audience at the centre of your thinking, you will approach certain aspects of natural search with a different mind set.Today, I want to explain how, whilst also providing practical advice on how to shape and execute your natural search strategy with experience in mind, along with practical advice around budgeting and working with agency partnersSearch remains vitalExperian Research by Hitwise this August shows that, on average, the UK is making an additional 93m visits per month to search engines compared with last year. This represents an average year-on-year growth of 4.3%.
  • Let’s start with a very brief history lesson as it help provide context to the search landscape today
  • The relatively low barriers to entry have meant competition has increased massively / and the big players are encroaching into your territory i.e. Amazon , EbayChanges in consumer behaviour and technology - IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group), mobile will make up 1 in 5 of online sales by Xmas
  • This means as brands you need to be creating, optimising and distributing content
  • How many people have heard of the Panda update?Has anybody knowingly been effected by it?Essentially, Panda is a filter that targets those websites creating and hosting poor quality content.
  • Google’s most aggressive attempts to clean up search resultsUltimately, these updates have come about because creating and optimising poor quality articles, subscribing to blog networks and buying links are techniques that have been adopted by unscrupulous marketers to manipulate the system…because often these techniques work…for a timeTechniques which failed to take account of experience and instead focused almost solely on rankings as the end goalCompletely against my mantra of ‘users first, search engines second’There is nothing illegal about these techniques, unethical perhaps. Ultimately, it is up to brands whether they are prepared to risk their livelihoods. Because there is always an inherent risk attached to these techniques and we’ve seen some pretty high profile brands get caught outWhat concerns me is when the brand is not in a position to make that decision, namely when agencies are appointed who adopt these techniques unbeknown to their clients, putting brands at risk So let’s look at three areas where these updates and other developments have had the most profound impact and as a result how you should be approaching key aspects of your search strategy to deliver the right kind of experience
  • All techniques which violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Best way to think of these techniques is that the tend to focus on rankings at the expense of user-experienceThere is nothing illegal about these techniques, unethical perhaps. Ultimately, it is up to brands whether they are prepared to risk their livelihoods. What concerns me is when the brand is not in a position to make that decision, namely when agencies are appointed who adopt these techniques unbeknown to their clients, putting brands at risk But furthermore, they compromise on the delivery of the experience you need to deliver to win customers, build trust, etcSo let’s look at three areas where these updates and other developments have had the most profound impact and as a result how you should be approaching key aspects of your search strategy to deliver the right kind of experience
  • Where these updates have had the greatest impact is on the discipline of link building 
  • Unnatural link profileHundreds, maybe thousands of links accumulated from a limited number of websites in a relatively short period of time using similar anchor text……the kind of links that are garnered using techniques such as article syndication, blog networks and buying links that Google is clamping down on It is relatively easy to detect these patterns. In fact Google have been doing so and sending letters to companies to warn them Poor experienceWould you do this in the real world? Would you take ad advert out in a totally irrelevant publication or worse in ‘gambling weekly’ or a pornography magazine? In the online world it happens all the time…and it is potentially very damaging not just in terms of how Google perceives you but more importantly how your customers perceive you and will certainly fail the ‘experience test’Convergence A good way to think about link building is actually viewing links as the by-product of other activity, not the primary objective  Link building has become a creative, PR driven discipline concerned with building meaningful, trusting relationships with journalists, bloggers and other business owners It’s a quality over quantity approach where one feature and link on a high profile, influential blog is more valuable than 1000 links from low quality, irrelevant sites It is probably best to highlight this with an example…
  • So in light of Panda, I urge you to review the approach you are taking to link building, whether it is managed in-house or especially when working with agencies as it tends to be the least transparent service provided If they cannot explain their approach and report regularly on it with coverage reports then I’d question the value they are adding long termI’d also really think about how much you are spending on this activity. The work that goes into planning and executing a campaign like this is not insignificant…however, the returns are far greaterI will make the point that some of the more traditional techniques such as directory submissions and the better quality article sharing and press release distribution sites, do have a role to play in building a holistic link profile made up of PR-driven links and more traditional SEO techniques
  • Yes, it’s a massive cliché but content is king in the context of today’s Google. But context and distribution of content across the right channels at the right time is queen
  • Content is at the very heart of delivering an unforgettable experience, rather like this guy did in the summer
  • With search results containing rich media content, such as images and video, often at the expense of text-based natural listings, creating and optimising content is necessary to maximise the visibility of a brand in search engine listingsIf you are not getting this right you are not making the right impact at the discovery and research phaseYou lose before they’ve even arrived at your website…because the click goes to your competitor
  • A content driven approach to e-commerce helps to create a richer and more rounded website experience, which in turn aids conversion rates
  • It is content that tells the brand storyThat really connects the brands vision and values with those of its customersIt is content that creates brand association and loyaltyThis is the kind of content that attracts links, it increases reach across blogs, forums, online media and social networksThe beauty of this, is that much of the content is not being created by the brand but by customers
  • Drawing out the benefits you offer to prospects and customers, over and above your competition, and use these messages consistently to help create the necessary excitement and emotion around your brand and productsThis ensures your marketing messages and USP’s are in tune with what the audience want, which in turn delivers the experience they are looking forIt finds the content sweet spots in line with how prospects evaluate your brand, their behaviours and preferred channel of engagement A formalised content plan is essential where you know week by week the content that is being created, who is creating and optimising it and where the content needs to be distributedAnd remember you don’t need to do all the work – UGC, ratings and reviewsAlthough I’ve only scratched the surface of developing a content strategy here, you can easily see how this approach is markedly different to creating content purely for SEO purposes and content that delivers an experience
  • The third area is social media, the buzzword of the last few yearsFor me, this is the actual mean by which you deliver a compelling experience
  • Panda is seemingly a move towards Google devaluing many types of linkGoogle is perhaps trying to depend less and less on inbound links to determine the worth of a site…and looking at something that is harder to manipulate…your social profile Hence the release of Google+ and more recently socially influenced search results in the form of ‘Google Plus Your World’…Creating, optimising and pushing content through social channels, is a factor growing in importanceCrucially, it is the sharing of that content that will be integral to success. And content will only be shared if it is genuinely useful and engagingIf you are simply pushing out special offers and promotions you are not giving your prospects and customers anything genuinely useful to their specific needs and motivations…therefore it is unlikely to be shared…this further enhances the argument for creating quality contentThis raises a good point – whilst social media may increasingly have an influence on search, this should not be your primary driver for setting up social media profilesA social media strategy should be based on a fundamental understanding of your audience; who they are, where they spend their time and who influences their purchasing decisions…this will help you understand which social networks and tools to invest time and resourceAnd the impact this channel has on search should be the by-product not the primary motivator for investment in social media because it remains unclear the long term impact social will have on SEO strategySo should you be ploughing yet more resource into yet another social network?My advice is certainly claim your Google+ profile page…However, according to a report published by Website-Monitoring.com, a full two-thirds of Google+'s users are men. What's more: a sizable number of Google+ users (42%) are single, and the most popular occupation listed is 'student.'So a good chunk of the Google+ social graph is basically young, single and male.If this is your target audience, get stuck in but I suspect for most of you it is not!
  • What I hope this demonstrates is that SEO, in the traditional sense, is not a stand-alone discipline. SEO strategies need to be underpinned by engaging content and supported by social media and PR to deliver a sustainable and reputable search engine presenceBut then furthermore, online and offline activity need to be aligned to deliver the consistent and seamless experiences that your customers now expect as they move between website, mobile, store, catalogue and so on.The winners will be those that can join the dots between these disciplines with a focus on experience as the primary driverYou can see how Jack Wills are joining these dots in my previous example
  • This is all very well, but where do you begin, how do you prioritise activityWhere any marketing activity starts; insight and planningI see far too many instances of companies jumping head first with no research or planning…or worse a business model which is flawed in the first placeExecuting a digital strategy based on insight, not guesswork, ensures that search marketing is aligned to commercial objectives and in tune with your wider retail marketing strategyBefore beginning execution, detailed analysis and interrogation of the following is required….From here, you can establish the following…Notes on keyword targetsRealism about competitive landscape and viable keyword targetsLongtail – often the combination of hundreds of specific keywords outweigh the value of ranking for one ‘vanity’ term…Keyword insight will reveal content creation opportunities based on needs, questions, etc of your audience If you don’t work through a process of research and planning, your natural search strategy will fail
  • But one golden rule of thumb is that there must be a correlation between your commercial objectives and the budget you are allocating to meet those objectivesI’ve had more conversations than I can possibly recall with business owners and senior decision makers who are looking to significantly increase online sales through new customer acquisition…When setting SEO and indeed your wider digital marketing budget you should also be considering external factors the wider economic trends, trends specific to your sector and changes in consumer behaviourTherefore, if you are spending a few hundred pounds, I’d question what you are getting in the context of today’s complex and competitive environment, and when a holistic approach to SEO involves skill and expertise across a an increasingly wide and varied number of skill sets
  • Have somebody in-house who owns it but don’t expect them to be able to deliver an effective SEO solution on their ownIn short, SEO requires a broad skill set that cannot possibly be delivered by one person alone. So you either need to hire in a team or work in partnership with experts Don’t outsource in the traditional sense; treat agencies as partners by being open and honest / view it as a partnership, not an outsourced solution that you can set and forget aboutAnd when you are going out to hire an agency, please, please put a brief together. I don’t have the time to go into detail as to what should be included in a brief but I’ll follow up in an emailDo your homework, ask about clients similar to your own business and the results they have achieved, not in terms of rankings but sales. And ask to speak to their clients!

Leapfrogg Leapfrogg Presentation Transcript

  • Delivering superlative experiencesthrough natural searchBen Potter, Leapfrogg Digital MarketingScreen Pages event September 2012
  • A brief introduction
  • What do we mean by ‘superlative experience’?It is when promises are delivered onIt is when things work as expectedIt is something out of the ordinary or a pleasant surpriseIt is something personal to the individualIt is effective communication of your brand vision and valuesIt is seamless and consistent i.e. multi-channel, omni-channel
  • Why is it so important?Because making a purchase is emotive in itselfBecause consumers are extremely savvyBecause there is a competitor just a click away who is doing itbetterBecause experiences can be shared within secondsBecause, ultimately, I believe ‘experience’ will separate thewinners from the losersThe approach you take to natural search, can make or break thatexperience
  • A (very) brief history lesson… Trusting relationshipsText 24
  • A (very) brief history lesson… Trusting relationshipsTextyears ago, Google was a relatively simple beast 10 24 It was also far less competitive than today’s retail environment Achieving a prominent position was pretty straightforward Fast forward to today, and much has changed: • Competition has increased hugely • Changes in consumer behaviour and technology • Major changes to how search results are displayed
  • A richer search results page
  • A (very) brief history lesson… Trusting relationshipsTextyears ago, Google was a relatively simple beast 10 24 It was also far less competitive than today’s retail environment Achieving a prominent position was pretty straightforward Fast forward to today, and much has changed • Competition has increased hugely • Changes in consumer behaviour and technology • Major changes to how search results are displayed • Thousands of tweaks to Google’s algorithm • Plus, well publicised updates…
  • Not just a pretty face…. Trusting relationshipsText 24…but a series of Google updates
  • The Panda update…Keyword stuffed articles, for example Trusting relationshipsText 24Content that is scraped or duplicated aimed at ‘gaming’search engine resultsContent that impacts the quality and relevancy of searchresultsArticle sharing and blog networks have been hit hardImpacted search results for businesses overly reliant on linksfrom these sites or thin on ‘quality’ content…targeting ‘low quality’ content
  • The Penguin update… Trusting relationshipsText 24…targeting ‘web spam’
  • The Penguin update…Text 24 stuffing, hidden text, cloaking, link buyingKeyword relationships TrustingTechniques that focus on rankings as the end goal, not usersGoogle’s most aggressive attempt at cleaning up searchresultsUsing these ‘manipulative’ techniques puts you at greaterrisk than ever beforeThey also compromise the delivery of a compelling,engaging brand experience…targeting ‘web spam’
  • Meaningful, trusting relationships… Trusting relationshipsText 24…build brand equity, drive sales and links
  • Meaningful, trusting relationships…Text number relationships you have remains an importantThe 24 Trusting and quality of linksranking factorYour site is at risk if you have a link profile that looks ‘unnatural’‘Unnatural’ link profile = negative perception of your brandThis is where SEO, content and PR have convergedLinks should be the by-product, not the primary objectiveResearch, relationship building, storytelling, writing, pitching andnegotiation are needed to build the kind of links Google rewards…build brand equity, drive sales…and links
  • A quick ‘PR link building’ case study
  • A quick ‘PR link building’ case studyCampaign targeting the term ‘children’s bedroom furniture’Built relationships with influential ‘mummy bloggers’Invited to an event, asked to trial furniture and write about theirexperience as part of an official ‘testing panel’Brand exposure, traffic, mutually beneficial relationships and linksTop 2 ranking on Google and ‘Noah’ range now highest grossingDrives positive experience for bloggers, target audience and client
  • Content is king… Image courtesy of Lucy Nicholson/Reuters…but context and distribution are queen
  • Content is king…It is the lynchpin to creating memorable and engagingexperiences at every stage of the buying journeyThis starts in search engine listings……but context and distribution are queen
  • The experience starts here
  • Content is king…It is the lynchpin to creating memorable and engagingexperiencesThis starts in search engine listings…On your website, great content = increased conversion rates…but context and distribution are queen
  • Create content to convert
  • Content is king…It is the lynchpin to creating memorable and engagingexperiencesThis starts in search engine listings…On your website, great content = increased conversion ratesBut there is also a layer of content that many brandsforget…but consumers don’t……but context and distribution are queen
  • Content that creates experience…
  • Content is king…It is the lynchpin to creating memorable and engagingexperiencesThis starts in search engine listings…On your website, great content = increased conversion ratesBut there is also a layer of content that many brandsforget…but consumers don’t…Are you creating content for users or search engines?Customer insight is essential to finding the content ‘sweetspots’…but context and distribution are queen
  • ‘Social status’ is growing in importance… Trusting relationshipsText 24…and a key ‘experience delivery channel’
  • ‘Social status’ is growing in importance…Text 24is seemingly devaluing many types of link…Google Trusting relationships…and looking at something that is harder to manipulate…your socialprofileCreating, optimising and pushing content through social channels, is afactor growing in importanceCrucially, it is the sharing of that content that will be integral tosuccessThe impact this channel has on search should be the by-product notthe primary motivator for investment in social media…and a key ‘experience delivery channel’
  • The winners will be those who can join the dots……to deliver memorable and seamless experiences
  • The winners will be those who can join the dots…Natural search is not a stand-alone disciplineStrategies need to be underpinned by creative and engagingcontent, whilst being supported by social media and PROnline and offline activity need to be alignedNot an easy challenge but one that all businesses, big andsmall, need to overcomeFocus on experience as the primary driver to build an engaged,loyal audience…to deliver consistent and seamless experiences
  • Where do I start? Channels, tactics and budget Commercial objectives allocation USPs Competitor research Keyword strategy Customer insight Forecasts, goals, KPIs and Products measurement tools Current online performance PPC management and reporting Roles and responsibilities Offline marketing and PR Tactical plan in line with occasions and seasonality Insight that informs
  • How much should I spend on ‘natural search’? No easy answer! Budget should be relative to your commercial objectives Search is more complex than ever before, requiring more budget and / or resource Be wary of ‘packages’ or ‘off the shelf’ solutions’ Ask yourself, ‘how is this approach going to deliver a positive experience for my customers?’
  • Finding the right partners Have somebody in- house that ‘owns it’ But don’t expect them to deliver an effective strategy on their own Don’t ‘outsource’ (?) Write a brief Do your homework
  • Aim to be number 1…Text 24 are a virtually useless metric Rankings Trusting relationships Well executed natural search strategies garner traffic from multiple sources But even traffic means very little if it isn’t converting Winning search strategies focus on each stage of the buying journey from awareness to advocacy Winning search strategies ‘join the dots Winning strategies start with the question, ‘how will this activity deliver a memorable & superior experience for my customers?’…in the eyes of your customers, not Google