We really enjoyed our two days up in Manchester at SAScon 2013. Unfortunately, with three tracks going on and only two of us, we couldn’t get to every talk. However, we did our best to attend as much as possible. So here are our top takeaways from our favourite talks.
The big focus of this talk was on local businesses and local search.
Some quick stats:
As such it’s more important than ever for small businesses to optimise themselves for search. However, it can be hard to balance the volume of leads they need to generate in order for it to be worthwhile with the costs of doing so.
To provide anything of real benefit to local businesses, you can’t use organic, paid, or local search alone. In isolation they don’t drive enough search volume at a low enough cost. Self-service isn’t a good option either, as it requires too much time and effort for the business owner, which they won’t get back in terms of leads or revenue.
The best option for local businesses is a solution which is as automated as possible and which will deliver multiple benefits. It needs to combine local, organic and paid results and deliver the maximum amount of benefits at the lowest possible cost per lead.
Small business owners are more interested in leads and conversions than they are in search rankings, so that’s what your focus should be. It can be best to find areas where they have already made some investment and build on it, rather than start from scratch – it’ll help lower overall costs which is essential.
The bottom line is to drive as much traffic as possible for the lowest possible cost. Small businesses can’t afford to spend too much time or money on search, but clever strategies can help to drive lots of traffic, improve conversions, and generate revenue. There is a huge market for local search, you just have to tap into it effectively.
Users nowadays expect a seamless, consistent interaction with brands – regardless of what channel they’re interacting through and whether they’re offline or online. As such, it is essential that businesses don’t silo their departments too much. All areas of the business need to join together in order to provide this unified brand experience.
An example used was of NatWest’s “NatYes” campaign. Advertising encouraged viewers to search for “NatYes” online. However, the SEO team hadn’t been involved in this decision by the marketing team and, therefore, the “NatYes” search didn’t yield any results.
With the vast amounts of data that are being generated online every day, there is a huge amount of information which brands can use to get to know their customers, find more people like them, and keep them. However, it is the understanding of this data that is vital. Use big data to analyse trends and behaviours – in other words, use it to gain insights. It is these insights which are truly valuable and which can make a real difference to your ability to capture and retain customers.
Use these insights to provide an integrated, optimised, interactive customer experience. The more you know about your customers the more individualised and targeted your messaging can be, meaning it will be more effective.
Use your teams together within your company in order to create a consistent multi-channel approach which makes use of your data insights in order to target customers more effectively.
In case you doubt how much brand matters, Richard Rowley showed us some data on how brand awareness affects click through rates.
Normally, we expect the top organic results to get the most clicks, with the top three results gaining the most. This is generally true; however, there are some industries where it isn’t. For example, in the finance sector a search for “current accounts” provides more clicks through on the second result MoneySupermarket, than the top result Barclays. A search for “compare loans” resulted in more clicks on the fifth result GoCompare, than the fourth result Tesco.
This demonstrates clearly how brand power can affect click through rates, and further drives home how important strong, consistent branding is for businesses. Ranking at number one doesn’t guarantee you traffic – you have to ensure you are targeting the right keywords and that you are picking terms which you are both recognised and relevant for.
Google are making search increasingly personalised. They use location, search history, browsing history, social circles, and known interests to try to provide the search results that they think are most relevant to users.
Of course, they aren’t entirely altruistic. Google’s users aren’t customers, they’re products, so Google will deliberately promote the things which are most beneficial for them to promote.
All of this means that search rankings will become increasingly useless, as every user will receive personalised search results. This links with and highlights the importance of points made in the “Big Data” talk, such as ensuring your search results provide relevant, useful information which has been tailored to users based on your insights into them.
In order to create better marketing and content, you need to ensure that it is personalised. This is really just another form of direct marketing, and Google is the world’s biggest direct marketer. They use the principle of analysing three data points: recency, frequency, and monetary value. You can do this too.
Great content is important because it can help you to influence people – by which we mean alter their behaviour. You can change what they chose to buy and directly affect their actions.
When looking to influence people, the people to target are those who are influencers in their own networks. Everyone is part of a network, so the easiest way to start doing this is by influencing networks which you’re already a part of. You can then move into different circles, and start building relationships there.
It is important when forging relationships to invest time and to treat people as individuals. It may take longer, but finding and making friends with online influencers can bring in big benefits, so it’s worth the time and investment. Make people feel good about themselves, and demonstrate how you can be of value to them. Also, don’t forget to maintain these relationships properly and keep them going – you never know when someone may become useful again.
Finally, ensure the content you’re producing is really good quality, as even your best friends won’t share rubbish content. It has to be good quality – something you’re proud to share and which people will genuinely want to read and talk about.
This was done as a panel session.
The discussion focused on the latest Penguin update. The general consensus was that it had all been a bit of an anti-climax and that Google hadn’t actually changed that much, which was surprising.
Even with the perceived lack of an effect of Penguin, it was agreed that it is still worthwhile to clean up back link profiles.
However, not everything was so straightforward. The three of them felt differently over the topic of Google Authorship. Dave Naylor was strongly against authorship saying, “If I want a local plumber I don’t want the guy who can write the best content. I want the guy who can fix my leak”.
Each speaker was asked for one tip for the future:
As we’ve heard in several of the talks, brand awareness and brand reputation play a big part in click through rates and user search behaviour. As such, managing your brand reputation online is vital.
A few key tactics for this are:
In order to help maximise brand awareness, coordinate your PR, SEO, social, and advertising departments to ensure you’re all delivering the same, powerful, brand message.
If you can make use of word-of-mouth recommendations then do – they are the most powerful, most trusted type of recommendation. People like to share good experiences more than negative ones, so encourage them to do so and utilise what they say.
A top tactic with brand marketing is to find areas where your brand propositions can overlap into your customers’ daily lives and emphasise them.
It is essential to remember that all customers are different and to treat them as individuals. To find out more about them you can use social media – it can provide a huge amount of insight into people. Social media can act very effectively as a mirror of the offline world.
One of the best ways to engage with people is by finding out what they enjoy and what makes them happy, and going through that. You can feed their egos by allowing them to offer solutions and help, which makes people feel good about themselves. You should also be highlighting the benefits of whatever you’re selling – people are ultimately interested in fulfilling their own needs, so using the word “you” can be a powerful tool.
People are also heavily influenced by those around them. As such, finding people who are key influencers can be a fantastic way to spread awareness of your brand and find new customers. For example, Universal Studios in Florida marketed the launch of their new Wizarding World of Harry Potter park by releasing details to just seven incredibly influential Harry Potter fans. They gave them information, maps, photographs, videos etc. and allowed them to spread the word. It worked fantastically well and cost them very little.
However, it is important to remember that people use social media as a space to relax in and talk to their friends. As such, you don’t want to be pushing direct sales at them through their social media.
Doing this should help to cultivate a positive image of your brand, increase awareness, and ultimately drive sales.
Content marketing needs to be about more than just link building. Nowadays, it ought to be a strategy which incorporates all of your content, including your onsite content and social media.
In order to satisfy clients you need to be broad ranging and able to cover all areas of content across a wide range of channels. However, it is important to remember that all your pieces need to be high quality – simple quantity won’t work.
You can use news stories as a way to create new content, but you need to be agile and create topical content quickly in order to leverage the news angle successfully.
One way to improve your content outreach is by ensuring everything you produce is top quality. You can also try creating articles which are specifically aimed at the website’s target audience. To do this, start by pitching a range of individualised topic ideas to the website you want to publish on, and work with the feedback they provide in order to create something that works for their website as well as for you. This is also a great way to develop relationships, something which are essential to content outreach.
Another tip for writing great content is to make sure that, whatever topic you’re writing on and whoever you’re writing the piece for, you find the human element in the story and bring it to the fore. Thus helps to engage people, making the piece more easily accessible and better for sharing.
Understanding the culture and communication methods of the countries you’re targeting is also key to successful outreach. Make sure you know how best to talk to the people you are asking to publish your content, as well as what is and isn’t appropriate.
Great content teams need to be able write engagingly but also need to have a good technical SEO background to ensure what they are producing and publishing will bring in real benefits. They also need to be able to adapt and change quickly as timing is vital, particularly for topical/news stories.
Cross-channel market integration is where things are heading. Agencies are starting to understand this, and more and more of them are offering a full range of services.
The stats from Econsultancy show that:
On top of this, content is becoming more and more central to SEO. Nowadays, 59% of companies and 66% of agencies have integrated their SEO and content strategy. Social media is also becoming integrated with search although, currently, only 40% of agencies are doing this.
As this integration increases, the importance of determining attribution will also grow. Integration also means there will be a lot more data available, which means there’s a great opportunity to gain further insights into user behaviour, so long as you analyse your data properly.
This is a key point. The role of the marketer has changed – being able to analyse data is now a huge part of successful marketing. In order to create successful marketing campaigns you need to:
You should make sure you’re analysing your data from all channels. This includes social media, in particular Facebook advertising, as there is a huge amount of information you can draw from it.
67% of all offline marketing results in online search. As such, it is vital that you have all your marketing channels working cohesively together. To re-iterate, this means you need to integrate your advertising, social media, online marketing and offline marketing.
Integration is important because it helps to engage the entire brain, increasing user awareness of the brand as well as increasing trust levels in it. This is why consistency across all channels is so essential to integration. A great example of this is 3’s Dance Pony Dance campaign, which used TV ads, paid search, organic search, and social media, in one coherent, successful marketing campaign.
It’s also important to try to achieve a balanced blend of owned media, paid media, and earned media in your campaigns. They each have their own benefits and play a role in marketing.
For a successful integrated marketing campaign, you need to have one fully developed, overarching strategy which will ensure everything works together to provide a consistent brand message. You should also ensure that you’re measuring everything so that if you tweak anything you can be sure all the elements will still work together coherently.
So, that’s what we felt we learned from this year’s SAS con. Which talks did you enjoy? What were your top takeaways? Let us know in the comments section below.