Category Archives: Research

Nicola Peaty

Top tips on how to raise your search engine ranking.

By Nicola Peaty

search_engine_rankingWhere would we all be without Google these days?! As such a major force in our digital world, we have to play according to the big search engine ways in order for our online presence to be found by our target markets. Below are our top tips on how to help raise your website’s search engine ranking.

 

Start with your research: In order to really know how to attract your target visitors to your website, you need to know what search terms they are using when looking online for products or services which match those relevant to yours. You would waste a lot of time guessing or assuming certain terms and then finding you attract the wrong type of audience who immediately bounce back when they realise your site is not what they’re looking for. Wordtracker and Google Adwords are useful tools that will help you discover the exact words and phrases your potential customers are inputting to search engines. This kind of insight gives you real intelligence into how your market is searching and consuming relevant information to your company, so use it wisely and keep checking and updating accordingly.

Specify your search terms: Based on the keyword research, you will have a list of words, terms and phrases to form the basis of your SEO strategy. Make sure you use these keywords to match your company, products/services, but also where possible, specify the terms by using additional words to attract the absolute target audience. By this, we mean adding locality, product details and company information, so that a. your audience can see upfront exactly what they will view on your site and whether it matches their needs and b. you will avoid generic terms used by the big gun sites who will most probably rank higher and have paid for these terms through PPC.

Keyword your metadata: Use the list of keywords found by your research within the metadata on your website. The title metadata shows the page titles you can see in the web browser. The description metadata is your chance to give a succinct marketing push about the content visitors can find on that particular page. The keyword metadata is where you can use the research list of terms. It will also mean these pages appear by matching the terms searched by your prospective visitors and stand out with their relevant details compared to competing generic sites. Just don’t cram the titles full of keywords as this could well have the reverse effect and be completely ignored, so key the words concise but relevant.

meta-description-tag

Quality not quantity: Content is king as we all know in the online marketing space. Spiders love new and relevant content so keep updating and refreshing the information on your site. Use the keyword research on a regular basis to keep terms applicable and reflect in your content. Blogs are an obvious way of updating content and using social media to push this content out will hopefully then drive traffic back to your site. This increases the relevance and authority of your site. Monitor your content and know which is working and attracting the most views and comments, which can help you plan future content.

Online PR: Another way to get your content viewed and in turn raise your ranking, is to write and push out quality press releases. Again the word quality is used here, as the release has to be topical, insightful, have that grabbing ‘hook’ in order for journalists, other sites and viewers alike, to want to pick it up, link to it and view it. Value in your information will in turn give you value for your website and search engine ranking.

Links: Both inbound and outbound links play an important part on the authority and trust of your website, but again we have the quality not quantity rule to apply. Making sure you have fewer links that are all totally relevant and especially from other authority sites, is far more valuable to your ranking than hundreds of non-related small sites. It’s obviously easier to control outbound links from your site, but you can track inbound links from a range of programs such as SEOmoz and Google Analytics. This will give you an insight into who is coming to your site and where they are coming from. Another useful tip is to use specific and descriptive link tags which explains what content is to be found within the link, instead of generic terms like ‘click here’, which has no search engine value beyond the attached URL. If possible, you could contact these sites and ask them to do the same to help push relevant traffic your way.

Alt tags: Finally, once you’ve managed to drive visitors to your site, you want to keep them on there as long as possible. Therefore, use a variety of multimedia to keep their interest such as images, videos and infographics. Just make sure you don’t miss an opportunity by describing your media with alt tags (alternative text description). These can then be found by search engines and add a unique source of relevance to your audience. Below is a great example of how to post and tag images in an ongoing cycle which helps increase your links, add authority from other sites and keep your visitors engaged.

alt tag example

 

Nicola Peaty

Understanding the Fundamentals of Marketing Analytics

By Nicola Peaty

“If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.” Words from the Marketing Director, which will stay with me forever since my days in a centralised marketing department. Gone were the times of ‘how can we spend this money on hospitality, glossy brochures and a few events?’. Now it’s all about accountability, budget justification and ROI.

Analytics have become the solution, largely thanks to online data. So every marketer should be equipped with the facts and figures, which hold the answers to all marketing activities. Every activity should be measured, monitored and assessed for its performance compared to its objective.

Before you immerse yourself in the vast world of data, take time to stop and decide what you fundamentally need for the business. What data actually matters and is meaningful to you? There is so much available you could spend a lot of wasted time tracking the number of everything, when potentially you may need to know the WHO rather than the HOW MANY. This is vital so that you can then set up exactly what you need in terms of data collation, the reporting process and the ongoing analysis to then understand implications and implement improvements.

Marketing activities: Website analytics are of course fundamental in understanding every part of activity that occurs in the main hub of your online presence. Understanding the effectiveness of your website will help feed into the all other activity you carry out online. Every company should have a definitive list of KPIs they require for their website. But when it comes to marketing analytics, the list of marketing KPIs can run on and on. See example:

web vs marketing

So it’s important to decide from the outset, which marketing analytics your company really needs. That comes down to the requirements of the marketing plan. Activities and their analytics should inevitably be chosen to meeting your company’s specific goals.

The next question is, does each activity have a target and if so how? Is this based on previous activities or are they aspirational figures. Setting realistic measures is vital for all concerned. Then you have a genuine basis to compare your data results.

Finding out as much as possible before launching into any activity will ultimately help you get the best results. Assessing all previous marketing will give you the insight to shape and determine the specifics of any campaign. For example:

* If you have set up an SEM campaign, maybe to a specific landing page, what are your aims in terms of traffic or a call to action? Who responds best in your market and what incentive or hook will trigger the required action?
* If you have an email campaign planned, do you know the optimum ways of getting the best results eg type of message to type of audience, sent at the best time of day, to get most response?
* If you are launching a competition via social media, which platforms will you include to draw the best response and interaction?
Knowing the answers to the above questions really build marketing intelligence and thereby demonstrates the importance of choosing the right analytics.

Market analytics: Understanding important data related to your market will also give you useful facts about your audience. Profiling your customers into the highest buyers and most valuable clients will allow you to focus different activities on them compared to lapsed and new customers. So looking at your data, or gaps in your data, do you know the following:

* who is visiting your site
* who is actually purchasing form your site
* who is the most interactive on your social media
* who are the advocates and share your content
* who prefers face to face meetings
* who complains to customer services
* who likes to receive emails
* who unsubscribes to promotional emails

Knowing your market also includes the competition. Research and market share can give the analysis to understand whether the market is shifting, if there are any new opportunities or potentially any loss or gain in certain products/services. Plus it’s important to gauge their marketing activity and online presence and what type of campaigns they are implementing to attract certain customers.

Put this type of data together with your customer profiles and you have yourself some powerful intelligence to keep your company, and marketing, ahead of the curve and of the competition.

The holistic review: A lot of time can be spent analysing the finer details of certain data, but it also has to be assessed as part of the bigger picture. This means pulling together the findings of everything that you have decided is important for your business and learning from the implications this includes:

* the marketing performance across all activities,
* the marketing performance across all channels,
* the response from marketing campaigns across all departments involved eg sales, customer services,
* the performance from past to present marketing,
* the response from segments in your market,
* the activity from the competition,
* the response of the market from activity from the competition.

All the above will feed into your future activities, plans and strategies. You can then test and evaluate new and existing ideas, based on solid facts and figures, and build on these as you develop more and more intelligence.

Process: The final part of the analytical equation is implementing the process within your company. Everyone involved must be briefed into their part of the process and how they feed into the overall data collation and objectives. Dedicated staff are now employed to handle data analytics, but other departments play their part such as sales, customer services, market research and even IT and accounts.

Technology is so advanced in helping with data collection, analysis and predictions, but you obviously need the experts to help manage and decipher the findings. You can use anything from Google analytics to content management scoring and predictive conversion rates to planned ROI. As long as you know the following, you can establish a basic but comprehensive marketing analytics action plan:

* exactly which data you need,
* how best to collect the required data,
* how to report on the findings of the data,
* learning and Implications of data findings for the business.

Here’s a useful infographic about the analytics based online marketing and how it works:

analyticsbased-online-marketing--how-it-works_50291ccca42e5_w587

How to grow your business with social media



Nicola Peaty

What is demand generation and why does it matter?

By Nicola Peaty

leads to prospectsHow can we create a genuine demand for our products/services? This is the all important question most companies ask their marketing department. This is where demand generation plays a key role. It’s much more that raising general brand awareness and goes into more strategic, longer term aspirations for building customer relationships.

Demand generation engages and nurtures quality leads that can be passed onto the sales department to convert to actual purchases. Campaigns have to be thought through and focused on a target audience with a specific product/service. The process and communications must be based on an understanding of what the buyer needs and how your product/service matches their requirements.

The first stage is to build a knowledge of the target market for your particular product/service. This can be based on research or an analysis of customer trends, and should give you a clear picture of what these customers are looking for. This way, you can focus your messaging and personalise your communications as much as possible.

Data management throughout the marketing process, will allow you to track your target contacts from initial selection through to how they respond to content and nurturing and assess whether you are ‘connecting’ in a positive way in order to move them closer to the final buying stage. All intelligence gained throughout the campaign should be captured for both positive and negative outcomes as a learning for your chosen target market. If unsure of potential offers or outcomes, you can always test reactions by splitting lists with different offers and analysing the results for future reference.

Content marketing comes into its own when strategically planning demand generation. Messaging will be specific to the goal in mind, whether that be promoting a new product, re-engaging lapsed customers or upselling to loyal customers. Together with the knowledge acquired about your target prospects, content should play to their interests and inform and excite them about what you have to offer them. This is where quality content delivered using the appropriate channels will reap far better rewards than generic mass marketing via blanket emails or advertising.

Another crucial part of demand generation is nurturing the prospects. This means keeping a close eye on them and tracking their responses, engaging with them through conversation and interaction and responding when necessary. Reports, ebooks, blogs and webinars are great tactics at delivering key information and encouraging a response and questions, which will help to build an understanding of both what they need and your relationship with them. All the while through this process you are aiming to personalise more content, time the right sort of communications and determine when the prospects are qualifying to become ‘sales ready’.

A critical success factor in demand generation also relies on the way in which marketing and sales work together. In order for marketing to pass on qualified leads to sales, there must be a certain ‘status’ which has been reached by the lead and agreed by both departments at the start of the process. According to the campaign objective, the prospect should meet the agreed criteria by which they were first selected, and have responded with actions and behaviour throughout the campaign according to the predetermined goals.

The measurement of success will rely on how well you manage your data, set out your success criteria, engage the right messages with the right prospects and pass to sales at the optimum point at which the lead is ready to purchase. A full analysis of the campaign will identify areas for improvement, points which reaped great response and potential messages/offers which generated the least reaction. This learning can obviously then feed into future campaigns, where you can possibly short cut the process or indeed spend more time on nurturing a lead.

The ‘obvious’ return on investment can be measured by the amount spent on marketing the campaign versus the sales generated at the end. However, this should factor in previous experience of this type of campaign and with the chosen target market. Budgeting and forecasts should become more accurate following more campaigns and a deeper understanding of the market and trends.
Below is a chosen infographic which helps demonstrate the main stages in the demand generation process:

demandgenprogram
Please refer to associated blogs:
Content for your audience: http://www.vgandassociates.com/how-to-write-content-for-your-audience/
Sales and marketing: http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-how-to-build-a-more-productive-marketing-sales-relationship/

How to grow your business with social media



Nicola Peaty

Marketing Personas

By Nicola Peaty

You know your audience don’t you? Basic demographics are all covered, maybe even some useful segmentation. But of course with the need for more personalised targeting and marketing, there is a need to go deeper and really get to know your customers.

Marketing personas have become a great way to develop real identities for some of your key customers. By building a profile and even a name and face, gives a company the focus of a real person who they are talking to and how they need to communicate and interact with that specific type of customer.

Once created, really and truly the personas should then be at the core of the company’s strategy, whether it is product development, content delivery or account management, the personas should give the exact required insight.

So where to begin? Every company has some useful data which allows them to start building profiles. How many personas you create, is down to the intelligence you extract from this data. Basic demographics are a good start, but then add in previous purchasing behaviour, influences, motivations, lifestyles and attributes.

Surveys and interviews are great ways to ascertain a bit more depth. Online or email surveys are cheaper than face to face interviews, but make sure you get a true representation of your audience. You need to know details about your best advocates, but you can’t ignore customers who have had bad experiences. This is the opportunity to investigate where poor relations have developed for some customers with your brand and for you to understand and learn how to rectify particular issues. So make sure you include loyal customers, referrals, prospects and lapsed customers.

Recruitment of interviewees should be selected carefully, questions planned to fill any specific data gaps as well as build deeper customer knowledge and incentives in place to entice and convince participation. Research experts can help in designing questionnaires, but also in conducting the interviews. There is a skill in knowing how to ask the right questions in the right way in order to ascertain key findings, great quotations and uncover potential opportunities and/or issues.

Personas should ideally include the following:  persona
* Demographics
* Job profile
* Typical day
* Information sources
* Purchasing behaviour/preferences
* Challenges/issues
* Goals/motivations

Analysis of data is critical to discover particular patterns of behaviour, common threads within segments of your audience and similar attributes and motivators. Again, research experts can help investigate information collated and present overall findings.

When researching and investigating information to build your profiles, the key point to bear in mind is that you are trying to find out precious gems of insight into how you can get closer to your customer and ultimately deliver the solution they are looking for. If you can perfectly match their needs and make them feel as though you are talking to them personally, both through clever communications and product delivery, then you can beat your competitors every time!

See also our blog on: How to write content for your audience:  http://www.vgandassociates.com/how-to-write-content-for-your-audience/

 

Nicola Peaty

Top Tips…How To Write Content For A Top Google Listing

By Nicola Peaty

All websites need to reflect the brand, tell the target market what you do and have effective ‘Calls to Action’ in place. But then, it’s all pointless if no one can find your site in the first place. This is where content is king – as is knowing how to write content for Google – which has changed and, we feel, improved over the years. 

When we wrote content for the first VG&A website in 2010, we probably went through at least five drafts before we decided upon the final ‘live’ version. We found it hard to write for our audience, comply with good SEO practice and at the same time, succinctly communicate our services. If only we knew then what we’ve learnt now! Ah, but we do know so much more now and that really helped when writing for our new website last year.

Write for your customers:

Firstly, we now know that content has to be written for your audience and not just a bunch of SEO terms. By writing in a language that your audience actually understands (and not just the Google bots) obviously also help attracts them to your site and gives your customer a good experience. Think about the search terms your users would use to find your website and make sure you incorporate these words within your content.

Quality:

Content should also be as high quality as possible. That means writing articles or blogs which are original and relevant. Where you can, give your own review, some depth and insight into your knowledge of a particular subject matter.  Your customers are looking for something unique and added value by choosing to visit your site and not just read duplicate content they can find on other sites. This will help reflect well on your business and give confidence to users who may be new to your site. Your objective is to engage your users so that they will stay on your site, return to your site and even recommend your site.

 Accuracy:

The last thing you want to do is deceive your users, so make sure the content you write is accurate so that visitors are not disappointed when they reach your site. This also relates to the <title> elements and ALT attributes which should give a very clear and exact description of what you are offering. There is no point including words which have no real relevance to your core site. Users will get annoyed and simply bounce straight back to the Google listing to find a site which delivers what it writes. This term is sometimes called cloaking and can lead to you ultimately being banned from Google, so be warned!

No more tricks:

When we first learnt about how to optimise a site nearly ten years ago, there was a completely different set of rules to make sure your site appeared on the first page of Google listings. Now Google is far more genuine to its users and it’s all about good user experience. No more should sites be using keyword density, copying duplicate content across multiple pages, using competitor trademark names for keywords or linking to spam sites to improve ranking.

Another ‘trick’ is Doorway or Gateway pages which have seen a recent rise in optimising techniques. This is when you create specific pages for certain key terms to attract users. They can hold very little content and are usually there in the guise to lead you on to other areas. This is not necessarily relevant, can be quite annoying and a waste of time. Google is far more sophisticated and will detect this and catch you out. It’s now all about being relevant and honest with your customers. Build a simple, well-structured site that keeps both your users and Google happy.

New ideas:

There will always be new ways to help get your site noticed and listed higher than competitor sites. It’s important to keep up-to-speed with these new ideas and try and stay ahead of the curve to take advantage of quick and easy (legitimate) techniques. For example:

  • Internal linking within your own site content on certain terms will help Google index and rank specific content.
  • Using Google+ will also help rank content, especially if you share content via Google+ and users click on the Google + to show they like your content.
  • Slideshare is a fairly new and popular way in how to display your content which Google can index in literally seconds.
  • Optimised images can often be missed but is another simple way of attracting visitors to your site especially if images are the best way to view your product. However, ensure to use the relevant keywords in the name, title and ALT tags so that users can easily find the images and Google can index the content.

 Ask the Experts:

Google has its own really useful guidelines for design and content as well as technical and quality: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769?hl=en

Top Tips:

We posted this infographic on our Facebook page last year (Source: Content Verve). It’s a great list of top tips we think will help when writing content for SEO purposes. SEO-Copywriting-–-10-tips-for-writing-content-that-ranks-in-2013

Nicola Peaty – Director, VG&A

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