Jet2, Plusnet, First Direct, Irwin Mitchell, Damart & Sky Bet Set for #PBLEEDS17

Latest Delegates Confirmed for Paid & Biddable Leaders Masterclass, Leeds

We’re delighted to welcome on-board our latest batch of delegates – Jet2, Sky Betting & Gaming, First Direct, npower, Leeds Building Society, Irwin Mitchell, Damart, Plusnet, Sykes Cottages and Cotton Traders, who’ve confirmed their attendance for our upcoming Paid & Biddable Leaders Masterclass, which is the 9th event in the Marketing Masterclass Series.

Live Delegate Registration Tracker

The masterclass in association with Epiphany, Journey Further, Adthena, Home Agency, Crafted, Search Laboratory and JV Recruitment will take place in the stunning Wellington Suite at Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds on Tuesday 5th September 2017.

Session Highlights Include:

Delivering truly integrated biddable campaigns with better ROI

Overcoming the key challenges brands face with integrated biddable campaigns

Unlocking the power of paid social

How to measure paid social campaigns effectively

Biddable media for the moments that matter: Delivering the most relevant message, to the right person, in the right place – at the right time

Our industry leaders will share their latest thinking on the critical issues and trends that are shaping the ‘Paid Search, Biddable Media and Social Advertising’ landscape through a series of engaging roundtable sessions. We’ll also be announcing some exciting news in the coming week in regards to our keynote talk!

We only have a limited number of delegate seats remaining for the masterclass, so, if you’d like to join us, please register and secure your seat here.

 

Is the print vs. digital debate dead?

Ella Woodward features in new Amanda Wakeley campaign

In today’s guest post, Search Laboratory’s Chris Woolford takes a closer look at the need for brands to maximise both digital and print channels when developing an effective communications strategy.

The Power of Print
Coming from a Public Relations background, a focus on obtaining quality print coverage for clients had always been a consideration, if not a priority.

It seems online coverage, as opposed to print, rarely has the same impact for a PR client. For them, the story hasn’t registered with their CEO audience, unless it’s in glossy print in their hands, despite declining print circulations proving otherwise.

Yet most PR professionals firmly recognise that obtaining traditional print PR coverage, although still important, should take a firm second place to gaining coverage in digital publications which now have greater global readership, are more socially shareable and carry significant SEO value for brands.

If in-house PRs (and their CEOs) haven’t already caught up with this, then they need to do, and soon.

The Watershed
In March 2016, The Independent became the first newspaper to fully embrace the digital revolution and shift its publication to an online-only platform.

The digital version of the Independent had seen a rapid growth in readership, with online figures up 33.3% in the 12 months prior to the move, and an audience of 70 million unique global users.

The Independent is now only online

The Independent is now only available online

Recognising its strong digital audience, the Indy took the courageous step to fully embrace the opportunity of the digital age. Although this may have surprised some of its readers, and industry analysts and commentators, it is no longer the only publication to cease print in the face of an online evolution.

Men’s magazines, FHM and Zoo, closed their doors last year, and at the time publisher Bauer Media said it felt that young men’s media habits had “continually moved towards mobile and social”.

There has since been a rapid growth in online lifestyle brands such as Lad Bible, Mr Hyde, Buzzfeed, Sheerluxe and The Debrief, which have all embraced social media and significantly grown online audience.

Other publishers are now considering placing their digital sites behind a paywall, in a possibly misguided attempt to prepare for the probable death of print media.

The Guardian is considering such a move with Group Chief Executive, David Pemsel, describing this content distribution approach as ‘meeting readers where they are in the digital space’. But are those readers truly ready to buy into the pay wall model for their news and content? It remains to be seen.

The shift to digital has been accelerated with readers choosing mobile devices to access and read their favourite titles. Facebook has become increasingly popular as the consumers go to source to find news and today over half its users access the service only on mobile.

Shopping habits are also evolving, with online fashion retailer, ASOS, recently reporting that mobile now accounts for 50% of sales, with 62% of website traffic coming through those devices.

This shows exactly why organisations must remain open and adaptable to changing reader habits, and why they must continue to keep up to speed with the best ways to reach and connect with their target consumers.

Print coverage and print ads, once a priority for PRs and marketers, are now just a small part of any effective communications strategy.

So much has changed in just a short space of time…

But Doesn’t Print Still Have Value?
My PR work with many fashion and beauty brands highlights that coverage in fashion and lifestyle glossies is still a vital part of rubber stamping the success of a PR campaign.

In this space it seems that aligning with ‘the norm” and seeing your brand mentioned alongside other high calibre brands is considered a success and a positive marker for the goals of their brands. These brands often want to be seen as “elite” and being seen alongside other “elite” fashion brands often makes them so.

But is there really a value here? The amazing success of digital brands such as ASOS should show, at least to me, that this obsession with glossy print coverage is an outdated and outmoded way of recognising PR success.

PRs on this track have an uphill battle to fight when there are few, if any metrics to measure their beliefs.

In fact, one of the many benefits of digital coverage is that companies can track and analyse it. Once all PRs had was circulation, readership and AVEs to (poorly) show their value, now they have access to domain authority (an indicator of the strength of a website), search rankings, click-through rates, time spent on-site, referrals and conversions.

Essentially, PRs have much more accurate idea of how powerful and effective coverage is for their client’s brands.

Consumers Trust Bloggers

Ella Woodward features in new Amanda Wakeley campaign

Ella Woodward features in new Amanda Wakeley campaign

Engaging with, and working alongside, key influencers is a great way to achieve effective online communications. Coverage on influential, ‘high authority’ blogs will improve rankings and raise brand awareness.

And bloggers are clearly now more trusted than celebrity endorsements for brands (I’ve seen first-hand that working with huge celebrity names with incomprehensible social followings is far from a guarantee of marketing success).

Esteemed fashion label, Amanda Wakeley, recently unveiled health and food blogger Ella Woodward, from Deliciously Ella, as the face of its spring and summer campaign.

“Renowned for her healthy and balanced lifestyle, Ella perfectly embodies the ‘Wakeley Woman,’” the brand said. Amanda Wakeley created a 360-degree approach to the campaign, incorporating print advertisements, online promotion, and a hashtag (#WAKELEYWOMEN), which was used across all social channels.

As a result, the campaign received a huge online buzz and got coverage on some highly authoritative sites. There was also a landing page, where fans could shop ‘as worn by Ella’, view behind the scenes videos, and read more about the blogger. The page encouraged people to link back to the Amanda Wakeley website, in order to learn more about the collection and the campaign.

In addition, a survey, conducted by Fashion and Beauty Monitor, reports that 60% of fashion and beauty brands have an influencer marketing strategy in place, while a further 21% plan to invest in one over the next 12 months; with 59% saying their influencer marketing budgets will increase.

What Does This All Mean?
For the time being at least, print publications remain a part of an effective communications strategy. This is echoed by The Guardian’s Pemsel, who has previously said the paper’s,  printing presses should only be turned off “when the economics don’t make sense, or when it is getting in the way of developing your digital product. The Guardian will remain in print while our readers demand it.”

While there is still a little value in having your brand featured in top-tier print publications, it’s only a communication strategy that incorporates print with digital that will unlock the full power of brand marketing.

Author Biog

Chris Woolford - Search Laboratory

Chris  Woolford, Digital Communications Director at Search Laboratory, converted to search engine marketing following 14 years in the PR industry. He has developed content campaigns for the likes of Sony, O2, Office Depot, PayPal and Interflora using whatever it takes – be it flaming firework flower petals or giant Darth Vader Post-It murals – to get effective results.

You can catch-up with Chris at the PR & Social Leaders Masterclass in Manchester on Tuesday 24th May 2016, where he’ll be Chairing a session that takes a closer look at developing an SEO approach to PR Strategy.

Registration is open for #PRSL16 in Manchester

Register to attend the PR & Social Leaders Masterclass

After the successful launch of the Content Leaders Masterclass in Manchester in January, I’m delighted to announce that the 5th installment in the Marketing Masterclass Series – PR & Social Leaders Masterclass #PRSL16 will also be taking place in Manchester.

The event kicks-off with registration between 9.00am-9.30am on Tuesday 24th May 2016 – finishing at 1.00pm. Details of the venue and official keynote speaker will be updated later this week.

The masterclass in association with Greenlight, Brass, Search Laboratory and Blueclaw will bring together a selection of industry leaders and delegates from some of the UK’s biggest and best brands to share their expertise and discuss the big issues that are shaping the brand comms landscape.

Latest New Delegates #PRSL16

 

If you’d like to attend the masterclass, please register here

Content Creation for Maximising Organic Search Visibility, Conversions and Meeting KPIs

In today’s guest post, Search Laboratory’s Content Specialist Thom Milson, shares his thoughts on what brands should be doing when it comes to content creation in order to fuel online visibility, brand awareness and conversions.  

A successful online marketing campaign is not one thing; it cannot be defined by one criteria and it varies from brand to brand. It will, however, encompass several common elements: an increase in brand awareness, audience growth, more conversions and search visibility. Despite knowing what a successful campaign should achieve, many fail. So why is this? Well, it’s simple: many brands focus on the wrong strategy to meet their KPIs. In this article we will address the four key aims of an online marketing campaign, and how you can tailor your strategies to meet those KPIs.

Increasing Brand Awareness
For years now, digital marketers have been pursuing links; usually, the more the better. When a campaign earns thousands of links it’s usually met with at least a pat on the back, probably more. In most cases you see an increase in rankings, but do these links actually help raise awareness of a brand? And, if you don’t properly consider the brand in a link earning campaign, can pursuing a large number of links come at a cost?

Back in 2014, a video appeared on YouTube called “First Kiss”. The video depicted 20 strangers kissing each other for the first time and received over 110,000,000 views on YouTube – but do you remember the clothing brand behind the video? Nope, us neither – and it even appears in the video.

First_Kiss

 

Despite the video’s viral success, it wasn’t until WREN – the clothing brand who produced the video – announced it was an advert, that they even received any press coverage for the video. Even then, because they had misled people regarding the origins of the video (many of the people featured were hired actors – not strangers) the coverage was mostly negative.

The “First Kiss” video is an important example of the difference between earning links and building brand awareness: the video earned over 3,000 links for WREN, from sites like TIME Magazine, Elle, MTV and Buzzfeed, yet, despite these links, the video did nothing to boost brand reputation; instead, the negative reaction had the opposite effect. Had they not misled people regarding the origins of the content, it’s very likely that this video would have earned the same high-quality links, but in a way that positively raised the brand’s profile.

Our recent campaign for Viking is a great example of branded viral content. It capitalises on the popularity of Star Wars and the buzz surrounding the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but at no point is the brand behind the project hidden; instead, the idea is so strong and relevant that it makes sense to be coming from the brand. Viking is, at the end of the day, a specialist in stationery, so it makes sense when the murals are made from post-it notes. This is the key to great viral content: making it feel natural. As a result, the campaigned earned a great number of links, from sites such as Mashable, The Metro, CNET and Nerdist. All the while, the Viking brand was at the forefront of the coverage.

Search Labs

 

As digital marketers, we all want to earn large numbers of high-quality links, but we should not aim to do so at the expense of a brand. Links and brand awareness are not the same thing – but they can be if the idea is closely linked to the brand. Websites like the Guardian, The Metro, Mashable, and Buzzfeed have a lot of influence, but it’s no good if a link comes from a page talking about kittens if the brand is a funeral home.

Content Creation by Search Labs

 

Building an audience and increasing traffic
Writing an external guest post does not always drive relevant traffic. Similarly, a viral video – or another form of content – may get millions of views or likes, however, there is no guarantee that that these people are relevant or even interested in visiting your website. Instead, when trying to build a larger audience, a brand should focus on two main areas: getting published in the top publications for its industry and providing top quality, shareable onsite content.

Top publications drive relevant traffic because they get your brand in front of the right audience. Work on targeted PR led campaigns, and newsworthy activities to be featured in these. If these publications accept guest authors, consider writing for them, but only if you are willing to produce high-quality content.

As well as targeted PR campaigns and exclusive guest authoring, you should – if building an audience and increasing traffic are your main goals – work on producing useful and necessary content on your own website; using links and external posts to build the authority of this great content.

To see lasting benefits, onsite content – created for the purpose of boosting traffic – should always be evergreen. For example, this could be a guide on how to choose the correct size of bicycle – information first-time bicycle buyers will always need before making a purchase.

If onsite content cannot be evergreen, it should always be updateable and part of a bigger theme of content. For example, this could be a guide, such as “The Best Places to Cycle in France” which would be updated annually and be placed within the umbrella theme: “The Best Places to Cycle in the World”. Updating content in this way keeps it relevant – users are more likely to click on search results from 2015 than 2013 – and the umbrella theme makes it easier for users to find using broad search terms. It also makes it more likely that a user will either subscribe to the series, or, at least, read other related articles.

It’s no good creating this great content if you do not share it. Therefore, you should always promote onsite content using paid social seeding to really see a boost in traffic. Using paid social seeding allows you to put your content in front of a very relevant audience. For example, the aforementioned guide to cycling in France can be placed in front of users who have both an interest in cycling and visiting France. If you have guides for other countries, these can be targeted in the same manner, increasing the number of highly relevant users that visit your site. The more you do this, the larger your audience will become.

Creating conversions and sales
Optimising content for conversions and sales isn’t really about numbers; instead, it’s about thorough research for well written, informative pieces and very focused targeting.

The most recognisable example of content for sales and conversions are service pages that describe what a brand or business offers. For example, this could be a page for divorce services offered by a law firm. Within this page will be a relevant call to action and measurable conversion, such as a phone number to call, or query form. When creating this content, it’s vital to put the purpose of the page before it’s shareability. It has to be useful, persuasive and well designed to optimise the number of visitors that convert. Using various tools like Hotjar to monitor user interactions with the page can help make changes that improve the conversion rate. It also helps you see a user’s journey across the whole site, giving an insight into additional information or actions you want to lead them towards.

When creating content for conversions and sales, it’s important to understand where your content falls within the buying funnel. For instance, a user will normally request holiday brochures early in the buying funnel, booking their holiday further down the line. At each point of this journey, the user is looking for different information. It’s important to understand this because this is how you make your content useful, as well as relevant.

Once you have your useful, relevant pieces of content, you need to get them in front of readers. Using targeting ads on social media will help with this. In the case of holiday brochures, you can target users who mention holidays, during colder months, when the desire to travel is high. Another way to promote them is to incorporate them into your link and brand awareness campaigns: instead of ideas that relate generally to a brand, think of great ideas that tie into service page topics.

Increasing inbound links
Even if you consistently produce great PR-led brand awareness campaigns and have top-notch onsite content, you will still need to earn links. This is because Google still uses links as a factor in its algorithms. Why is this important? Because a good Google rank leads to more users discovering your content and shareable assets, further audience growth, conversions, sales and brand awareness.

When earning links, you should always consider the value of a link. 1,000 links may sound great, but if they’re all poor quality links, they may actually have a detrimental effect on a website’s ranking. Instead, links need to be high quality and specific to the brand’s target audience.

We recommend working closely with the communities that make up your brand’s target market. If this is mothers, work with mummy bloggers and communities like Mumsnet. If this is TV and film buffs, consider working with sites like Nerdist, Comic Book Resources and Mashable. Reddit is a good place to share some kinds of content, but it’s a great place to research all kinds of content. Use Reddit and other sites that your target market use, to gain a thorough understanding of what they read, write and share. Once you know these websites, you know your link targets. Now you have to produce content tailored for them because those are the links that help define the Google rankings for your niche. One link from those is far superior to many from unrelated websites; when you build these relevant links to your onsite content you will help it rank in search engines, making it easier for users to find, further boosting traffic.

If you have an idea for a viral piece of content, designed to earn lots of links from different sources, it should always feed into onsite content to make those links appear more contextually relevant to Google. This onsite content should then contain a natural call to action or conversion opportunity. For example, for our Star Wars project we created onsite content that documented the making of our post-it note murals, with downloadable templates for users to make their own. Not only that, but we could naturally promote the post-it notes available on the Viking website alongside the templates. When news websites covered the story, they simply included a very natural, relevant link to the making-of page. This meant that the project didn’t ever feel overtly salesy – increasing its shareability. As a result, we were able to earn high-authority, stationery relevant links from a wide-range of high authority websites, Increasing Viking’s overall Google rank.

Conclusion
Brand awareness is all about exposure and as a result, mass exposure will always be the number one priority. However, simply picking a trending topic to capitalise upon may not be the best option; in most instances, a branded, integrated and targeted approach will be needed. Be transparent and never hide a brand. If building an audience and increasing traffic are your main goals, focus on producing useful and necessary content on your own website. Then, use links and external posts to build the authority of this great content. Understand what your target audience likes to read – and why they might come to you to read it. When targeting sales and conversions, thoroughly research your target market and the buying cycle for your industry. What do you need to provide future customers with? Be informative, authoritative, and well researched in your content. After you’ve done all of these things, start to build links to your great content, planning campaigns to go viral when possible and natural.

Ultimately, however, all of these different approaches should be integrated together within a larger marketing strategy that transcends online and digital boundaries.  Communication between departments is key in achieving this, with design, PR, SEO, marketing, all playing key roles.

For a more detailed discussion on how to achieve your KPIs, don’t miss the roundtable session being hosted by Ian Harris, CEO & Founder, Search Laboratory at the Content Leaders Masterclass #CLManc16 on Tuesday 26th January 2016 at The Castlefield Rooms in Manchester. 

 

#DLMLeeds Speaker Spotlight: Ian Harris

As part of our build-up to next month’s Digital Leaders Masterclass #DLMLeeds, Search Laboratory’s CEO Ian Harris, takes centre stage in our ‘Speaker Spotlight’ feature.

What can delegates expect to take-away from your session – Search in 2016: How you need to think and what you need to do?

        1. Actionable insights into effective SEM and its role in the buying cycle
        2. Real-life examples of successful search campaigns and advice on best practice in 2015 and beyond
        3. Agency tips and tricks on how to optimise your campaigns and maximise ROI
        4. How to avoid common ‘search campaign’ pitfalls

What inspired you to enter a career in digital?

There were two things that inspired me: I saw the collective specialisms of search marketing companies and translation companies coming together to make a mess of international search marketing, and I realised there was a gap in the market for culturally sensitive and linguistically faithful international search engine marketing.

The industry is very data driven and having a maths background – I love that!

What is the biggest ‘Digital’ challenge that brands face in 2016 and beyond?

Structuring themselves internally to maximise the efforts of all departments.  The interconnection between PR, SEO, PPC, Brand, display and offline marketing teams is critical because they all form part of the customer journey and all enhance each other.  Getting these teams with very different backgrounds and skill sets to work together for the greater good is critical (but is really hard), especially in large brands.

What’s the ‘one’ campaign you would have liked to have been involved with and why?

Paddy Power.  Why? It just looks like great fun and is viral marketing done really well.  Having said that, I love some of our campaigns because they have the same type of ethos but are highly data and results driven.

 

If you’d like to join the digital elite at #DLMLeeds, register here to secure a seat