Thursday 03 May 2018

Search – Different approaches to online marketing 

With the snow and April showers behind us and the promise of a sunny May Day bank holiday ahead, it was time for the latest PM Forum South West event in Bristol.

This time round, the talk was delivered by not one, not two but three marketing experts. Ben Hollom from M2 Bespoke shared his expertise on content. Natalie Scutt from McCann enlightened us on SEO. And David Mooney from SearchStar gave us his insights on PPC.

Grant Thornton played host in their stunning new Glass Wharf office space. After a light bite we got down to the presentations. 

Effective and engaging content

Ben began by exploring the definition of content marketing and explaining why it is so powerful. People prefer a brand that they know, like and trust. Content marketing works towards this. High quality, relevant content allows you to build a relationship with your market. It doesn’t scream “selling” or even explicitly promote a brand at all.

Content with lots of “we” in it isn’t effective. Without a focus on the customer, your content is a one-way street – not a sustainable way of communicating.

So the three rules for creating good content ideas are: 

  1. Think about your audience first.
  2. Think about your audience first.

And you’ve guessed it...

  1. Think about your audience first. 

A popular approach to generating content

Brand storytelling is a popular and effective way of generating content. The principles of this are to set the scene and tell the audience how they will benefit from consuming the content. Identify the pain-points of these people and offer a solution. Give some knowledge and be sure to provide some unique insight based on your own experience. This is great for building up your credibility.

After sharing some real-world examples of super content, Ben left us with five tips: 

  1. Resist the urge to sell, sell, sell. And be prepared to give knowledge away.
  2. Plan content which positions your company as likeable experts.
  3. Don’t leave your content to chance. Use a content calendar and content framework.
  4. Involve a diverse range of contributors.
  5. Producing content is only half the battle. Don’t forget distribution.

An expert approach to SEO

The topic turned to SEO, with Natalie Scutt now at the helm. Setting the scene she stated that 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine, and 79% of these are with Google. And - naturally banging the SEO drum - 51% of website traffic is driven by organic search, with 10% attributable to paid search and 5% to social.

Old school SEO focused heavily on the search engines - pleasing the robots. But nowadays you should be focusing on customers and your business. And this means understanding the intent behind searches.

However, before you even think about content, you need to build and maintain strong technical foundations. For instance, your loading speeds and domain strategy. With these technical underpinnings in place you can turn your attention to content.

Natalie shared her approach. Starting with data, she’d recommend some thorough research. Think about: 

  • Audience profiling,
  • A technical site audit,
  • A content audit,
  • A link audit and profiling,
  • Competitor analysis,
  • An analytics audit.

So knowledge is power and once you have your power, you can develop a strategy which will take in content, outreach and keywords.

Once your strategy is in place you can produce an action plan and implement it. This will include looking at meta data and copy optimisation, creating ongoing site improvement and link removal plans and, of course, a content plan.

It takes a diverse skillset to get all of the above right. And not necessarily one which you will find in one person: you need technical ability, strategic insight, creative talent and
analytical abilities. 

Pros and cons of SEO

Natalie concluded with an honest appraisal of the pros and cons of SEO. On the positive side of the ledger, an SEO plan will: 

ü  Deliver you long-term results.

ü  Raise your brand awareness.

ü  Build trust and credibility.

ü  Increase your site’s usability.

ü  Provide a return on investment.

ü  Fit with other channels.

But also be aware that SEO:

û  Can seem like Google is in control.

û  Can take a while to achieve results.

û  Requires continued investment.

Turning good PPC into great PPC

David Mooney took over the reins for the final part of this talk, and his specialist subject was pay per click (PPC) advertising. How do we get from good to great PPC? David raised a laugh by saying he only needed one slide for his talk: 

Only pay for the good clicks 

Of course, he’d be out of a job if it was as simple as that, and he proceeded to talk us through four considerations for PPC, which handily all began with the letter “A”: Assets, Audience, Automation and Attribution. 

PPC assets

Assets are primarily the adverts themselves and the website/landing page they go through to. While PPC adverts are short copy, there is a surprising amount of information and benefits you can squeeze into them, and David showed us some examples.

And once you have got “clickers” coming through to your website, you should be able to serve them everything they need on the page they land on. Creating an in-house checklist or framework is a useful tool to help you achieve this.

David also recommended remarketing as a valuable PPC asset. You have paid for the click so it is worth investing in to improve conversions.

PPC audience

When considering your audience, David recommended making the most of Google Ad Preferences which profiles what users are interested in. You can use this information to tailor your messaging and segment your target audiences. He provided an example of three people looking for a holiday in France, but for three completely different reasons.

PPC automation

Google’s machine learning can be powerful for picking up on certain signals when refining target audiences. However, it is not a silver bullet. SearchStar have tested automated vs manual and have seen mixed results.

PPC attribution

So it is the big question: which channel or person gets the credit for the sale? Is it PPC, social, SEO...? Most people work on a “last click” model, but this does not really work. David rounded off his section of the presentation by advising that data driven attribution is the most effective method - an approach that can let you see the whole journey that prospects have taken.

Online marketing Q&A

This PM Forum South West event was chaired by Liz McCloskey of PwC. And she diplomatically summed up the contributions of the various forms of search as being a coherent team effort, before leading a brief Q&A. The panel fielded questions on search budget allocation, the relevance of voice search, remarketing to B2B audiences and the importance of video.

Regular expert marketing talks in the South West

So our audience of professional services marketers left with heads full of knowledge on the latest best practice for content marketing, SEO and PPC. PM Forum runs regular expert marketing talks for the professional services sector. Find out more about PM Forum membership and attending the next event here.

Written by Huw Bendon, South West Regional PR
Managing Director and Founder, On Point Copywriting