Crystal Ball

Our Search Predictions for 2016

With Google always moving the goalposts, it can be hard for SEOs and businesses alike to keep up. Fortunately, if you keep your ear to the ground, you can monitor rumours and trends to predict and plan for the year ahead.

With this in mind, here are my top five search predictions for 2016:

Google Knowledge Vault

As we have already seen in 2015, we can expect Google to become an even bigger authority by expanding it’s knowledge vault – moving away from just directing you to different resources to answer your query, to providing the answer directly at the top of the search results.

Google Knowledge Vault

The Knowledge Vault collates information from across the web into a single database of over a billion facts, providing what Google sees as the most relevant answer to your query, along with related questions in some cases.

This is likely to push organic results further down page one, and potentially cause drops in traffic for sites ranking for longer tail query-based searches, if users can access the answer they need instantly. You are likely to see the big players like Wikipedia showing in the knowledge vault for a lot of searches, but there is an opportunity for sites with a lower domain authority to show if they can provide information about a query that Google sees as particularly relevant and accurate.

Penguin Becomes Real-Time

Google Penguin Algorithm

If you’re anything like we are, you will have been talking about the new Google Penguin algorithm for what feels like a lifetime, cleaning your backlink profile and ensuring your links are as natural as possible. But what’s different this time around, compared to the 2012 update that targeted black hat link-building tactics?

The premise is basically the same, but this time around the update will be working in ‘real-time’, meaning that sites who are penalised but clean up their act can expect to see a quicker recovery in rankings than experienced with the previous update.

The Rise in Mobile and App Search

Apps

Mobile search has become more prominent than ever before, with many SEOs suggesting it reached its peak in growth in 2015. As digital marketers and business owners, it’s now more important than ever to consider all devices not only when building a site, but creating campaigns to ensure the user gets the best possible experience whether they are on a desktop, using a tablet or their mobile phone.

We have already seen the number of mobile searches take over desktop searches in certain countries including the US and Japan, and we expect this trend to continue in 2016. If your website still isn’t mobile responsive – it’s time to get that upgrade.

App search will also continue to grow in influence. The introduction of app streaming by Google enables users to find and browse content within apps as easily as you would on a website. With app streaming, Google will  show you the content you’re looking for within an app, without requiring you to download it at all. If it works as it should, this is great news, especially for app-only publishers who want to get their content in front of users in the search engine results.

Using Schema to Differentiate

There are still a lot of companies (including big brands) not utilising schema mark-up to make their search listings stand out from the crowd. This is a fairly simple tactic to ensure your listings contain relevant information to drive the user to your site – with the Google Knowledge Vault ramping up, it’s obvious that consumers want as much information as possible in the search results – and it stands to reason that they are more likely to click on a listing that provides this.

A great example of this can be seen below for goodtoknow.co.uk, which is currently ranking organically for the phrase ‘cupcake recipe’, which includes reviews, the time it takes to make the cakes and how many calories they contain:

Search Listing Schema Mark-Up

With few companies adopting this, it represents an opportunity for companies to mark-up their data to differentiate them in the SERPs, and we expect to see more of this in 2016.

The Rise of Voice Search and Personal Assistants

Voice Search

Voice search is going to continue to grow, with the rise of mobile search as well as the likes of Microsoft adding their smart assistant Cortana onto Windows 10 for desktops last year. Add Google Now and Siri to the mix and voice search is set to grow quickly.

It’s important to consider how voice searches differ from text searches, in the language used and the fact that voice searches are likely to have more words per search and be more qualified. For example, rather than someone typing ‘B&Q’ in the search bar, they are more likely to ask ‘where is the nearest B&Q?’ if using voice search. This prompts content marketers and SEOs alike to think more about how they target their content and keywords to cater for the language used in voice searches compared to text searches.

While we can monitor trends and predict what Google will do next, the main thing to remember is that search is going to continue to evolve in 2016 and beyond, so we need to be responsive to change if we want to continue to compete.

Sources:

https://searchenginewatch.com/sew/news/2419288/is-google-testing-a-knowledge-vault-update
https://econsultancy.com/blog/67282-seo-trends-in-2016-what-do-the-experts-predict/
https://econsultancy.com/blog/65621-penguin-3-0-what-s-it-all-about/
http://searchengineland.com/its-official-google-says-more-searches-now-on-mobile-than-on-desktop-220369
http://marketingland.com/google-app-streaming-web-of-apps-152449
https://searchenginewatch.com/sew/how-to/2407782/the-rise-of-voice-search-and-something-you-can-do-about-it

Landing Pages

5 Top Tips To Optimise Your Landing Pages

Optimising your landing pages can ensure users stay on your site for longer, interact with your content and most importantly convert into customers! Well thought out landing page content is not only essential for e-commerce websites or companies running PPC campaigns, but every business with an online presence.

Follow our top five tips to ensure your landing pages provide the best possible experience for your customers:

1. Start with the fundamentals

Fundamentals

A great online experience starts with a great website, so before you look to optimise your landing pages make sure your site provides the best possible foundation. With mobile now contributing to 45% of all e-commerce traffic in the UK*, it is essential to ensure your pages are scalable to be read on mobile devices, as a failure to address this is likely to impair your rankings on Google, not to mention being detrimental to user experience.

Speak to your developer or SEO consultant about ensuring your site speed is not slow, by minimising the size of image files and scripts in the back-end, as studies have shown that slower page load times result in an increase in site abandonment*. Make sure consumers can see all of your great content quickly when they come through to your site.

Consider the accessibility of your content – is your text big enough? Do you sell internationally, if so, is it easy for consumers to navigate between different languages/currencies? If you sell products online, make sure consumers can easily access information about Deliveries and Rreturns, as  your website often serves as your first opportunity to provide great customer service.

2. Do your research

Research

A good place to start is by looking at how users are navigating through your site. Which pages are the most popular? Which pages are people leaving without having made any interaction? Heat mapping software like Hotjar enables you to see how users interact with your pages, from the percentage of users scrolling down the page, to the areas of the page they typically hover over, to the most popular links. Tools like these will enable you to identify areas of improvement, and where the hot spots are to put the most important information or calls to action.

The next logical step is to look at your competitors. Which companies are currently ranking for your target keywords? Do they rank for their homepage or a specific landing page? Look at how the page is structured, and how easy it is to navigate through the site. Don’t just look at your direct competitors, be aspirational – look at the brand leaders in your industry and sites of other brands you know sell well, as you can pick up some inspiration from them too.

3. Make the most of your campaigns

Don’t just consider your landing pages in isolation, as they form a key part of any campaign. Make sure your sales messages are communicated across all marketing channels – from PPC ads, to emails and even offline media like print ads. Consistency is key; you want customers to be able to instantly locate and recognise your offer, to generate the best return. ASOS have done this particularly well with their seasonal offers.

They promote their campaign through PPC ads:

Campaigns PPC

Which is consistently communicated via email marketing campaigns:

Campaigns Email

Which follows the same design as their landing pages:

Campaigns Landing Page

Be sure to track your campaigns using custom landing pages or tracking URLs, so you can see how they perform and improve on this over time. Ensure you capture customer data wherever possible to broaden the reach of future campaigns, for example offering customers a discount in return for them signing up to your newsletter.

4. Keep it simple

Keep it simple

Make sure your content is easy to digest, by breaking up text with eye-catching images, illustrations or graphics (see more information about how important imagery is on a website here). Consider the fact that users in the UK read left to right, and ensure the most popular content is ‘above the fold’ (the segment of the page you can see without having to scroll down). Be clear on what makes your business unique and display this at the top of the page.

Calls to action are vitally important – make sure it’s immediately clear what you want users to do – be it to view a particular page, make a purchase, submit an online enquiry or call you. Ensure these stand out in their positioning and the colours and language you use. Consider how you can add a sense of urgency, such as an online countdown to the end of a sale. Make enquiry forms as short as possible; you have a short space of time to capture the customer’s interest, so don’t give them any reason to drop off the site.

5. Build trust

Trust

Finally, consider how you can prove your unique proposition – do you have any awards/accreditations/customer testimonials you can use to inspire trust in customers? Make sure these are displayed clearly, and ensure you build a culture in your business where you are asking customers for feedback – to both improve your site and campaigns, and provide positive reviews to encourage new customers to buy into your business.

*Sources:

 

https://econsultancy.com/blog/66543-50-fascinating-stats-about-mobile-commerce-in-the-uk-2015/

 

https://blog.kissmetrics.com/loading-time/

 

Local SEO: More Than Just Page 1

Local SEO: More Than Just Page 1

The term SEO is often confused with some sort of technical wizardry which displays a website at the top of Google. However, there are so many accompanying factors that you need to take into consideration when building your brand visibility. Check out my top three contributing factors below…

1. Quality

As a local business owner, you want to relay to your customer the quality of the service that you can provide. So why would your website be any different? Leaving your position in Google to one side for a moment, we need to observe how your website is representing your company. Let’s look at a few important factors:

  • Does your website load in an appropriate amount of time? The worse case scenario is a potential customer leaving your slow-to-load website behind in a rush to find a better provider.
  • Does your website captivate your audience in the right way? The content needs to be engaging, the imagery needs to represent your business and there must be clear calls-to-action.
  • Is your website mobile responsive? The fact remains that a site which performs on a mobile will capture better engagement from your mobile users.

Whilst I asked you to leave your rankings in Google to one side, let’s revisit them for just one minute. I mention load time, mobile usability and overall website quality above. Did you know that Google takes these factors into consideration before deciding where to place you in their results page? They do. And if you have no idea whether your website has that all-important quality factor – check out where you stand with a free digital health check.

Creare's Digital Health Check Tool
Website quality is key.

2. Awareness

A website provides your business with a digital presence, but creating awareness is part of a much larger spectrum. At one time a two-page spread in a local directory was enough to spread the word but there is so much more to consider when you want to become a recognised brand. If you’re unsure whether you are advertising your business to its full potential, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you utilising branded social media channels? From Facebook and Twitter, to LinkedIn and that all important Google+ you can spread awareness of your company to masses of users.
  • Have you considered email marketing? Whilst your website may capture a potential customer, you should aim to regain their interest and perhaps their business with some content-driven email marketing.
  • Is your brand consistent? The design of everything from your website to your business cards should be reflective of your brand values.

And whilst I don’t mean to harp on about Google+ in this post, it can be a really important platform for local listings of your company. Ensuring that you have a verified Google+ page, with all of the relevant address details, may result in a maps listing for your company. See the possible results in the snapshot below:

Creare's Map Listing Result An example of Creare’s presence in a local search.

3. Trust

Often, you gain the trust of your customers after the first meet and you hope to see recommendations spread across the local area. However, you need to consider how important earning the trust of your potential customer base is. I have mentioned Google+ as an awareness tactic above, but now we’re going to focus on reviews. Utilising this page as a review platform is the perfect method of capturing a desired customer, right from the result of their local search page. Whether your potential customer uses keyword or brand based searches, Google can filter in the reviews and/or star rating that you have, which is a major trust signal from the very beginning. But here are some top tips for using this review platform:

  • Is the information correct? From your business name to your opening times, every piece of company data on this page should be correct and up to date.
  • Are your reviews genuine? Placing fictitious reviews on your own Google+ page, all of which are a five star rating, is extremely obvious. Leave it to your happy customers!
  • Have you spread the word? You could choose to send a follow up email to your satisfied customers with a link to your Google+ page, asking for a quick review of your services.

And check out how this data can be pulled through from your Google+ page below:

Creare Google+

Concluding point? Local SEO is so much more than page one results. It encompasses everything from quality to brand building to trust signals – all of which can be easily achieved by your business. 

Ducks_in_a_row_feature

5 Steps To Prioritise Your Digital Marketing

It’s no secret that the marketing industry has changed; gone are the days of being able to rely on handing out leaflets and placing a small text ad in the local newspaper to generate sales.

Digital has redefined the marketing landscape, and with £1 from every £7 spent expected to come from online sales by 2018*, those not responding to this are likely to fall behind.

But in an ever changing marketplace with an increasing number of digital channels available, how do you know which tactics to deploy and how to prioritise your marketing budget?

Step 1 – Put it into context

Before you start investing in digital marketing, try asking yourself the following questions:

Your Business: What do you want to achieve? How much budget are you willing to invest? Do you want to establish a long term strategy or are you more interested in short term wins?

Your Audience: How have customers found your company in the past? Which digital channels are they most likely to be receptive to? Do they typically buy your products/services online or in store?

The Market: How competitive is the market in which you operate? Is this reflected online? How do your competitors advertise?

There are various online resources you can use to help you identify the right digital channels for your business, for example Think With Google shows an overview of how each channel assists in the customer journey to purchase for different industries:

Think With Google Channel Split

Source: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/tools/customer-journey-to-online-purchase.html#!/the-uk/business-and-industrial/medium/generic-paid-search
 

For B2B, Google have identified that organic search (SEO) and email campaigns act more as assist interactions, whereas social media, display and branded PPC campaigns are more likely to be the last stage before purchase.

Step 2 – Optimise your website

Before investing in any online advertising, it is essential that you ensure your website is up-to-date with new and relevant information, is optimised for all devices, and contains clear calls to action. If these factors aren’t in place, your campaigns will be driving customers to a website which provides a poor experience and they are less likely to purchase.

It’s important to check your website is optimised for any campaign you are looking to run e.g. an email marketing campaign that contains links back to your website needs to drive customers to pages which contain relevant content and provide a clear path to conversion.

Step 3 – Choose your tactics

Depending on the competitiveness of your industry online, your budget and whether you’re looking for a short or long term campaign, each digital marketing channel has different benefits:

SEO – Search Engine Optimisation focuses on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) Google search results. SEO is a long-term strategic tactic as particularly in competitive markets, it can take time to generate tangible results. Investing long-term in SEO can generate great returns in terms of brand exposure, increased traffic and conversions.

PPC – Pay-Per-Click advertising involves paying for ads to be displayed in Google search results. It’s a great tactic for generating quick wins as it is possible to bid your way to the top of the search results instantly. However, depending on how competitive the market and search terms you want to target are, it can be very costly. PPC is recommended as a short term solution while longer term tactics such as SEO build momentum.

Display Advertising – Display campaigns enable you to create eye-catching ads, and place these on targeted websites based on the interests of your consumers. Similar to PPC, display advertising can be costly and the return is less likely due to lower average click-through-rates. However, these campaigns can be great from a brand building perspective.

Email Marketing – Email marketing is a great way to engage with existing customers and build brand loyalty. In order to make the most of your email campaigns, it is important to create a clear content strategy – for example, plan out monthly newsletters to keep your customers engaged, along with seasonal promotional offers to incentivise them to purchase.

Social Media – Social media is a great platform to engage directly with customers online. Paid advertising campaigns on the likes of Facebook give you access to their extensive consumer database, enabling you to target your products to customers who have liked your competitors profile, or have specific interests. It is important to have a content strategy in mind and develop a consistent tone of voice across all social platforms in order to get the best out of your campaigns.

Step 4 – Set up goals

Make sure your website is connected to Google Analytics, and add tracking codes to any campaigns you run, so you can measure the traffic specifically coming from each campaign. Setting goals in Analytics will enable you to measure each campaign against your KPIs, be it revenue generation, visits to your site or engagement metrics such as the time spent on site.

Step 5 – Analyse the results

The great thing about digital campaigns is that they can be easily scaled based on their cost and performance. For example, if your PPC campaign is costing too much, you can look at only running your ads at certain times of the day when you know your customers are likely to be browsing. Here, you can weigh up the investment in each channel with the return and tailor campaigns accordingly. It is advisable to utilise a mix of brand building and direct response campaigns to ensure you not only achieve short terms wins but keep customers engaged to sustain momentum.

If you’re unclear as to how to optimise your website, or you would like help in identifying the best digital channels for your business, try Creare’s free Digital Health Check tool, which gives your website a score based on best practises and clear recommendations on how to improve it.

*Source: https://www.onestop-webshop.co.uk/blog/prioritise-online-marketing/
digdemyst

‘Digital Demystified’ – Our Google Event Success

So, earlier this week a group from Creare headed down to Google UK in London for an amazing event where some VIPs joined us in the launch of our Digital Health Check, our bundle solutions and our new reporting suite. Our guests also learned some very valuable lessons in demystifying the digital marketing industry, and making it accessible for all businesses.

The day started out bright and early with Tom Darnell (CCO), James Bavington (Technical & Creative Director), Nick Rinylo (Operations Director) and Hannah Green (Head of Marketing) setting up at Google HQ ready to receive our guests.

We invited 120 people to join us and learn about the ‘new’ Creare; what we’re about and exciting partnerships formed to join us on our journey, as well as what’s in store for us for the rest of the year.

We had some very special guest speakers, including keynote speaker, Warren Knight, who engaged the audience with his presentation and helped businesses by being a part of our expert panel during the Q&A session (huge thanks again!).

As well as Warren, it was also a pleasure to have one of our clients of five years join us on stage. Richard Jones from Discovery Tours spoke about his experience with Creare and how we’ve helped his business grow, as well as develop digitally.

Throughout the day the drinks flowed, nibbles were enjoyed and there was networking galore amongst the many people that joined us for this landmark Creare event.

To watch the day in action, visit our YouTube channel to see how the event unfolded.

But for now enjoy the quick snapshot of some highlights of the day, both in London with Google and back in our Rugby office.

SEO

Questions To Ask Your Digital marketing Agency

A digital marketing agency should have the dedication and know-how needed to boost your business profile in the ever-expanding online world.

Of course, this will come at a price, so to get an idea of whether you’ll be getting your money’s worth, you’ll want to approach your initial meeting armed with a set of questions to help calculate your return on investment. These quick queries make a good starting point.

How will you improve my search rankings?

Your digital marketing agency should be able to provide a detailed strategy on how they will boost your search engine optimisation via various online techniques. From the coding of your website to regular content plans and a sound social media approach, the experts you’re working with need to know their SEO. If not, find someone who does.

How do you avoid Google penalties?

Google penalises some websites for acting unethically with their SEO (for example, plagiarising content from other websites or using spam-like techniques to drive traffic) or failing to follow webmaster guidelines. This can be crushing for a company that wants to boost its online profile rather than hinder it. An amateur agency will be stumped by this question, so it’s a good one to ask if you’re seeking a professional, reputable and trustworthy digital marketing approach.

Can you guarantee rankings?

If the answer to this question is anything other than no, then your digital marketing agency is leading you on. They may be confident that they can boost your profile for a particular search term, but there really are no guarantees – competition is fierce and constant, especially in the world of SEO. Instead, your digital marketing agency should be able to tell you what they will do to give you the best possible chance of rising through the search engine ranks.

What reports will I get?

Any digital agency worth their salt will keep you updated with regular reports and updates on how particular digital marketing campaigns are performing. These should be detailed, containing various different stats from which you will be able to calculate your ROI.

Can I help support the SEO?

Your digital agency should reply to this one with a resounding YES. The more information you can give them about your company, your industry and the types of customers you are looking to attract, the better understanding a digital marketing agency will have of an approach that is tailored to your individual business. Working collaboratively is often the key to online success.

Do you have any more suggestions? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet us @creare.

Brands-Bashed-by-Google

Brands Bashed By Google #Mobilegeddon

April 21st 2015 saw the dawn of ‘Mobilegeddon,’ Google’s new search algorithm that penalises websites failing to offer mobile users an easy and enjoyable browsing experience.

The change saw many businesses drop search rankings due to sites that don’t make the most of responsive designs or take into account the high percentage of internet users on mobile devices. Here are some of the big brands that have already been affected…

The AA

While it does have an optimised mobile website and has earned the mobile friendly tag from Google, the AA lost some visibility due to the non-optimisation of pages for a number of  key terms, especially those relating to insurance. Without mobile optimised landing pages for many of its insurance products, the user experience is harmed.

Next

Next experienced a 38% drop in mobile SEO visibility after Mobilegeddon, likely the result of poor technical implementation of their mobile site. The retailer’s online home fails to  respond correctly to a number of mobile devices (including Android and iOS phones).

Barclays

While Barclays have a mobile website on their root domain, the bank directs users to a series of non-mobile landing pages for several high volume terms. This poor usability practice  is repeated throughout the Barclays site, leading to a number of ranking drops for high volume terms.

British Airways

British Airways has lost some visibility due to a series of poorly optimised pages, including those related to particular travel destinations. The site therefore appears below two of its rival operators, Virgin Atlantic and Emirates, when searching for certain holidays.

Sky Vegas

Sky Vegas lost a quarter of its mobile visibility in the week after Mobilegeddon took place, much of which appears to be attributable to slots related terms. For the term ‘slots’, Sky  Vegas fell from position two to position 11, whilst for ‘online slots’, it fell from position two to position seven.

Google were being serious with this change. Even the big guys haven’t escaped. Is your website mobile friendly? Use our Mobile Friendly Checker to see.