Smart Insights Digital Marketing > The Marketing Strategy Blog Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Getting noticed for your first digital marketing job post University Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:00:00 +0000 My top 10 tips to help you secure your digital marketing graduate job

There’s something nostalgic about looking back at your time at University – especially when looking to offer advice.

Like that one time you were stranded in the library preparing for your last exam. Or the time you were rushing to print your coursework and realised you had run out of print credits. Frustrating at the time, but when you look back, there’s always a lesson learnt.


University offers so much, yet it’s often under utilised by students. This is sometimes only realised by graduating students when it’s too late to seize those opportunities.

So this is me, who has been there, done that, passing the baton of advice on to any Under-grad or Post-grad students who may be considering their future in digital marketing. The following tips are lessons I wish had been passed down to me in my time of need. So if you’re preparing for graduation, or just want to get ahead, check them out and let me know what you think!

10 tips for Undergraduate or Postgraduate Students wanting to get a first job in Digital Marketing

  • Tip 1. Make the most of your time

Whether you plan to secure a grad scheme, start your career or just go travelling, one day your time at university will amount to something, and if you knuckle down now you’ll be thankful later.

University is a great opportunity to discover yourself and gain independence, but at the end of the day you don’t want it to be wasted time. The key take-home from this post is to make the most of your time at university, but how…

  • Tip 2. Get experience

I’m adamant the most valuable aspect of my time at University was my placement year. Before we go any further this isn’t a ‘uni-bashing’ article. There’s no ‘I learnt more in one week on the job than I did at Uni’ sentiment around here, and this is why…

I spent over 15 months working for a sports travel business, heading up their online marketing. During this period I was exposed to challenges that I’d never faced before, and I was forced to develop new skills.

One of the key benefits of my placement wasn’t skill related, it was more human than that. It was focus and determination and it transferred directly to university.

When I returned to university I knew what I wanted and the only way to get that was to knuckle down and be committed to my course, expand my knowledge and achieve the grades I knew I was capable of.

With half of recent UK graduates stuck in non-graduate jobs the graduate job market is as competitive as ever. The long and short of it is that you need experience. I was lucky that Leeds Metropolitan University had a great Careers Advice Centre that helped prepare me for applications and interviews. If you aren’t as lucky at your university then there’s plenty of resources out there. Just check out Target Jobs or Milkround and get searching for your placement year.

  • Tip 3. Study Abroad

Along with their careers advice team, Leeds Met also have great international links which allow students to spend a semester abroad through their Study Abroad Programme.

Now I wasn’t lucky enough to get an exchange, but it’s one of my biggest regrets. Not only does it provide great life experience, but in today’s growing international community, having experience working overseas could just be the different in helping you secure that dream job after graduation.

If you get the chance then apply. Don’t have regrets.

  • Tip 4. Digital resources

Once you’ve spent some time working in the marketing industry you get a feel for where you want to progress. For me it was digital, and if you’re reading this article then you’ve at least got a slight interest in digital marketing.

With the fast pace nature of digital it’s critical to keep up-to-date with the latest trends by staying plugged in to key industry resources such as Smart Insights, Econsultancy and Mashable

Smart Insights

There are also some great specialist resources out there such as Moz for the SEO inclined, as well as one of my favourite digital resources, QuickSprout

  • Tip 5.  Digital courses and qualifications

Along with the great resources outlined in the previous point, there are also some fantastic opportunities to gain recognised digital certifications.

Google Analytics Academy is at the fore-front of digital certification, and there courses are a ‘must-have’ for those starting out in digital. The syllabus is a great way to learn the basics of Google Analytics at your own pace with video tutorials to help you along the way, plus it’s FREE so what are you waiting for?

If you followed my recent post about digital analytics you’ll see that there’s a wide range of certifications available. However the Digital Analytics Fundamentals is a great start and should you pass, it’s a fantastic addition to your CV.

  • Tip 6. Read, Read, Read

One of the greatest marketing books I’ve ever read is ‘The New Rules of Marketing & PR# David Meerman Scott. This book helped spur my interest in digital marketing, and I don’t know where I would be in my marketing career had I decided not to open the first page.

Engage, expand, enjoy…

  • Tip 7. Study

During university you learn a lot about yourself. The first two years of university you find yourself, make new friends and get to grips with your degree. You pick up areas of interest; you get to know what you do and don’t like.

During your final year things change and it gets serious. You’ll notice a switch in behaviour amongst your fellow students. Rather than a wild night out, many will hit the hay, knowing full well that tomorrow they’ve got a big library session on their hands. Don’t worry though, there’s still plenty of time for fun.

You need to know your subject and actually be prepared for your seminars and lectures by reading around the topic. Not only does this help you understand the module, but you’ll find that you’re actually engaged with the seminar and you’ll get more out of your time at university.

Trust me when I say the most important place on campus is the library. Your time spent here can literally make or break what grade you get.

Engage with the subject, find your passion and get after it. You’ll thank me later.

  • Tip 8. Prepare

This point follows on from the previous but it’s that important it requires an extra emphasis.

In my first two years at university I did very little (if any) reading around my subject. I thought I could do enough by just cramming the week before deadlines.

The truth is that 70% of your final grade is decided by your final year. It just isn’t good odds to gamble your degree on being able to cram a year’s worth of study into the two weeks before finals.

Read around your module, challenge popular theory by offering different points of view. Again, just engage with the subject, you’ll reap the rewards both in your grades and your overall enjoyment.

  • Tip 9. Job Hunt

So you’ve put in the hard yards and you’ve got the grade you wanted. Next up is to secure that dream grad job. Truth is most the good graduate schemes start their application process quite early on in the academic year, so if you don’t want to miss the buck you best be prepared. A good place to start is by visiting recruitment popular recruitment websites, as well as The Times 100 Top Graduate Employers

With Digital Marketing being somewhat of a niche when it comes to grad schemes your going to have to do a bit of digging. Most agencies have some great internship posts, particularly if you have a language or two under your belt.

Econsultancy’s Jake Hird wrote a great article a while back which highlighted who’s investing in digital marketing grad schemes. A belter of an article and if you want to get into digital marketing then check it out.

  • Tip 10. Have Fun

Okay there’s been some hard hitters in this post. I don’t want you to think I’m all work no play. I had a great time at university, I made some great memories that I’ll never forget and have made some fantastic friends.

However would it have been worth if I chose not to study, flunked out and didn’t achieve what I went to university for in the first place? In my mind it wouldn’t have been. It’s not cool or clever to be the clown.

Enjoy yourself, study hard, and have fun, you’ll have a much better time for it come graduation when you’re celebrating your achievements with your friends and family.

Image Credit/Copyright:  hxdbzxy :123RF Stock Photo

]]> 0
The Five biggest mistakes that digital marketers make with PR Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:00:00 +0000 How to avoid those typical PR blunders

PR SolutionsPR, like many parts of digital marketing, can be a numbers game. You try different pitches to different publications and hope that something works. Along the way, you make mistakes and you learn from them.

Below, we’ve spelled-out five of the most standard mistakes of PR outreach so you can avoid making them.

  •  Mistake #1: Thinking news will come to you

It can be exhausting, but in order to get coverage, you need to seek it out. And today, there are more tools available than ever for low-budget, reduced-effort PR outreach campaigns.

‘Info’ and ‘tip’ lines are freely available online and more effective than you probably think, too and social platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn or software-as-service like MuckRack provide an opportunity to get in touch directly with people you might otherwise never have had access to.

Following a reporter’s social media feeds will give you a sense of their personality and what topics interest them. Re-tweets and shares may even help open some initial doors.

If you’re planning to reach out via social media, reach out through your most established account or the one most suited to the pitch.

  • Mistake #2: Reaching out with nothing to offer

The news media is a fast-paced business. In the digital age especially, the pressure on publications is to get the latest news, first, and get it out as quickly as possible.

Don’t expect that a publication will be interested in covering ‘your company,’ because your company, in and of itself, is not news. And definitely don’t reach out before you have some to deliver on the news end.

Wait until you have a newsworthy announcement to make before seeking coverage. Otherwise, you’ll just damage your credibility and hurt your chances the next time you actually do have something to work with.

What qualifies as news? Well, that varies depending on the publication and writer and what exactly your business consists of. But these are a few standard announcements every business should be looking to use as launch platforms for outreach:

  • Launches (you’re starting your business or releasing a new product)
  • Fundraising (you’ve just raised $10,000 on kickstarter)
  • Milestones (your company turns 5!, surpasses 10,000 users, gains 50,000 followers on Twitter, etc.)
  • Acquisitions (your company acquires, or is acquired by, another company)
  • Joining a cool club or receiving an award
  •  Mistake #3: Not minding your manners

A little politeness can go along way for you when your goal is to convince other people to shine a light on your business.

Again, PR is a numbers game, which means that strategy has to look forward, beyond this piece of news or this particular campaign.

Don’t become so committed to getting coverage for that one story that you squander what could be a lengthy and productive relationship down the road. Remember to always be courteous, even when the response you’ve been handed is less than ideal, or possibly rude itself.

Keep in mind that journalists are busy people, reading through more solicitations, emails, and press releases than you would ever want to. Empathize with that. Tell them, for example, ‘I understand that you might not have time to respond.’

Be persistent, but know that no amount of badgering is going to get someone to publish a story if they don’t want to on its merits, and that a good interaction will pay dividends, if not now, then in the future.

  • Mistake #4: Rushing your pitches

As much as you may feel like a machine sending out pitches all day, the reporters going over them are people.

And before those people get around to giving your press release the time of day, they’re going to read your email. It seems simple, but the best outreach email really is like the best marketing emails: personalized, cordial, brief, and professional. Professional means free of mistakes and well-mannered. Brief means no more than around five one- or two-line paragraphs.

  • Give them a succinct idea of who you are and why they should be interested.
  • Show that you took time to learn about the person and publication you’re writing to and that you’ve given some thought to how your news can fit the types of stories they aim to cover.
  • And, of course, be polite.

Here’s a quick sample of how you might go about it.

Hi Jane,

My name is Joe Shmo and I’m contacting you because I enjoyed your article on improving digital marketing ROI and thought you might be interested in a new announcement from my company, SmartInsights.

SmartInsights is a prominent digital marketing strategy blog that specializes in providing actionable, analytics-based insights to our readers.

Next week, we’ll be publishing our latest e-book, “Planning Template,” which compiles professional digital marketing templates created by our team of global experts, and will be available free on our website.

Below I’ve attached an official press release, along with pictures of the book cover and some of the chapter pages.

If you’re interested, we would be happy to offer you exclusive access to the launch story, including interviews with any of our staff and/or the authors of the e-book.

I understand that you’re busy and might not have time to respond. If not, I hope you don’t mind that I send other announcements in the future.

Please, let me know if there’s ever anything I can do to help in the course of your writing. And thanks for your attention. 

Joe Shmo
Editor-in-Chief, Smart Insights


  • Mistake #5: Don’t ask for too much

It’s important to show that you know a journalist’s time is valuable:

  • Don’t ask open-ended questions or approach journalists with frivolous ‘just wanted to introduce myself’ emails. Come when you have something, or not at all. The internet provides plenty of forums for casual interaction, but if you’re sending an email, there should be a purpose behind it.
  • Don’t ask to meet for coffee, unless you’re already on casual speaking terms with that person. Anything you have to say or propose can be spelled out in a quick email, or it doesn’t need to be spelled out at all.
  • Don’t offer anything you’re not prepared to deliver. Don’t, for example, reach out to dozens of journalists at once with an exclusive. If they say yes, and you have to turn them down, you may never have their ear again.

Much of PR is common sense. But it’s good to hear these things over and over, because you’d be amazed at how many savvy marketers and business people make the same basic mistakes. Making sure you’re not one of them is as good a way to stand out as anything unique you might bring to the table.

Image/Copyright: OpenClipArt/cyberscooty
]]> 0
Which digital role is right for you? [Infographic] Wed, 22 Oct 2014 09:00:00 +0000 An interactive map for your new digital marketing job role

Do you know where your digital skills and passions lie, but aren’t sure which digital marketing role to target? NeoMam Studios have produced a fun infographic to help you map out your skills with suggested roles. Although it references apprenticeships it also prompts thoughts about the right type of role for more experienced digital marketers

This will be a useful tool to use in conjunction with our recently updated Digital Marketing Job Descriptions and Roles Template to guide you through the digital jobs maze to find what is right for you or to build up a role specification for a new digital specialist in your team.

Digital Apprenticeship Infographic

As  you clickthrough you will have the chance to click onto the 4 skills at the end of your mapping and be guided through a journey to match your skills to the right job. Start the Journey by accessing NeoMam Studios’ full interactive infographic How to apply for a digital apprenticeship.

This infographic also reminded us of Simon Swan’s post from last year suggesting people working in digital marketing need a balanced range of skills defined as a T-Shaped Marketer.

]]> 0
Building and structuring your content marketing team Wed, 22 Oct 2014 07:05:00 +0000 Day 3 in our 5 days to Successful Content Marketing series

content marketing team - football

In previous days in our series we have defined a vision and strategy for Content Marketing. Now, today’s the day to start thinking about who’s actually going to put all of this together. You’ll need to work out who does what in your content team, and how much time and effort you can realistically muster.

At its simplest, your content team needs to look something like this:


All of the above roles could be resourced in different ways, depending on the scale and ambition of your operation. In some cases, several roles may be filled by one person wearing several hats; in other cases, one role may be taken by a whole team or an outsourced agency. Here are the key players:

  • The Editor sits at the heart of the operation. They decide what you talk about and when, commission work from the creators (writers/designers/video producers etc), and also decide what to leave out. They’re basically the content plan in walking, talking human form.
  • The Creators get stuff done to briefs supplied by the editor. (Remember that it’s vital to create a simple briefing form.)
  • The QA/Sub-Editor checks content for style, consistency, digital best practice, typos and so forth.
  • Your in-house experts provide the raw material for your content. They may not be client-facing, and they may not know how to write in short, snappy bullets. However, they are the guardians of your in-house expertise. Part of the Editor’s job is to cultivate relationships with the experts and find ways to gather raw material from them that can be turned into usable, shareable, search-friendly content.
  • The Managing Editor is a senior sponsor for your operation. They have enough clout to argue for the budget and resource that will enable you to maximise the returns on your content.
  • Often demonised, your stakeholders are the people who sign things off – or not – including legal, compliance, brand, SEO and more. No content marketing operation can succeed without taking their input into account. The key to stakeholder management is to educate them up front about what you’re trying to achieve and to make them part of the content creation journey from the outset, rather than see them as adversaries who come in at the end and spoil the content party. Stakeholders are people too, and they have an important job to do.

Work out who does what, how much time they’ll have available for content marketing, and decide how much content you can realistically produce per week or month.

Always start small and always underestimate what you can do. If you think 1 blog post per week, a daily tweet and a monthly white paper is about as much as you’ll be able to produce initially, that’s fine. Commit to that, make it happen and keep it going. Once you get some traction from your content, you can build the business case for more resource and more dedicated time.

Output: A simple diagram of your team structure, identifying key roles and the people who’ll be carrying them out. A brief summary of resource and minimum content output. A simple briefing form.

Case study: Indium Corp

Indium Corp manufactures soldering components. The company now runs a massive 73 different blogs, all based on targeted keyword phrases related to their industry, with the goal of creating contacts that convert.


According to content marketing guru Rebecca Lieb, the strategy resulted in customer contacts increasing by 600% in a single quarter. All of the blogs are written by Indium engineers, who are passionate about what they do and have the necessary expertise to talk knowledgeably to prospects.

[Editor's note: For more on structuring teams to manage multichannel marketing, see our Structuring a Digital Team template for Expert members.]

Image/Copyright:@PA Images
]]> 0
3 facts you may not know about conversion funnels Tue, 21 Oct 2014 09:00:00 +0000 Examples and tips to improve your conversion funnel for your persona?

freewayconversionfunnelVisualizing your conversion funnels, personalizing them for your buyer personas, optimizing their CTAs, landing pages, and other elements requires knowing things you may not know and testing new concepts.

Conversion funnels are the freeway systems of website infrastructure, with landing pages as on-ramps and exit pages as off-ramps; but also with a variety of bridges, underpasses, toll booths, and traffic cameras throughout.

MarketingSherpa shocks us with the statistic that only 68% of B2B marketers have identified their funnel. And, naturally, in order to optimize your funnel and explore the things that you do not yet know about funnels, you first need to define what your funnel is.

The Basics: What is your conversion funnel?

Theoretically, your funnel is the series of steps prospects take on their journey to becoming your customers. Graphically, a conversion funnel may look like this:


The optimist sees every step of the funnel as an opportunity to provide visitors what they need in order to progress to the next step. The pessimist sees every step as a point of divergence where visitors drop out of the funnel. The realists realize that websites typically have more than one funnel, based on different personas of visitors.

Your funnel may start from a call to action in an ad or an email. Once a user clicks that, he may be taken to a landing page. Then, he is prompted to complete a form. The form completion likely triggers a thank you page and a confirmation email.

Once you solidify your current conversion funnels, you may want to engage in optimizing your funnels, but there are a few things you probably didn’t know:

1. Funnels for Personas: Different strokes for different folks

Before you examine your funnels for optimization opportunities, you need to understand that different buyer personas need different funnels. For example, if your site targets young college students for its low-cost subscription and upper-middle class professionals for its premium services, you will find that each persona requires different steps toward becoming a loyal paying customer and advocate.

An eager (and often unexperienced) young buyer may progress quicker through a funnel toward a low-cost option; while a seasoned executive may need more proof, comparisons, analyses, and reports before making a decision to purchase an expensive subscription.

2. The Calls to Action: are yours optimized?

In tracking and monitoring calls to action, we have found certain indicators for success.

A short disclaimer is in order, however, because what works for one persona may not be a fit for another. What is effective for each industry, product, price point, traffic source, etc. needs to be tested to find the optimal solution.

In general, to be effective, calls to actions should be:

  • Short and clear. 2-5 words is the optimal length.
  • Urgent, descriptive, and action oriented. Typically, ‘Download Today’ or ‘Sign Up Now’ work better than ‘Download the free guide to learn how to write urgent calls to action’ or ‘If you don’t sign up today, you are missing out.’
  • Stand out. Graphically, use colors that contrast with the rest of the page. And make sure the CTA is large, bold, and in a prominent position to be noticed at the time the user is ready to convert.

A great example comes from


Captured from:

As you can see in this example, the CTA button uses short and clear text: Start Now. It is urgent and explains exactly what the button will do. The yellow color of the button immediately draws a user’s attention and invites him to click.

Another great example for the United Airlines credit card:


Captured from:

3.  Optimizing Landing Pages

Volumes can be written (and have been!) about the optimization of landing pages alone. Instead or reinventing the wheel, we will just point out some things you probably didn’t know about landing page optimization.

  • Videos help

Conversions can be increased by 86% by using video on landing pages, according to EyeView.

  • Personalization is important

Anvil Media reports that Axway increased ROI over 291% with custom landing pages and tests for each of their PPC ad groups with dynamically generated keyword-specific content on the pages.

  • Don’t forget mobile

Deluxe increased conversions by 153% by using a mobile-optimized version of their desktop landing page, according to Ion Interactive.

  • People power

In a study led by Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan, tests were run for bank campaigns in which short term loans were offered at different interest rates and with different images. The amazing results showed that a picture of a wholesome, happy woman had ‘as much positive impact on the response rate as dropping the interest rate by four percentage points.’ These images, often referred to as ‘hero shots,’ have a great effect on conversions.

  • Reviews offer a lift

Further studies show that reviews and customer testimonials add trust and lift conversions. When comparing the impact of branded content, expert content, and user reviews on items costing $399 or less,

Nielsen found that intent to purchase is strongest after reading a user review. Econsultancy found that 61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision, consumer reviews are trusted nearly 12 times more than manufacturers’ descriptions, and that reviews produce an average 18% uplift in sales.

Remember: It’s your Conversion Funnel!

Studies have been conducted. Statistics have been published. Best practices have been established. But the most important things about your conversion funnels can only be uncovered by testing, optimizing, and re-testing your conversion funnels.

As we alluded to above, what works for one (or even for most) may not work in your particular case. For example, there is a possibility that hero shots won’t be effective in your funnel or that the yellow CTA that works so well for Wix and United just isn’t right for your visitors.

The only way to know for sure is to take these common best practices, apply them to your own initiatives and test the results on your funnels. Do more visitors merge onto your conversion funnel freeway with each change? Or do your exits beckon them?

Your conversion funnels are just that: yours. And to reap the most reward from them, you must test, optimize, and re-test them for yourself.

]]> 0
Define how content marketing will add to your brand Tue, 21 Oct 2014 07:45:00 +0000 Day 2 in our 5 days to Successful Content Marketing Series

content marketing megaphoneYesterday I introduced our mini series by reviewing the key content marketing strategy questions.  Today’s advice is all about working out how your brand and business offering can extend into a content proposition. What kind of content can you credibly create, and how can this content support your business goals?

Think of a classic sales funnel, such as AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action). Your content marketing activity will typically be most valuable around the Attention and Interest top end, where search and social tend to be the key triggers of engagement.

So ask yourself: what kind of content can we create that the people we’re trying to reach might care about, or be prepared to offer a click or an email address for? For a quick answer to this, consider:

  • What expert knowledge do we sit on? What do we know more about than anyone else?
  • What kind of questions are people searching for that we can provide credible answers to?

Start by coming up with a few search terms related to your area of expertise. Google them and look at related searches in any of the free keyword planner tools. Look on forums and social sites where you might find the kind of people you want to reach. What are they talking about? What do they want to know about? Where could you step in and add value?

With a bit of thinking along these lines you can start to turn your business offering into a content proposition. All we need here is a simple content mission statement that turns what you do into what you can credibly talk about.

So a commercial bakery chain makes and distributes pastries, but its content proposition could be ‘everything you need to know about down-to-earth baking’. A stationery supplier to SMEs might go for ‘ways to improve the productivity and atmosphere of your office life’. A sports gear manufacturer might focus on ‘helping you achieve peak performance in your chosen sport’, while a virtual office specialist might choose ‘the changing workplace of the future’ as their content specialism. You get the idea.

The statement might include information about your target audience (eg small businesses), what you’ll be delivering content-wise (eg tips, advice, resources) and what the outcome is for your audience (eg a more productive, happier workplace). But keep it simple, get everyone to buy into it, and use it to filter ideas – if a content idea doesn’t sit well with the mission statement, it’s not the right idea for you.

Output: A simple one-line content mission statement that you can stick up on the wall for all to see.

Case study of how content marketing can support a brand: Louis E. Page

Louis E. Page is a family-owned fencing and mesh company that sells a variety of products, from garden fences to specialised material for zoos. It’s Fence Post blog has a distinctive tone of voice and is focused on answering customer questions. Thanks to this, it has gained over 2000 leads from organic search, over a much wider and more diverse base, in a single year.


Read the full Hubspot case study here

Image/Copyright:@PA Images
]]> 0
What does negative SEO mean? Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:15:00 +0000 3 case studies showing how negative SEO works

Negative search engine optimization (SEO) can take many forms, but the most dangerous are those you never see coming. It’s not indulging in ‘black hat tricks’ hoping you’ll never get caught, getting lazy when defining ‘quality content’ or getting talked into invisible text as a means for boosting your rankings. The worst kind of negative SEO is an attack from the competition. It can be many things, but some of the most common include:

  • A competitor buying ‘bad links’ and then pointing them to your site to sink your rankings
  • Hacking websites to inflict damage
  • ‘Review bombing,’ which seems like a positive thing at first, but when the competition floods review sites with glowing reviews for you it seems ‘paid for’ and can result in a search engine penalty
  • Reporting you falsely to Google for participating in black hat tricks
  • Stealing non-indexed content
  • DMCA removal requests

Unfortunately, website owners have very little control over external links, but you can still protect your website from this type of negative SEO. The best offense is a good defense, and when it comes to the battle for SEO rankings, remember that ‘playing clean’ will always keep you ahead in the long haul. Consider negative SEO watchdogging just as important as those Google Analytics tools or daily social media reporting.

Case Study 1: Bestseller blasting on Amazon

Your competition doesn’t need to be an SEO guru and read Smart Insight’s SEO hub for tips (or even know what SEO is an acronym for) in order to engage in a full-blown negative SEO attack. Recently, bestselling crime author RJ Ellory was caught flooding Amazon with fake review (ironic, right?). He was found both writing high reviews for his own books while simultaneously writing horrendous reviews for those he saw as his top competitors. The British writer was caught by another writer, Jeremy Duns, who brought down a media firestorm via Twitter.

Duns tweeted, ‘Ellory writes five-star reviews of his own work on Amazon. Long, purple tributes to his own magnificent genius. RJ Ellory also writes shoddy, (insert four letter word here) sniping reviews of other authors’ work on Amazon, under an assumed identity.’ At least two pen names have been used by Ellory, but (wisely) Ellory’s publisher, Orion Books, has chosen not to comment when ABC reached out. However, Ellory himself has admitted his actions and sends his regrets.

Case Study 2: Journal website hacked and content ruined

The DeNovo Journal Online was recently hacked with what appears to be the sole purpose of destroying and changing content. Dr. Ketchum, the website’s owner, temporarily took the website down until repairs could be made and worked diligently with the hosting company to make repairs as quickly as possible. On Facebook, Dr. Ketchum wrote, ‘The haters have been busy,’ when describing the experience. This isn’t her first experience with what she’s dubbed the ‘Melba Haters,’ a group that’s seeking to discredit her work with DNA.

Once the site was hacked, much of the high quality content was removed completely while ‘new’ content was added. The false content suggested that Dr. Ketchum’s DNA Study did not abide by Peer Review standards. By removing quality content, the hackers effectively altered the overall content quality of the site which in the long haul would destroy SEO rankings. Fortunately, the website owner caught it quickly and took the proper steps: Temporarily removing the site until security could be optimized and the quality brought back up to standards.

Case Study 3: Reviews for the highest bidder

There’s writing fake reviews (for better or worse) for free, and then there’s buying fake reviews. The New York Times recently reported that Yelp has been hosting sting operations and has caught employees posing as reviewers in order to make some extra cash. Yelp has also caught companies trying to bribe people for reviews, offering up to $50 for a glowing review on their site. While this type of negative SEO can get expensive quickly, it might be worth it to some competitors who have a particular bone to pick.

The good news is that reputable review sites like Yelp are doing everything they can to protect fellow businesses. The bad news is that it’s not Yelp’s responsibility: It’s yours. Protecting a website against negative SEO is solely the job of the website owner, no matter how fierce the competition may be.

Protect your online reputation

Here’s how to protect yourself and your online reputation from getting wrongly marred:

  • Keeping your website clean

Following SEO best practices as well as security best practices is the number one way to keep negative SEO at bay. As a website owner, remember:

  • Sites with strong domain authority aren’t as vulnerable to negative SEO as others
  • Engaging in negative SEO is very dangerous, so your competition has to think it’s wroth it
  • If you monitor SEO factors, you can catch negative SEO and correct it in a timely manner
  • Google’s review systems are pretty solid and recovery happens quickly

Recently, Google launched the webmaster’s Disavowal Tool which is very effective, very powerful, and should only be used as a last resort. It’s for removing links you believe are dangerous and were not added by you.

However, it’s always best to clean up links yourself manually before opting to Disavowal. If you and your webmaster believe that this is, indeed, your best bet, you can start the process now.

  • Tools for fighting back

One of the best ways to prevent negative SEO is to simply catch it early. You can do this by setting up Google Webmaster Tools Email Alerts or opting for another alert program.

Google’s will instantly alert you if it’s suspected that your site is on the receiving end of a malware attack, pages aren’t indexed, you just got dinged with a Google penalty or there are issues with server connectivity. Get started by clicking on ‘Webmaster Tools Preference’ and enabling email alert preferences.

Also make sure to watch your backlinks profile via a tool like Ahrefs. This is how you can manually see if someone is building links pointed to your site. Other reputable options are or Open Site Explorer. You don’t have to opt for manual either; automate your backlinks check and get a report letting you know if anything seems fishy.

Sometimes negative SEO happens to the best of businesses. However, it’s how quickly and well you respond that really matters.

Thanks to Larry Alton for sharing his advice and opinions in this post. Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

]]> 1
5 days to Successful Content Marketing Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:00:00 +0000 Day 1 – Answer the key content marketing strategy questions

content marketing signpost

In this practical, 5 day series, I’ll help define a ‘quick-and-dirty’ 5-day plan to help towards improving your content marketing strategy, without spending a fortune on paid media content distribution.

I’ve said this series is ‘quick and dirty’ since we believe that The perfect is often enemy of the good. When it comes to content strategy, it’s easy to spend a vast amount of time thinking about what you’re going to do and worrying about how to get it just right… without actually getting any content created or distributed.

But there comes a time when the Why needs to turn into the How. If you wait for all your strategic ducks to line up in a perfectly formed row, there’s a good chance the opportunity that content offers your business will drift off with the competition.

That doesn’t mean you should start producing content at random and hope for the best. A good content marketing plan is vital to turn your strategy into an agile, flexible operation – one that, thanks to the nature of digital, you can test and refine as you implement it.

So here is our quick-and-dirty plan for getting a strategic, well-planned, effective content marketing operation off the ground in just 5 days…

Day 1: Answer the big questions as best you can

Today you’re going to try and answer the big strategic questions as far as you can – in 1 day.

  • You’re going to work with what you know, and make intelligent guesses about what you don’t.
  • Take a look at the questions below and jot down the answers on 1 document, which you can then share with the team.
  • You can return to and update this ‘strategy’ whenever you want to tweak it in the light of new insights or decisions, or when you’ve had more time (or more budget) for research.
  • Sit yourself somewhere quiet on your own, or if you can gather your team run this as a group session.
  • Don’t invite all of the interested stakeholders unless you can be sure of alignment and a speedy output. Remember this is a quick-and-dirty approach!

Finally, write down, as far as you can, the answers to these questions:

  • Q1.  What are our business/marketing goals? eg generate more leads online, convert more browsers to buyers, differentiate our brand as best in class etc. If there are lots of goals, prioritise them 1 to 3 and forget the rest at this stage.
  • Q2. Who are we trying to reach? Summarise personas, demographics and any other customer data you have easy access to. Again, focus on the top 3.
  • Q3. How will we know if our content marketing is working? Make a quick list of easily achievable and available measurements – social shares and likes, email data capture, newsletter opens, search traffic, bounce rates etc.
  • Q4. What’s our tone of voice? If you don’t have tonal guidelines, find a piece of previous content you all liked and use that as a shorthand reference. Pick out 5 things from it to act as guidelines for future content.

Output: A core strategy document outlining goals, audience, tone of voice guidelines and success indicators.

What’s coming next in our 5 part of our content marketing series?

Day 2: What’s your content brand? What kind of content will support your core strategy and how are you going to figure this out? A great example to learn from is included.

Day 3: How are you going to produce this content? Create your team structure, sources and workflows.

Day 4: Idea generation and editorial planning – quick ways to produce a detailed calendar in 1 day and some case studies to help you along.

Day 5: How are you going to build momentum and keep all of this going? Find out how to kick the whole thing off and create a blueprint for growth and learning in just 1 day.

Image/Copyright:@PA Images
]]> 0
7 Deadly Sins of Client Reporting for Digital Marketing Mon, 20 Oct 2014 07:28:01 +0000 Practices agencies should avoid when reporting digital marketing performance to clients, and tips for how to get it right


7deadleysinsAs marketers, and humans for that matter, we’ve all been guilty of committing (at least) one of the seven deadly sins in one way or another. You won’t have Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman hunting you down, but when it comes to marketing agencies, committing these reporting sins can be deadly to the agency/client relationship.

Deadly reporting Sin 1: Avarice

Otherwise known as greed, Avarice is a sin of excess. Clients want and need to know what their agency is doing to move the needle, but consistently sending them an overly-comprehensive reports can be a lose-lose for the client and the agency.

Massive reports take agencies a lot of time to prepare, billable hours that could be better spent acting on your findings. And since the operative term here is billable, clients waste money to learn extraneous details when all they really want to know is what happened, why it happened, and what to do about it.

Tips for writing clear and concise reports:
  • Use simple terms; don’t try to wow your clients with your technical vocabulary. Explain concepts in plain English.
  • Start with a simple summary then give deeper analysis by Channel.

Deadly reporting Sin 2: Lust

This one is all about seeing what you want to see and then fitting that fantasy into your own desires. And when it comes to client reporting, it’s a decidedly unsexy move. You’re not doing your agency or your client any favours by fudging numbers, sugar-coating insights, or flat-out ignoring negative results.

These reports are as important to the success of your agency as they are to the success of the client. Don’t hide negatives – discover their causes and present solutions.

Deadly reporting Sin 3: Gluttony

Have you ever sent your client a dashboard? You’ve probably helped your clients pig out on chart junk. Like junk food, dashboards are easy to consume and filled with empty calories.

The typical dashboard is cluttered and overwhelming, packaged more for looks than relevance or ability to drive action and understanding. It’s easy for marketers to add one neat feature or number after another, taking focus away from big insights. More importantly, dashboards require further interpretation, creating more work for your client and putting your agency at a disadvantage if the data deluge you’re sending them is misinterpreted.

Here’s a screenshot from a recent ‘digital marketing dashboard’ Google search. Anyone up for some mental gymnastics? I didn’t think so.


Clients are paying you for insight and action. Don’t send a chart when a few words will do. Visualizations alone simply cannot meet that need, it requires narrative. A picture is not worth 1,000 words. Stories need to be told, use charts and visualizations to complement written analysis.

Tips for using charts and visualizations within client reports

          • Charts should show long-term trends of 6 months or more.
          • Limit pie charts. Humans are bad at deciding whether one slice is bigger than another. Use bar charts instead.
          • Stick to best practices: How to make awesome charts in Excel.
          • Save chart layouts in Excel so you can reuse them easily.

Deadly reporting Sin 4: Sloth

Don’t. Be. Lazy. After all, marketing is one big test. There’s successes and failures. You test, measure, optimize, rinse and repeat.


The ultimate sloth move, of course, is not reporting at all. I sincerely hope no one is guilty of this. Unless the sloth is your competitor. In that case, you have my personal permission to steal all of their clients. They probably deserve it.

Deadly reporting Sin 5: Wrath

Reporting can suck sometimes – but don’t resent the reporting process or, even worse, your client. It might be 11pm on the night before the quarter ends, but seething with rage probably isn’t the best way to get you work done. You’re a marketer. You signed up for this.

Wrath can also show up as impatience. There’s no marketing magic bullet. Building a positive, profitable marketing process takes time. When you’re setting goals with your clients, be sure to set proper expectations.

Deadly reporting Sin 6: Envy

Competitor analysis is standard marketing practice. You need to know what your client’s competitors are up to and how they are doing. Just don’t make it a standard reporting practice – remember that avarice thing? More importantly, don’t don’t let competitors marketing activities dictate your own.

Create marketing campaigns and tactics based on your data and the insights you glean from it. It’s not to say that you can’t poach a tactic here and there to test whether something similar will work for your client, but do not do something just because your competitor is. Make your marketing better because you fully understand your client, their target(s), and what your analysis tells you will work. Then optimize the hell out of it, rather than ending up in marketing hell.

Deadly reporting Sin 7: Pride

You may think you know it all and that your reports can show it all. To you I say: slow your roll, Prideful Patty. This is digital marketing we’re talking about – there is always something new to learn.

And don’t think that a polished report is any substitute for direct, sometimes messy conversations with clients. Ever spend hours on a report only to realize the client barely skimmed it and just wants to talk to you for five minutes instead? That’s the way it goes sometimes.
Care to add a few more sins to this list? Hit us up on Twitter @MktgRobot.

[Editor's note: We invited this contribution after the Q&As in our Answers Community asking: Which are the best agency marketing reporting tools for Google Analytics]

Image/Copyright: Flickr
]]> 0
Mobile commerce – opportunities and challenges Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:32:00 +0000 What are the main challenges and opportunities of mobile commerce that need to be overcome for mobile sales growth?

chameleon pictureWorldwide, B2C ecommerce sales are growing steadily and set to top the $1.5 trillion mark this year, and increasingly significant contributors to this enormous sum are mobile devices.

In Europe, mobile shoppers are set to spend £19.8 billion in 2014, almost twice as much as last year’s spend of £10.7 billion, according to research by RetailMeNot. In the US, the figures are even higher – with eMarketer predicting that US retail mcommerce sales will total $56.72 billion in 2014, up 36.1% from 2013.

Even these figures omit revenues from travel bookings on mobile devices, a sector that is seeing a 50% increase in mobile activity and which it is estimated is worth a further $25 billion.

There’s no escaping the fact that mobile commerce is big business.

‘Fundamental to driving the rapid increase in mobile commerce is the increase of the number and penetration of internet capable phones – smartphones,’ says Chris Wade, Head of Strategy and Product Management at Sage Pay Europe.

However, what’s at the root to the speed of this increase in mobile commerce? Without a doubt it is consumer demand. By this, I mean shoppers who now demand the convenience and choice to shop any time, anywhere. And now the ever-present consumer mobile phone is now facilitating this.’

Gareth Mackown, Mobile Leader for IBM Global Business Services UK & Ireland, adds: ‘Customer behaviour is changing. In the past, if you wanted to buy something at home you’d probably go to your study or wherever you had your laptop and start that up. Now, you might be sat watching the TV or whatever else and you’re doing the shopping there and then on a tablet. And that’s part of the mobile commerce shift we’ve seen – the weekly food shop can be done while you’re chatting over your tea.’

Challenges and opportunities

This shift in behaviour has, unsurprisingly, generated both challenges and opportunities for retailers. Alexandre Vaz, CEO of Liquid, notes: ‘People are spending more and more time on their smartphones and visiting websites more often on their mobile devices, thus increasing the probability of buying products through them. At the same time, users are also using their smartphones inside stores to compare prices, or to check specifications and features on a competitor’s website or in a price aggregator engine. This means that retailers have no other way than to bet on mcommerce.’

Retailers must therefore keep up with the rapid rate that mobile devices are evolving – something that hasn’t always proved straightforward in the past. As Wade highlights: ‘When mobile payments were still fairly new, retailers believed that their standard ecommerce pages would do, which of course means that the experience for consumers wasn’t great.’

Vaz adds: ‘Since a growing and very significant percentage of visits to companies’ websites are coming from mobile devices they need to give them a good mobile experience at the risk of losing that customer to a competitor. Also, if customers are already checking prices from inside a competitor’s store, the smart thing to do is to make it really easy for that user to buy the product while using their smartphone. If you are an online-only ecommerce company, mobile represents an amazing opportunity, because your customers can use physical stores as a showroom and buy, while there, using your mobile app.’

A step behind?

In spite of this, many brands remain a step behind the customer when it comes to mobile commerce, something that is conspiring to dent confidence in mobile retail. Recent research by Omnico revealed that there are still a number of common issues that are deterring them from shopping on their mobile devices.

Common barriers to consumes not using mobile devices for shopping

With a third of those questioned (33%) citing security concerns as preventing them from mobile shopping, retailers are clearly not emphasising the measures they are taking to protect their customers. And with another third (31%) reporting that small smartphone screens are a deterrent, more businesses need to use dynamically designed sites and specialist apps to support these shoppers.

‘The online store checkout and payment process is still the biggest obstacle to delivering successful mcommerce,’ says Simon Horton, founder of ShopIntegrator. ‘Using the smartphone’s small on-screen keyboard to enter all the delivery and payment details can be tricky, taking longer than using a traditional keyboard, especially when you’re juggling your phone and your credit card in your hands at the same time.’

Yet despite this, and in spite of the fact that as much as 20% of their ecommerce traffic is coming from mobile devices, a quarter of the UK’s top 100 retailers do not have mobile optimised websites according to the UK Retailer Mobile Optimisation report by Skava.

Arish Ali, CEO and co-founder of Skava, believes that soaring online sales are hiding the detrimental effects of poor mcommerce – in many cases organisations are either making little effort to optimise their sites for mobile, or are underestimating the ongoing work required to maintain support for mobile commerce.

‘The increase in ecommerce revenue overall is masking the loss of revenue through poorly converting mobile websites,” he says. “Simply creating a mobile website is no longer efficient, but retailers must build mobile optimised websites with a conversion-first approach. The launch of a mobile website is not the end of a retailer’s mobile strategy, but just the beginning. Like ecommerce websites before them, they require constant updates based on analysis of user behaviour to create a seamless shopping experience.’

Mobile integration

There are also wider implications for those brands that fail to optimise their mobile presence.

‘The size of the mobile screen is something that many retailers find to be a challenge in delivering an effective and user-friendly service,’ suggests Guy Chiswick, Managing Director at Webloyalty Northern Europe. ‘This is particularly challenging when at the same time trying to maintain brand consistency across websites and mobile apps, in that although each channel needs to be developed and implemented uniquely and separately by the retailer, the customer experience has to be seamless across all channels.’

Bill Loller, Vice President at IBM Smarter Commerce, believes that integrating mobile into other shopping channels is indeed one of the biggest challenges that businesses are encountering. Yet it is one that they must address if they are to support the important role the mobile plays within the modern consumer’s journey.

‘While a relatively new channel, customers have been quick to integrate mobile commerce with ecommerce and traditional in-store shopping,’ he suggests. ‘Our research found that three out of five (60%) of the companies surveyed said their customers typically research products on mobile devices for later purchase online. While almost half (48%) said their customers purchase products directly using a mobile device. A similar proportion report that customers research products for later purchase offline, while 17% say their customers use their mobile devices for research in-store.

‘With this insight, businesses have the ingredients they need to provide customers with a truly integrated digital customer experience. For customers who prefer to research products on their mobile devices for a later purchase, a travel provider, for example, could offer customers the opportunity to save a list of favourite destinations that could be accessed via any connected device for booking later.’

He adds: ‘A customer’s experience on one channel is directly impacted by their experience on another, and today’s customers want to be able to switch between channels seamlessly. As a result, to offer a successful mobile experience, businesses must ensure it is fully integrated to what they also offer online, in store or on the phone.’

Wade agrees that this integration represents the next major challenge for retailers: ‘The biggest obstacle to every retailer at the moment is ensuring you have a solid omnichannel offering. It’s certainly important that shoppers can reach you via a mobile device but the next phase is how, as a business, to then keep track of how shoppers are paying for goods across different buying channels.

‘It’s vital that all channels, including mobile, websites, card machines etc., all link together and lead into one reporting and administration format so that you have a single view of your customer. This is fast becoming an expectation of the customer. As Sage Pay’s 2014 Payments Landscape report found, 53% of consumers prefer to browse online and buy in store or vice versa. Having a joined up back office system with the same stock, same systems and same processes, has a great effect on the customer experience. It means, for example, that a customer can buy a product online but return it in-store and keep track of the returns process via their mobile phone.’

Mobile leaders

The Foresee Experience Index: 2013 UK Retail Mobile Edition recently aggregated feedback from almost 2,500 surveys to examine customer satisfaction with mobile commerce. The results generally make for painful reading, suggesting that the gap between mobile sites and their desktop equivalents is actually widening.

But there are examples of retailers that are thriving thanks to their mobile support. Argos, for instance, generated £400 million from mcommerce transactions last year – equivalent to 10% of its overall sales. And it is from companies such as this that we must learn if we are to truly capitalise on the appetite for mobile shopping.

‘Some of the bigger brands have really upped their game,’ says James Lovell, European retail Smarter Commerce solutions lead at IBM. ‘The ones that are keeping pace have strategically invested in a core customer interaction platform – one platform that is able to service both traditional online channels and also the newer mobile and social channels. And I think when the leading retailers have done that and made that strategic investment, it’s very easy to start to create a seamless experience across all these separate devices and also screen sizes.

‘Certainly a lot of the leading platforms can offer responsive design, and it’s very easy now to create that consistent brand experience in that. So we’ve seen that the leading retailers have done that. But once you move away from the leading retailers and into the second tier, the businesses are struggling to keep pace because they haven’t necessarily made that strategic investment in technology yet. Quite often, their mobile channel is run separately to their web channel and it may lack the consistency and integration, and when you do have that separation, it’s much harder to deliver that joined-up and consistent customer experience.’

With forecasts for mobile shopping still wildly optimistic for the coming years, there is a danger that businesses will rest on their laurels. Certainly the current numbers could mask the problems that exist. But if they don’t act to improve their mobile commerce presence, brands run the risk of losing business to competitors that are more effective on mobile devices, or discouraging customers from mobile shopping altogether.

For those retailers who are investing the time and resources into mobile, however, the benefits are potentially vast.

Mackown concludes: ‘The larger retailers have upped their game. Some of the things that were causing friction, such as entering your payment details, have improved to allow it to be easier for users to complete that journey without feeling it would be easier to do it in front of a big screen. But they’re not perfect by a long way, and some retail examples are much better than others.

‘However, because the user experience is getting better, it’s easier to create a bigger basket and so as well as the actual number of sales rising, the value of those sales is now growing sometimes as well. So a better user experience is also helping to increase the drive in value that we’re seeing from mobile commerce.’

Image Credit/Copyright:  Sebastian Duda :123RF Stock Photo


]]> 0