Rich Clark Marketing

Opinions from Rich Clark one of the UK's leading Marketing Professionals


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Producing Content for Company Websites

What is Content?

One of the key topics that pop up with industry types, affiliates and agencies from an SEO, Social Media and Online PR stance is content.  Before I delve too deeply in to the subject matter, I think its important that I clarify what I mean by content.  This isn’t the standard information about your company.  It isn’t even about content around the products or services you offer, even though those areas are imperative.  In the context of  this post, I mean compelling content that people may want to read regardless of any affinity or lack of with your brand or their current interest in buying from you.

Why provide content?

Well it all depends what your objectives are.  For some organisations additional non-sales related content may be impractical or unworkable.  I can’t think of a single case where it won’t provide some form of benefit.  It’s just whether the scale of the benefit is worth the investment.

In the main, the reasons for providing content can be varied depending on your circumstances.  However you need to be clear of your objectives.

From my perspective the main reasons for providing content include:

Upside on SEO

Social Media SOV

Online PR outreach

Community Building

Providing an authority to your subject matter

Create buzz around your site

Upside on SEO

As well all know there are many black hat techniques to help radically increase your rankings within all of the major search engines (and Google is no exception).  However these techniques are ill-advised and can cause your organisation to be penalised or even delisted by the likes of Google and Bing.

It is also frowned upon to instigate link building campaigns by going out and buying lots of backlinks to artificially inflate your ranking.  Both of these techniques can also cost quite a lot.

So the best way to ensure improvement in search engine rankings is to create a good content plan.  The content should be devised to make it both interesting and relevant to your audience, whilst also providing genuine reasons forbloggers or sites to link to or to like, retweet etc in social networks.  Simple?

If your content strategy is devised purely for SEO reasons then you obviously need to know what terms people are searching on and where the gaps are in your keyword coverage.  You then need to engineer your plan to help build up potential linking on core terms.  The research is the critical element to this area, as you need to know how this element enhances or could potentially distract your overall SEO efforts.

My personal opinion, is that, if you develop content purely for SEO reasons, you are doing something wrong.

Tip 1 – You should provide worthwhile content that people want to read and get links on the merit of the content.  There is no problem in optimising the content for SEO reasons, as long as it doesn’t damage the content for the reader.

Social Media SOV

Your content is like a currency,if quality is good and matched with its frequency.  People will want to read what you produce and in term want to link to it and share with their friends.

Remember if your quality is poor or full of errors there is an equal likelihood that people will link or share your content but with negative container terms.  This doesn’t impact your SOV, in fact,it does increase it.  However it does effect the sentiment which effects both what your community or following think about you but also could impact your search rankings.

Tip 2– Provide simple methods to allow people to share your content.  Options such as Add This buttons or utilise tools such as Facebook Connect on your site

Online PR Outreach

Bloggers are an influential bunch.  But not all of them.  Remember it isn’t always about the bloggers with massive audiences that matter.  If you want reach and awareness then of course go for high-traffic blogs.  It isn’t always the best target however.  You need to create a robust outreach plan, as you would with journalists.  Understand why and how you contact bloggers and take the time to build relationships with them.

Understanding why you are reaching out to a blogger and what benefit you can provide to them is half the battle.  You also need to work out if your objective is reach or to inspire a change in people’s (not the bloggers) perception of your company and the content you produce.

Tip 3 – Personal relationships are important.  Don’t just send SEO friendly Press Releases, it isn’t good for you or the blogger

Community Building

Having a forum and a Facebook presence won’t give you a community.  The only reason you will create a community is by providing your members with currency, a reason to keep coming back.  Whether that is in the form of articles, forum topics or competitions, you have to give them something to get excited about.  Motivate them and influence them to join in or share.  As with the other areas research is important as is a deep understanding of what your community will want.

Why not get your community involved? They are much more likely to share and promote the content if they have been involved.

Post the content where they will want to receive it.  You can’t always put a snippet on your Facebook page and link through to your site, you have to be where they want to receive information.

Tip 4 – Fully research your area and ensure your community needs and motivations are answered.

Providing an authority to your subject matter

As long is your content is good, thorough, provides a point of view and above all creates something your average reader wouldn’t find you will begin to create an authority.   This point of view and authority will help improve your standing with your target audience.  They will start to trust what you are saying and you become the go-to site for your subject matter.  Perhaps more importantly for company sites, the visitor in terms becomes increasingly likely to buy from you as that trust builds.  This trust becomes a perceived brand value for the customer and will help the user make purchase decisions, regardless of channel.

Being an authority figure also ensures that you are referenced much more by the industry and in turn by people in their social networks or on their blogs.  All great SEO.

Tip 5 – If you want to create an authority, only people who genuinely know should write and make the pieces thorough.

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Teenagers Don’t Regularly Read Newspapers

Morgan Stanley Revelation

Well it seems to take a 15 year old boy to tell the corporate world the blinking obvious.  Matthew Robson a 15 year old school boy had a work experience stint at Morgan Stanley.  As part of his spell there he was asked to write a research paper on teens media consumption.

Now this isn’t a dig at Matthew Robson, or particularly at Morgan Stanley, but does it demonstrate a distinct lack of awareness at large corporations about online and other emerging media channels.  Matthew probably didn’t expect to become when he wrote a summary of what he and his mates thought.  Yet it seems his work hit the tables of analysts, investors and CEOs.

So what inspiration did Matthew afford to his six-figure salaried friends?  Well here are a few items:

Teens prefer streaming sites (e.g. Napster and Spotify) to regular Radio – as, wait for it, they don’t like adverts

Teens prefer Facebook to Twitter as it is seen as a better way to stay in touch – (apparently Stephen Fry isn’t cool for teens)

Teens also watch TV (a lot) but via internet rather than TV, so they can watch what they want when they want on channels such as iPlayer

Teens don’t buy newspapers, or indeed don’t buy CDs

Teens also find online advertising pointless

Well as I said, this is not against Matthew, I just think the stating of the blooming obvious really illustrates a lack of corporate understanding.  This lack of understanding is both lack of education of online and also most are so far out of touch with ‘youth’  the obvious becomes a breakthrough.  I just hope Matthew’s efforts opens the eyes of some corporations. 

I have thought of some other bright ideas that Morgan Stanley can get excited about:

Top 5 ideas

1. School boys like football and can often be found to wear replica football shirts

2. Very young children struggle to eat solid food, they prefer liquidised food which is easier to swallow

3. Kids enjoy sending text messages on their mobile phones

4. Children play games on their consoles

5. Girls and boys are different, as a result they should be treated differently when targetting products at them

Matthew is also quoted as saying that he is now considering a career in investment banking.  Matthew, I am not surprised, good luck.


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Google Adwords for Dummies

PPC – Guide to Google Dummies?

As I have mentioned previously, during these slow economic times people are striving to master the really transparent channels.  The ones that can be tracked.  The channels that produce a positive ROI.

When you think PPC, these days the majority of us think Google.  Even though I have called this a dummies guide, I could have easily said a guide to Google dummies.  Those marketeers that know they need to be on Google, but don’t have the first clue.  So what do they do?  Do they invest in learning? Do they invest in tools to make things easier?  Generally no!  These marketeers generally pump thousands, sometimes millions of pounds to an agency, with very little control or understanding of what is or isn’t possible.

Obviously there are some good agencies out there.  Even some very good agencies that add real value.  In certain sectors it also makes more sense to partner with an agency rather than invest internally.  This isn’t an attack on agencies, just an expression of thought that says before employing an agency you need to understand the basics yourself.

How long do things take?

Getting a campaign live – agencies often say it takes weeks.  In the main this isn’t true.  The basics can be live within minutes.  Obviously complex campaigns can take a period of time to set-up from scratch, but not weeks.

Getting a campaign up to full pace – agencies sometimes say it takes months to get a campaign fully up to speed.  Its no denying most campaigns don’t get up to full speed within the first couple of weeks.  However, there are quick wins.  Don’t accept ongoing claims of missing targets due to optimisation and unrealistic objectives.  A decent agency will challenge your objectives and targets it they aren’t achievable.  You should be able to get close to your targets within at least the first couple of weeks

Broadcast Vs Targetted

Don’t accept any old clicks.  Match type is incredibly important to quality score.  Your quality score is apparently reviewed after every 1000 impressions.  Broad match means your keywords and ads will be called on much less relevant content.  For instance, if I was bidding on desktop computer, my ad may appear when people search for desktop diaries, computer engineers, computer assisted design.  None of these keywords are related to our search term.  This means that in theory our quality score could go down and if people do click, chances are we will pay and it won’t convert.  Broad match is the defauly setting on adwords, great for Google to get away your budegt, not so good if you are on a tight budget or tight ROI KPIs.

I would personally recommend using broad match sparingly and concentrate primarily on Phrase and Exact match.  This controls both relevancy and costs and in-turn should improve quality score.  What this will obviously do is lower your potential traffic volumes, but it should all be more qualified traffic.

Be Negative

This isn’t asking you to be cynical of Google or PPC.  This is outlining that you must use negative keywords in your campaigns.  If bidding on Dixons, my negative keywords could include estate agency, this would ensure that when people are looking for Dixons.co.uk they don’t end up at Dixons Estate Agency.

Other things to look for

There are many other things the PPC beginner needs to look out for.  Consider your overall budget, your daily budget, how your campaign is structures, your ad copy, bidding strategy, landing pages, URLs.  I will cover these areas with tips for beginners in future posts.

Working with agencies

As I commented when I opened this post.  There is no problem working with agencies.  But you must adopt a challenging relationship.  You must challenge them to optimise to the fullest and you must encourage them to challenge you.  Above all learn yourself.  Even if you learn the very basics such as the points I have highlighted.  It gives you a better understanding and can help manage expectations.

Don’t forget

There are other search engines (Yahoo, MSN and Miva) that offer PPC, although they are much smaller they also offer good traffic.  It is also worth searching around if you are setting up an account from scratch, most of the major engines often run promotions for new customers giving sign-up bounties with Free credit.