Agility in search

Getting stuff done

Agility in search has been a prevalent theme at many events I have attended and spoken at throughout the past two years. In the world of search, brands are still struggling to make changes to their site, their strategy and their technology. Which means the challenge of ‘getting stuff done’ keeps cropping up. Our Strategy Director, Stephen Kenwright discussed elements of this at SearchLeeds 2016 – ‘Stop best practicing, start doing

More recently I spoke at last year’s Digital Olympus where I offered my thoughts on agility in search. I discussed how technology is always evolving at a quicker pace and brands and agencies alike need to be agile to take advantage of new forms of standard practice.

Lately there’s been a shift in how things are done within many industries. There’s now a focus on doing newer or smaller things at a much quicker pace. However, in today’s world where everyone is trying to do the ‘next big thing’, but yet protect their current thing, it’s often difficult.

Agility or fluidity?

In our eBook on 2016 search trends, I mentioned agility, referencing ING Nederlands’ agile way of working video:

“the new way of working calls for quicker reactions to changes in client needs”

The same can be said for the search landscape. We’ve found there’s generally been a change in client requirements and there’s now a need from clients for a workaround, so as an agency we’ve been challenged to have quicker reactions – a plan B. This has encompassed everything from iframe-ing PR assets to get them live quicker, to testing methods of implementation such as tag manager, or looking at CDN (content delivery networks).

The search landscape changes at such a rapid pace that you must have the ability to quickly amend your strategy for you to get results from Google but also adapt to a Plan B once a client or circumstance has diluted Plan A.

Will it become easier?

No.

If you look at Google’s documented marketing help, the mobile agenda is something they’ve been pushing for a couple of years in some subtle and some not so subtle ways (which then turned out to be subtle – I’m looking at you, Mobilegeddon).

According to Micro Moments the opportunities to satisfy user intent are decreasing, so you need to ensure you can adapt or react as a brand/agency in time to be there in those moments, when it will count.

It’s hugely satisfying when a Plan A gets effectively executed as a Plan B, C or D. This is because as an agency it feels unusual to execute a plan in full without some level of compromise. We’re accustomed to using a somewhat diluted version of our original intention.

Solstice, our sister agency, refers to an ever-growing trend in its clients moving towards agile processes “to gain efficiencies and speed to market”. For us, we’re seeing a change of SEO strategy to an MVP mindset (Minimum Viable Product). As search strategists we need to choose what recommendations can be implemented to present the quickest route to success for a client. Our strategy can’t be linear; it has to be more like a matrix (slide 38).

Feel free to look through my slides on Agility in SEO from Digital Olympus. The latest Digital Olympus event is on 28th November and is free to attend.

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4 common Account Manager challenges… and how to overcome them

Client services and account management practices are rarely smooth sailing, no matter which agency you work for or which clients you work with. The positions are regularly faced with challenges from clients that require resolution. These challenges can range from financial issues to shifts in client priorities, as well as client understanding or previous experience of your industry.

We wanted to talk you through some of the most common challenges that the Client Services team experience at Branded3, and give you some tips on how to overcome them.

Budgets

Without a doubt the biggest and most occurrent challenge that we face are budgets. Whether the issue is initial limitations on budget size or clients needing to reduce budgets, this presents a challenge to all Account Managers.

So, here’s a scenario for you.

For the last year, your client has been working with a budget of X. This budget has been split between departments to ensure their strategic objectives are hit, but going into a new financial year, they have had to reduce the budget due to business requirements.

This new budget is going to reduce the amount of resource available for your agency and the departments within it. So, the alarm bell that must be going off right now is “How do we still achieve what the client wants?” The answer – prioritisation!

Review your strategy or roadmap and outline what you believe are the key priorities for the client, then present these back to them outlining the benefits and results. This is the opportunity to find out what their priorities are, and for you to evaluate which should be implemented and when.

Explaining how the budget allocated will be used to achieve their goals will help build or strengthen your relationship with your client. For more advice read our 5 tips to building long lasting client relationships guide.

Return on investment

Another challenge that we regularly face when making strategic recommendations is ultimately having the recommendations implemented. A common query from clients is “What is the return on investment for this?”

Unfortunately, within SEO, a lot of the recommendations we make don’t provide an immediate or measurable return on investment.

Therefore, to overcome this challenge you need to establish an effective way to get your recommendations implemented by the client – we highlight 6 key ways to get recommendations implemented here which will help you in overcoming this client barrier.

Client knowledge

All clients will have varying levels of knowledge within your industry. As an SEO agency, we find some clients who have previously worked in the industry in SEO specific roles will have extensive experience, whereas others have only had minimal contact with it.

For clients with less knowledge and experience in SEO, we ensure that all tasks and recommendations that we are implementing clearly explain three things:

  • The process being followed
  • The reason why we have recommended them
  • What we are going to achieve by actioning them

Clients with experience of SEO can minimise some of the challenges you might face, but can also present others. A client who has worked in SEO will understand the industry and the recommendations being made which makes selling it into their wider business much easier and increases the likelihood of implementation client side.

Some clients may have experience based on previous practice that they have used before, which may differ from the approach that you are proposing. This can be a difficult challenge to overcome, as some clients don’t like to stray from what they know.

However, understanding why they are concerned will help you overcome this. Asking the client for their reasons for preferring another approach and then explaining the proposed process thoroughly and the benefits afforded to it will show them how it compares to their previous experience, and how it will be more effective.

Ad-hoc requests

The final and probably one of the most inevitable challenges that you will face from a client are ad-hoc requests. Set the scene: you’ve spent time devising the strategy, prioritising tasks according to resource, everything is going to plan and then suddenly an ad-hoc request comes in.

You could just shift the roadmap back and postpone tasks that were forecasted to make room for this request, but those tasks were a high priority and would be beneficial to the overall strategy. So, what can you do?

Our recommendation would be to evaluate which task will have the greatest benefit to the client. If it’s the ad-hoc request, you can adapt the roadmap to fit it in. If it isn’t, explain the situations to the client and illustrate the benefit of completing the tasks in the roadmap as a priority.

Ultimately, the client will make their own decision about which they will want to proceed with, but explaining the benefits of the prioritised tasks and the potential negative impact of not completing them may have will help you to overcome this barrier.

As you will see from reading these key challenges, there is a recurring theme among the ways you can overcome them. Effective communication with the client, the ability to prioritise, and adaptability are key skills that will help you overcome the majority of challenges that you may encounter, and ensure that you have successful projects and happy clients.

Advent calendars, Hogwarts for canines and Cards Against Humanity saving the world: PR roundup

It’s officially Friday – hooray! But before we start popping the prosecco, we’re going to run through our favourite PR campaigns of the week.

Poundvent calendar

Zoella and Boots both found themselves in hot water this week, receiving backlash from the Zoella 12 Days of Christmas Advent Calendar. The calendar contains items including a bauble, cookie cutters, notepad and pen for a costly price of £50.

Many people were disappointed with the Zoella advent calendar’s offering, venting their frustrations on Twitter, and Poundland used this as an opportunity to highlight the similar products they offer for a much cheaper price.

Poundland and Zoella advent calander

Credit: Poundland

This is a great reactive PR stunt. By quickly piggybacking on the social media frenzy, Poundland put themselves at the forefront of the highly publicised conversation in a light-hearted way, while also pushing their seasonal products.

The future of the London skyline

The National Trust is fighting to preserve the South London skyline, with their latest PR campaign which highlights the danger of Londoners losing the beautiful views of the city to industrialisation.

This year marks 80 years since the St Paul’s Heights policy framework was introduced to protect certain views across the city. While 27 views are protected by the policy, 9 of the 13 views with ‘protected vista’ status are in South London. To celebrate the occasion, The National Trust have collaborated with Horniman Museum and Gardens, and Bompas Parr on an interactive installation ‘The Imminent Diorama’.

London Skyline

Credit: The National Trust

Visitors can stand in the cone which projects artist views of what they predict the skyline from Horniman Museum and Gardens to look like in 80 years’ time.

Painting of London skyline predictions

Credit: The National Trust

From a sunken city of London submerged by the sea, to a dystopian futuristic city of London under a giant immersive hub filled with advertisements, the designs add a thought-provoking element to this campaign, which is sure to get Londoners thinking about the future of their city.

Pawgwarts

Everyone loves dogs and everyone loves Harry Potter (except muggles of course), and Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando has brought the two together as an innovative way to get the dogs at their shelter adopted.

Inspired by research which revealed that visual identification of dog breeds are inaccurate 70% of the time, the Pet Alliance have sorted their dog residents into their very own ‘Pawgwarts’ houses, depending on the dog’s characteristics – much like houses in Harry Potter.

The dogs are split into four categories: Knowledge, Ambition, Friendliness, and Bravery – so prospective owners are able to make an informed choice about which dog to take home based on their personality, and not their cuteness.

Pawgwarts

Credit: Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando

We love this initiative as it brings two universally loved things together, raising awareness around the many dogs in need, as well as ensuring they are placed with the right families.

Cards Against Humanity Save The World

No strangers to controversy, Cards Against Humanity have shown their ballsy nature once again with their latest PR stunt.

The company has purchased a piece of land on the border of the US and Mexico – making it very difficult for Trump to build his infamous wall. Alongside this, they’ve launched a website ‘Cards Against Humanity Saves The World’, which encourages visitors to pay $15 to receive six America-saving surprises for the festive season (which has already sold out).

Cards against humanity save the world

Credit: Cards Against Humanity

Many brands don’t want to get involved in political conversations, let alone take on the President of the United States, yet self-owned Cards Against Humanity have put themselves in the centre of a highly publicised political conversation for many months to come.

#FoodbankAdvent calendar

Many people often say it’s better to give rather than receive, but it’s easy in the run up to Christmas to get lost in the consumerism of festive activities.

A blogger collective ‘UK Money Bloggers’ have set out to raise awareness about the fact that Christmas is not a time of indulgence for a lot of families, with their ‘reverse advent calendar’.

The #FoodbankAdvent campaign encourages people to donate either food or household items every day for the 12 days of Christmas, and donate it to their local food bank to bring a bit of festive cheer to those who are struggling to buy food for their families this Christmas.

Essentials for a foodbank

Backed by a number of popular money bloggers including Mrs Mummy Penny and Frugal Queen, this campaign is great as it encourages selfless acts while reminding people of the true meaning of Christmas.

There you have it! These were our favourite campaigns of the week. Let us know your favourites on Twitter. If your’re looking for some more PR success stories you can read about the campaigns that caught our attention last week here.

Facebook Domain Verification: Edit Link Previews

Back in September, I provided three tips on how you could continue to edit link previews when creating a Facebook post. This functionality had otherwise been taken away in an effort to combat fake news.

One of the methods I shared with you was claiming link ownership…

Facebook Link Ownership

At the time, I was frustrated that I didn’t have the ability to claim link ownership. Later I’d find that the path to claim link ownership simply moved.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can once again edit your link previews by using Facebook domain verification.

Editing Link Previews: The Problem

Quick refresher…

Up until late this past summer, Facebook page publishers could edit link thumbnails, titles, and descriptions. But the ability to make those edits were then taken away.

Facebook Link Preview - Publisher

Facebook made this change to prevent bad actors from changing the image thumbnail, title, or description to mislead the reader. Some were taking posts from reputable websites and altering the information to make people think the articles said something they didn’t.

Facebook’s motivation to pull this back was understandable. But what about reputable publishers that simply wanted to make slight adjustments? Maybe the thumbnail image was the wrong dimensions. Maybe there was a typo in the description. Or the description was too long.

Most importantly, what if the publisher owned the content in question?

Domain Verification

Facebook created Domain Verification to allow content owners to overwrite post metadata when publishing content on Facebook.

Within Business Manager under People and Assets, you should now see “Domains” on the left side…

Facebook Domain Verification

Click the button to Add New Domains…

Facebook Domain Verification

Enter your domain, and click the button to “Add Domain.”

Facebook Domain Verification

To verify your domain, you’ll need to either add a DNS TXT record or upload an HTML file. If you don’t manage your website, that may sound like Greek. I honestly don’t truly understand it myself. But Facebook provides the specific steps that should help.

For DNS verification…

Facebook Domain Verification

The instructions are above. You’ll want to paste the TXT record that Facebook provides (yours will be different) in your DNS configuration. Then come back to that screen in Business Manager and click the “Verify” button.

You could also use the HTML upload route.

Facebook Domain Verification

In this case, click the link to download the HTML file that Facebook provides. Then upload that file to the root directory of your website prior to clicking “Verify.”

In my case, this process took only a matter of minutes. I sent the DNS TXT info to my tech person who was able to add that record easily without questions asked. I then verified and was good to go.

Assign Pages

You can assign related pages that have been added to your Business Manager to a verified domain so that they, too, can have editing privileges.

Click the “Assign Pages” button within Domain Verification and select the page that you want to be added.

Facebook Domain Verification

If the page isn’t listed, it first needs to be added to your Business Manager. You’ll do that by selecting “Pages” under People and Assets in your Business Manager and clicking to add a page.

Facebook Domain Verification

Edit Link Previews

Once your domain is verified and the associated page is connected, you can freely edit link previews!

Facebook Domain Verification

You can edit link thumbnail, title, and description. While the thumbnail will look funny while creating the post, it publishes properly…

Facebook Domain Verification

Your Turn

Have you been struggling to edit link preview details? Does this help?

Let me know in the comments below!

The post Facebook Domain Verification: Edit Link Previews appeared first on Jon Loomer Digital.

Get more links from journalists with search data

In the last 12 months 91% of the links we placed came from press sites: journalists rather than bloggers.

We love working with bloggers but lots of our clients are in financial services or travel, where blog links often don’t make sense because:

  • Our competitors are getting links from nationals – much more authoritative websites – meaning we have to build higher volumes of links
  • From 2013 Google’s Search Quality Ratings Guidelines started referring to “Your Money or Your Life” websites for sectors like FS, healthcare and legal, which would need to demonstrate a higher degree of “expertise and authority” – we were pretty sure that also applies (or should apply) to the site’s backlink profile, so a financial price comparison website with lots of links from the regulated press > one with lots of links from unregulated bloggers (we’ve definitely proved that to our clients since)
  • In sectors like fashion, TrustFlow, Domain Authority (or whatever you prefer) often aren’t a good proxy for actual authority. Brands thrive on the cutting edge, which is where bloggers in those niches hang out
  • If I can get controversial for a second (and I know I can because I actually said this four years ago): I don’t care about how relevant a linking site is. A link to a travel brand from a massive, all-encompassing website like nytimes.com is going to do more for your search visibility than one from a travel blogger. Relevant stories on big sites will get you more link authority, reach and customers than any kind of story on a relevant site (and again, we keep proving it).

Working with journalists isn’t any easier or harder than working with bloggers, it’s just different. We’ve picked up lots of techniques that contribute to getting more, better links (Laura will share some of these in another BrightonSEO training session in a few months)  – one of my favourites is using search data.

According to the 2015 Edelman Media Forecast (and backed up since), journalists are under increasing pressure to write stories that will get shared on social media – often they’re set traffic-based KPIs. Search data gives us the opportunity to prove stories we’re pitching are in the public’s interest right from the first contact.

Google Trends

Let’s start with the most obvious: Google Trends shows us what the public are searching for in real time. You can break this down by country or city and prove just how interesting your story is to local journalists. For example, the Welsh are nearly twice as festive as people from Northern Ireland if we’re basing that on the popularity of Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You.

https://ssl.gstatic.com/trends_nrtr/1173_RC01/embed_loader.js trends.embed.renderExploreWidget(“GEO_MAP”, {“comparisonItem”:[{“keyword”:”/m/05zrc5″,”geo”:”GB”,”time”:”2012-11-14 2017-11-14″}],”category”:0,”property”:””}, {“exploreQuery”:”date=2012-11-14 2017-11-14&geo=GB&q=%2Fm%2F05zrc5″,”guestPath”:”https://trends.google.co.uk:443/trends/embed/”});

This data can be used to back up your stories or help you to come up with them: here’s a link to branded3.com from OK! Magazine Carrie built using some Google Trends data around Love Island. The story is right for their audience and there’s proof of that fact – and it’s right for us because it’s a comment on what’s going on in search. It’s literally explained in that article that this is why we’re linked to.

You can supercharge this data using the Google Trends Datastore, which is populated with analysis of trending stories from Google’s own News Lab, though not much of the data is UK-specific right now.

Google trends datastore

Keyword research and ranking data

If feeling the pressure to drive traffic to their articles wasn’t enough, journalists are increasingly time-poor too. If we can do the leg work in justifying the story we’re much more likely to get covered. When we’re creating content for our clients’ blogs we’ll usually justify that with keyword search volumes and brief our writers with keywords to include in the copy…but we’re expecting journalists to guess what they might want to rank for (or do their own research).

Please don’t ask a journalist to include keywords because there’s almost no chance they’ll work with you if you do – but insight into the general interest levels of the story you’re pitching can be helpful.

…and in the same way we’re forecasting for our clients we can help our contacts to understand the likelihood that they’ll actually rank for those keywords:

  • Are there publications of a similar authority already on the first page? Google wants diversity in its search results, so if a competitor of the publication you’re working with is ranking then there’s a good chance that the new article could replace it
  • Are the articles already ranking old or new? Is freshness likely to be a factor in that SERP? If so, a new article will probably replace an old one
  • Can you commit to driving traffic or even links to the article? Many businesses still operate a press centre (don’t call it a link scheme – and remember, reciprocal is a dirty word).

It should be pretty obvious that you don’t give out keywords you want to rank for to journalists – the last thing your client needs is another national competing with it – but press websites are a good opportunity to occupy some real top of the funnel terms that are maybe only partially relevant to your product.

Ultimately there are lots of tactics that can improve your success rate…but right now when we think of link building with search data most of us immediately reach for (admittedly awesome) tools like Buzzsumo and analyse which would be the best sites to link to us like we’re building a fantasy football team – I think that time could be better spent analysing how we can make journalists’ jobs easier and actually get the links built.

How to grow your existing client accounts

In Branded3 Client Services Team, one of our main goals is to ensure our clients are continually growing. This isn’t necessarily growth in terms of agency billables, but rather how we can offer additional value to our clients, resulting in increased sales, leads, and so on.

Of course, when offering additional value to clients it may be for services that they don’t currently employ, which can positively impact agency revenue. However, as with anything, unless you have a reason (ROI) for your client to part with extra budget, you’re unlikely to get very far. For this reason, here are our top tips for growing your existing accounts.

  1. Know your client’s account

Before you even consider looking to grow an account, it’s imperative that you know your client. Do your research, look for areas of improvement and come up with a solution. It’s also important to know your client’s priorities. Are they looking to grow this year, or are they looking maintain and cut costs?

Understanding your client’s priorities will allow for a better understanding of where you can add value. As an extra benefit, if a client can’t part with additional budget, developing your understanding of your client’s account will help ensure existing budget is being used to the best effect, which may in turn result in future account growth opportunities.

  1. Hold regular review meetings

You’ll be talking performance, successes, challenges, and plans for the future, all of which provides a perfect forum for discussing account growth.

As highlighted in How to become a successful Account Manager, understanding a client and their business needs will enable you to know what they should invest in and why. You already know their business challenges and their plans for the upcoming months, so go into these meetings with an idea of how to nurse their headaches and make their lives easier (and more profitable). They’ll thank you for it, and you’ll be popular with your boss for bringing in further business.

That said, don’t look to pitch during the review meetings; save this for a separate time when the focus can be on the proposed investment. Next step, set up a separate meeting and…

  1. Tell them what they’ll get

You’re telling your customer to invest, so tell them why and what they’ll get for their investment. Account growth should be mutually beneficial, with your client benefitting from increased performance (traffic, leads, etc.), with your agency being rewarded for providing this service.

Before pitching for additional investment, make sure you have a compelling case with ROI figures and the cost of the investment. Approach with confidence and clarity in your reasoning: you are telling them why they should grow their account, so you must believe it’s the right thing to do.

  1. Demonstrate past successes

If you already have a customer who’s benefitted from an additional investment, show it off. If you can say: “Client A got an B additional C, with D investment”, it’s clear that you’re not just doing your best Wolf of Wall Street impression, but that you’ve got real-life experience of increasing ROI and that what your proposing actually works.

While adding new accounts is important to agency growth, growing your existing accounts is a fantastic way of providing additional value to your clients and to your agency.

For further tips and tricks on client growth and retention, be sure to check out the client services section of our blog.

New Feature: Facebook Creative Split Testing

Creative split testing of Facebook ads just became a whole lot easier with the update of Facebook’s built-in split testing feature.

Don’t confuse this update with the dynamic creative feature (which is also amazing). Facebook creative split testing is a great way to run tests to determine your best performing ad without audience overlap.

Let’s take a closer look…

Facebook Split Testing

I first told you about Facebook’s built-in split testing feature nearly a year ago.

To use the split testing feature, you’ll need to use one of the following objectives:

  • Reach
  • Traffic
  • App Installs
  • Video Views
  • Lead Generation
  • Conversions
  • Catalog Sales

While setting up a campaign, you’ll notice a checkbox for “Create Split Test” under the objective.

Facebook Split Testing

At the ad set level, you would then select the variable you want to test…

Facebook Split Testing

Until now, you could split test delivery optimization (Conversions vs. Link Clicks, for example), Audience (Website Custom Audience vs. Page Connections, for example), and then later, placement.

Facebook Ad Split Testing

One of the primary benefits of Facebook’s built-in split testing tool is the lack of audience overlap. Facebook will randomly determine who is tested against each variation. No exclusions necessary.

Prior Creative Split Testing Options

While Facebook’s built-in split testing tool is great, it didn’t previously address creative. So, if you wanted to split test creative, it was difficult to make it a true A/B test without overlap.

In the past, you would have done one of two things:

1. Create two or more separate ads within the same ad set. By doing this, Facebook optimizes to provide the most impressions to the highest performing ad. The same audience will be served ads from the same pool of creative, but some will see only one variation while other users may see multiple.

2. Create multiple ad sets with a single ad variation within each. As long as you were careful with necessary exclusions, you could prevent overlap, but it takes more time.

Additionally, it’s a bad test by comparing results from two potentially very different audiences as opposed to randomly selecting people from the same audience. Are the better results due to the creative or the audience you are targeting? It wasn’t always clear.

How to Use Creative Split Testing

Thankfully, Facebook addresses these concerns with the new creative split testing feature.

Now, when selecting the variable you want to test, you’ll see the option of Creative.

Facebook Split Testing

Set up your audience and placements as you normally would.

Your split test will need to run for between three and 14 days. This is required so that Facebook can get the sample size necessary to determine a winner.

Facebook Split Testing

However, there is an option to end the split test early once a winner has been found…

Facebook Split Testing

On the right side of the ad set, Facebook shows you how your split test is being organized.

Facebook Split Testing

Even though you’re putting in the work of creating a single ad set, Facebook is generating an ad set for each ad. Each ad set will have identical settings for audience, placement, and delivery.

REMINDER: While the audience is the same, there will be no overlap. Each user will only see one creative variation, and users are selected randomly.

You can create up to five ad variations. On the left, you’ll see Ad A through E (if applicable).

Facebook Split Testing

Create your ads as you normally would with image, link, headline, text, link description, CTA button, and more. When you click the “Test Another Ad” button, Facebook will copy the prior ad for easy editing.

Your Turn

This is a great new option for advertisers to help uncover the highest performing creative. By using this feature and (separately) the dynamic creative feature, advertisers are much better equipped to serve high performing creative.

Have you tried out the creative split testing feature? What do you think?

Let me know in the comments below!

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