Recent changes in the Google’s algorithm can affect your page ranking and sales

Paul Dobson, Senior Lecturer at Staffordshire Business School


According to a number of reports Google has implemented a substantial search engine algorithm update in January, plus a number of smaller ones in February 2020 … But what does this mean for businesses?

The Google search engine uses a combination of algorithms and numerous ranking signals to deliver webpages ranked by relevance on its search engine results pages (SERPs) and we’ve seen these changes have a direct impact on the Google Analytics results and effectiveness of the customer journey to gain sales for businesses. An example of this, is the page ranking has changed to be more themed based.  However, there are ways for businesses to enable their website to be high up in the SERP. These include :-

1.  Snippets Dominate More Search Clicks

Google has changed over recent years with the aim to deliver better search results for the reader, examples include providing the answers through featured Snippets which appear above the organic results. For example, I’ve search “how to walk in snow”

For your website to take advantage of this, you need to provide clear answers to commonly asked questions in your website area of interest. These featured Snippets are evaluated and boosted to the top depending on their quality, with the results that 54.68% of clicks from Google come from featured Snippets. There are various ways to create featured snippet at the top of the page but the key ways include :-

  • Create something better than the current Answer Card / Provide updated information, and Google will prioritise this ‘Freshness’
  • Take the most frequent People Also Asked questions, listed in the Google search, and create content to match*
  • Focus on the most frequently asked types of questions: “How”, “Is” and “Why”

2. Keywords no longer work

Trying to pack key words into landing pages is no longer effective.  Google is using more natural language and wants to independently rank websites and use them as quality data sources.  Your website needs to be written as a natural language rather than trying to pack key words at the top, and consider the long key words that readers may use to find your website.  In addition, you need to consider your website as an overall themed area rather than a mixture of items or topics, for example if you’re selling car parts do not include information blogs on other areas such as toys, or if you do include other areas setup robot.txt and sitemap.xml so that Google does not to index them and get confused. 

3. Mobile User Experience (UX) affects your ranking and Sales.

On some of the websites that we use for student demonstrations of Customer Experience, (CX) User Experience (UX) and Google Analytics (for example https://aubergedechabanettes.com/ ) we can see up to 80% of the hits to the websites are from smart-mobiles in some weeks. A website that is not mobile compatible will lose customers especially as mobile access is a growing trend. How people find information using their mobile devices is also getting more advanced, so your website must be easy to read, grab people’s attention and then can answer their questions or keep them entertained.   If you own a business based at a property such as a Hotel, Restaurant, Bar and Beauty Salon, local SEO is vitally important. Studies show that 4 in 5 consumers conduct local searches on search engines using their mobile devices. Google now allows customers, at a click of a button, to navigate to you, call you or even book directly. 

4. Websites Optimize for Voice Search such and Alexa and OK Google

With the growing use of mobile devices and home devices, voice searches are becoming an increasing trend. These searches are not only done on phones, but they can also be performed on home voice assistants such as the Amazon Echo, Samsung Smart TV, Voice Pod, etc.

Questions asked via voice instead of entering search queries are going to make short choppy keywords less relevant and therefore search terms have become more conversational and targeted. This increasing use of voice searches has already had an impact of Google’s algorithms and Artificial Intelligence systems since the search engine needs to do more work to get the relevant information that the user is looking for.

5. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the way forward.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an important technology behind Google to deliver better search results to its users to create personalized experiences for consumers.  The AI has been learning the characteristics of what makes websites of high quality or not, then classifies these web pages and determines their rankings.  Therefore, high-quality content is essential for effective SEO strategies. Users want content that is relevant, helpful, and timely, so Google tends to place websites with consistently themed high-quality content with higher search engine rankings.

If you’d like to know more about becoming an expert in using data driven strategies to lead businesses to success including how to use data to analyse, design and test elaborate customer experience systems in the customer journey to optimise growth, plus learning to work in development environments for Fitbit, Alexa and Google home and mobile devices/smartwatches/ smart home devices as well developing using cloud computing, have a look at our MSc in Customer and Data Analytics.


Author :-

Paul Dobson is a Senior Lecturer at Staffordshire Business School in Digital and Strategic Marketing. He is actively involved in supporting local and EU charities and businesses especially hospitality businesses such as hotels and restaurants. Further details can be seen at https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulmddobson/

Ultimate Google Ads Guide for SME’s: 3 steps to increase return on Ads spend

Eerik Beeton, MSc Digital Marketing Management student


Return on Advertising Spend
Increase return on Ads spend with these 3 steps!

There are a few reasons why your Google Ads might not work as well for your business as it seems to work for your competitors. Make sure you follow these three steps and you’re guaranteed to be more productive with your Google Ads.

Many businesses have struggled to make most out of their digital marketing efforts and have employed strategies where they use an external marketing agency to handle paid digital marketing. I’m here to suggest that outsourcing Pay Per Click and Cost Per Mille (PPC/CPM) is not sensible anymore in the 2020’s. Why would you pay someone else to do what you can do yourself?

To prove this to you, the next three steps in this blog will bring to your attention some issues around outsourcing your Google Ads and how to do it yourself to both save money and increase the effectiveness of your paid ads!

1. Exploit automation, lose that agency and save up to half of the cost

Historically, making your ads has been time-consuming and has required a lot of technical input from marketers to stay in top of the game. Year 2019 was the year of automation, this also changed how PPC works. Now your PPC can be automated with budget diversification and smart audience targeting, making the use of an agency inferior. I’m listing more handy tools throughout this blog so keep reading!

If you buy click-based advertising services (Google Ads, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), a service provider will usually charge a 10-20% of the ad spend and a minimum monthly fee for their work. If your competitor advertises their services in-house for £300 per month and you outsource this service, then your advertising spend on Google AdWords is £150-200. This gives your competitor 30-50% higher advertising budget and an advantage.

As the average return on advertising pounds spend on google is 1 pound spent, 2 earned, you’re most likely giving your profits away using  a marketing agency.

2. Optimise and save up to 69% on your Ads

Understanding you Ad quality score can help you to create better campaigns and improve your digital marketing as a whole.

Poorly optimised Google Ads are a costly mistake, not only are they more expensive but they won’t get your business the leads they are after.  Once you get your Ads optimised, your Ad spend can be decreased by 69%.

Maybe the most important part of your Google Ads optimisation is that they need to be eligible for Google auctions. This means that your ads need to focus on a few strange terms like Quality Score, Maximum Bid and Ad rank. Ad rank is influenced by the maximum cost-per-click (CPC) you choose for your ad and your ad’s Quality Score. In the following, I will explain how you can create the best quality score for your ads.

To improve the quality score of your ads, focus on the following 4 strategies

  • Use keyword planning to increase relevance of your adds by making ad groups based on keywords
  • Optimise your ads for higher Click-through-Rate (CTR) by using focus keywords and Google Ads extensions, like call to actions and contact options.
  • Improve the quality of your landing page. This can be achieved by (re)targeting your ad and landing pages using long-tailed keywords or by using Dynamic advertising.
  • Be patient! Google’s algorithms will take more than a few days to improve the quality score of your Ads and being patient is the key to measure the improvements.

If reading pages of descriptions is not for you, I’ve also included a 4-minute video clip on the strategies for your convenience.

3. Set tracking and retarget customers to get 3x more leads

Retargeting Ads are 76% more likely to be clicked on than regular Display Ads. Therefore, building accurate conversion tracking is important for improving the results of your advertising. This is important as it will show how the customer actually behaved on the site.

Often, micro-conversions, such as referral browsing, shopping cart additions,, are ignored in tracking. However, they are essential metrics that tell about the quality of traffic and enable accurate re-marketing to visitors who completed a specific activity. This can also be used to track the performance of your paid advertising and to make changes accordingly. See the short video below on how to set you tracking!

The importance of setting conversion actions to help your customer tracking is essential; if you’re not sure how to do this here’s a link to a Google Ads article that explains it step by step.

Lastly, understanding the whole customer journey and to assess all the steps is important. By setting tracking and using retargeting can feed into 3 times more leads for your campaigns.

Future-proof your Google Ads revenue

Google has focused heavily on machine learning and keeps finessing the technology in order to deliver helpful and frictionless customer experience. There have been some setbacks in the technology and most of the features are not fully functioning for the SME’s, but this said: – The year 2020 will be the year to look out for improvements in:

Next big things in the early 2020’s

Google has focused heavily on machine learning and keeps finessing the technology in order to deliver helpful and frictionless customer experience. There has been some setbacks in the technology and most of the features are not fully functioning for the SME’s but this said: – The year 2020 will be the year to look out for improvements in:

Digital Marketing Tools That Will Help You Understand Customer’s Journey

 Adjaou Mohamed Adesola, MSc Digital Marketing Management


As technology evolves, the digital marketing bar is being raised higher for more transcendent usability and intuitive user interaction. For such, accuracy, speed and ease are the punch that will keep your clients loyal for the long haul. According to Gartner, consumer experience is the practice of designing for and reacting to their interactions to meet and exceed their expectations in order to increase consumer satisfaction, advocacy, and loyalty.

Highlighted below are some of the digital marketing tools that will give you competitive advantage.


Website Analytics tools

User-centered design is the first checkpoint you put your customers through. According to Brilliance, 75% of stores losses sales due to cart abandonment. So, how do you avoid cart abandonment? By having an intuitive navigation. Website navigation is like a table of content. The navigation should be organized, easy and grouped. Having complex and lengthy navigation creates confusion with your end users. For instance,

Imagine being at a new airport with 3 terminals and 6 floors and several concourses, you need to reach terminal 4A in under 10 minutes. How will you reach the gate without proper sign boards? A website without proper navigation is like an airport without proper signs. Your users will get frustrated and take off, hence leading to high bounce rate. How can you solve this issue? Create a website with a uniform design style, color scheme, and typography. Besides, include navigation tools within your website.

UX design involves creating something that users love, while analytics help designers/businesses understand what the elusive thing is. Analytics provides businesses with a measurable benchmark. There are four types of analytics.

  • Predictive analytics: Used to test scenarios and make suggestions.
  • Prescriptive analytics: Check on new trends and determine the optimal patterns.
  • Diagnostic analytics: Tracks and reveal trends over time.
  • Descriptive analytics: Indicates how many and how often.

Today, web analytics tools can perform all the above. If combined with research, measurement, and analysis, then business can create and maintain businesses that meet clients’ needs. You can achieve this using the following tools.

  1. Kissmetrics

Kissmetrics offers analytics that helps businesses increase their conversion rates and track visitors. Besides, it helps to identifying barriers to conversions. Thanks to the use of Engage feature. Engage uses behavior based data to display notifications to site visitors. Using Kissmetrics, marketers can specifically set the following behavior based actions: Lightbox, dynamic content modal, announcements, bumpers, and notifications. Marketers can design triggers that prompt these actions for instances, when a customer is idle for a certain period on the website, he/she is prompted to take some action like signup for newsletter or display related products that they may be interested in. This helps reduce bounce rate, and thus leading to high ranking. The tool is pricy and not affordable to SMEs, besides being a good tool.

Image Source: CMS Wire


Social Media Digital Marketing Tools

According to the Wall Street Journal, an average American spends 37 minutes daily on social media. Thus, every business should leverage on their marketing using the following platforms.

 

  • Twitter Native Platform

Currently, twitter has 326 million users. Do you want to get more out of Twitter and aren’t sure where to start? Creating an engaging and impactful strategy can make the difference. Firstly, you need to find your own voice. As a business, establish a well-defined brand strategy by creating fresh and original content that reflect your core business values. Besides, try and resonate with your audience in a positive way.

Planning and organization are key to great marketing. One of the best ways to get much out of Twitter is to join chats. There are chats for almost every topic. The key success to twitter chats is to be an active participant by following people, replying to their messages and keeping the relationship going even after the chat has ended. If there is no chat that relates to your brand, consider starting your own.

Although planning ahead is always great, the best tweets are created on the go. Ensure you capitalize on the trending topic and world events. However, as a caution, never use a tragedy as a branding opportunity. As a rule of thumb, don’t use one-sided marketing. Your Twitter marketing strategy should be a mix of organic tweets @replies, and Twitter Ads. Nonetheless, maintaining a Twitter account requires certain level of commitment and training. Besides, you must be weary of parody accounts, which can negatively affect your business. In 2019, businesses should watch the status updates to encourage conversation between its users.

 

  • Facebook Power Editor

 

Specifically designed to run hyper-specific advertising campaigns. The tool often issues new targeting and budget-friendly features for all users. In order to get more out of Facebook Power Editor, you must understand Ad basics. Use of catchy headlines, engaging images and strong Call to Action dictates how well your ad will perform.

Image Source: Neil Patel

The catchy headline, and strong call to action makes the above ad more appealing to the target audience. Currently, Facebook Power Editor is only available on Google Chrome, thus, users of other browsers are not privy to using this powerful tool. Currently, Facebook is testing CTAs to be used on stories create on pages. This something to watch in 2019.


Conclusion

Customer experience requires a health check. One of the ingredients to this challenging task is knowing the ins and outs of your customers’ behaviour. In digital marketing, communicating with your consumers and anticipating their needs and problems even before they arise is what you need. Getting the right tool to address customer experience is what will give you a competitive advantage since the war will not be won on product features or price page.

 

Twitter: @AdjaouMohamed 

LinkedIn: https://t.co/rAg1jZKEzi

 

Unflitered: The Truth about Influencer Marketing

Leah Mahon, MSc Digital Marketing Management student


Influencer Marketing (IM) is the latest marketing trend to take the digital plethora by storm – one like and re-post at a time. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, IM combines the use of old and new marketing strategies, and turning it into modernised content fuelled marketing campaigns through collaborations between brands and “influencers” who set up their own social media pages and create their followings.

For businesses – big and small – it is worth getting to the know the person behind the filter before letting them influence which directions your business goes down. Here are a few things to keep in mind…

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Guidelines came into full force after numerous followers of popular YouTube and Instagram accounts were collaborating with brands and not making aware that they were receiving a profit in return from their content. To ensure transparency among the audience you’re trying to reach through your Influencer, clarifying that a simple #ad or #sponsorship can save them and your business some major thumbs down.

Beauty Vlogger Zoella

Clear communication is key between your business and the influencer you choose to work with. Popular beauty vlogger, Zoella, faced backlash from her fans and their parents last year after her collaboration with Boots and her 12-day advent calendar, containing a bauble and cookie cutter, saw it priced at £50.00 – putting her good girl next door image a risk. She stated, however, that the final cost of the product was not her decision, and given the many loopholes it takes for a product to make it on shelves whom has the final say is usually obvious. However, businesses need to remember that every detail from the price to the packaging will affect the message sending out to their new audience in some way – and ultimately both parties pay the price.

Oprah’s contradictory Tweet

The Influencer has to believe in the brand and the product or service it is promoting. Microsoft collaborated with world-wide influencer, Oprah Winfrey to endorse their new Microsoft Surface tablet. Social Media Today describes how Oprah sought out Twitter to promote the new technology – only to do so via her iPad, one of the product’s direct competitors. Despite her global influence, not even she could increase sales if her influence doesn’t even believe in the product itself. It’s important for businesses not to collaborate just for the number of likes and followers, but what the Influencer believes in too. Right down to what tech they like to send their Tweets and DMs off.

At the heart of this new industry trend is authenticity amongst the audience that follows. In a time when filtered photos begin to look just like that, picking an Influencer that is transparent with their following from the start and for you to harness their honesty well, can be the deciding factor for a like or dislike.

Getting Personal: 3 Ways to Improve Personalisation in Your Business

Leah Mahon, Student, Staffordshire Business School


Personalisation is starting to get just that little bit more personal.

According to Campaign Monitor, digital personalisation is predicted to see major change from past methods of user-created profiles and preferences, purchases and life stage events. Instead digital customers can expect to see their data used within new machine learning and data science-based features and platforms to create the personal interaction customers crave. Now, in this digital age with marketing spend predicted to improve ROI for businesses across all platforms by 10-30% with the use of personalisation, businesses now are rediscovering the meaning of personalisation and getting to know their customers all over again with these new developments in digital.

  1. The Discovery of Data

The way personalised data can be used now goes far beyond the days of an email address with a customer’s name on it. Now, the meaning of data is beginning to expand as businesses begin to harness important information not just about their customers, but the very the context of the product or service, and how customers align within this. Econsultancy describes the new data outlook for businesses to consider:

The Customer Context: –

Personalistion is about targeting the right message to the right person

  • Location: Geographical status can affect which product/services are relevant, or even accessible.
  • Commuting, working, relaxing: What a person is doing in the moment affects their mindset and therefore the outcome of the purchase.
  • Time of day, day of week: This helps to structure the message being sent out – a “Friday feeling” contrasts greatly from the “Monday blues”.
  • Season: Weather and time of the year can impact buyer behaviour.
  • Customer journey position: What a first-time buyer is offered can contrast greatly with a repetitive buyer.
  • Satisfaction: Negative feedback should determine the tone in the business message to a more humble standpoint, and reconsider the regularity of marketing communications.
  • Demographics: Basic demographics determines who has a need or desire for certain products/services or messaging.

The Product/Service Context: – 

  • Motivation: Whether the motivation behind a purchase is from desire or necessity.
  • Price: Evaluate whether customers can make regular transactions or if it is a one-off.
  • Frequency of purchase: Regular promotion of a product that is only purchased scarcely is misspent effort.
  • How they are used: Whether the product or service is an important aspect of your customer’s live people’s lives as this determines how regularly to market to them.
  • Likelihood of repeat purchase: If an item was bought as a gift the likelihood of another transaction is scarce, however if it’s replenishable marketing to these customers again can prompt a repeat purchase.

The new perspective of data cannot be used solely on its own, however. It rather propels and informs the underpinnings of Behavioural Personas;  understanding the psychology of your customers and utilising the right customer data platforms  inform all aspects of the customer journey stage, customer lifetime value, purchase frequency to satisfaction, marketing engagement and price sensitivity. One business that has embraced this strategy is Netflix. According to Wired, they do not utilise gender specification upon subscription as the traditional demographic outlook has become statias buyer behaviour has become incredibly impulsive. Instead,

they utilise strategies such as A/B testing to lead customers to their preferred genre of television and film on the landing page, right up to whether their customers watch content in later hours often, personalising it to a programme that’s half way watched, or simply shorter in duration to suit them.

 

2. Automated Decision Making

Those all important customer data platforms (CDPs) have advanced significantly in this digital age provide a crucial two-way communication that traditional data management platforms do not offer, because it is only able to personalise customer information as far as a signpost for future messages and offers. While CDP “provides the connective tissue between and among them [customers] to integrate the marketing stack and enable orchestration across the web, mobile, email, social and so forth.” CMS Wired details why advanced CDP is essential in digital marketing:

  • A Single View of the Customer across all channels and devices, and offline touch points, enable a smooth customer journey
  • Persistent Customer Profile data tracks all customer interactions and ad impressions, developing a continuously updated history of individual customers.
  • Cross-Device Stitching eradicates problems associated with third-party cookie data collection, advanced CDP will have the ability to stitch data, which can identify a user across different touch points.
  • Real-Time Decision Making need near real-time data collection and distribution of insight to optimise marketing campaigns and the conversion funnel to re-targeting and supporting call centre work progress.
  • Integration with the Digital Eco-System enables the CDP to expand to more technology as well as first-party data sources on a comprehensive level.
  • Privacy and Data Governance helps to protect customer data, and provides flexible opt-out solutions for customers, while its standards for governing data use makes curtail data leakage near impossible.

A business like Netflix again does this incredibly well with not only offering their customers streaming content, but tailoring it to their preferred genres every time along with some new closely related editions, heightening the personalised experience.

3. Content Distribution

One dimensional content personalisation would have included specific ads dependent upon engagement with content, and visits to certain websites to entice customers. But with the power to offer personalised messages, experiences, services, and products businesses can begin to delve deeper to execute a truly one-to-one experience with their customers. Building upon the findings from the context of a product or service and how this aligns with a customer can be seen within weather based marketing, which is keeping up with relevant trends simultaneously, and prompt browsing and purchases related to the weather. Some elements of content distribution to consider are:

  • purchase history
  • preferences
  • demographics
  • browsing and buying behaviour
  • customer life-cycle

Online clothing store Very evidently utilise the tradition forms of marketing by addressing the customer by name, but these fuel the necessary underpinnings to create a “richer experience with content or information” by relating it the world shaped around the consumer.

As customers demand more than ever for a one-to-one experience, it’s important for businesses to remember the new digital marketing strategies that are changing marketing as we know it, all the while meeting their customers -old and new – all over again.

How the New Customer Funnel Could Change the Customer Journey in Your Business

Leah Mahon, Student, Staffordshire Business School


The new customer funnel is changing the way that businesses interact with their customers on their customer journey as we previously knew it.

For years, the traditional funnel has been one of the most used by businesses. However, according to Davies BDM, it has endured criticism due to its inability to adapt to the changing customer journey aligned with what customers want and need in an era of rampant digitalisation and self-controlled consumerism.

Now, the new funnel is set to be one of marketing’s biggest developments for the digital plethora, as predicted by Campaign Monitor. Its new hourglass shape represents non-linearity and continuity throughout the customer journey. It also boasts of new varied stages for every customer to experience as an acknowledgement of true individuality. The new funnel merges the stages of pre-purchase and post-purchase like never before to demonstrate a truly complete view of the customer life cycle. The concept of multi-touch, multi-channel and multi-path customers journeys are now changing the marketing strategies for every business that is embracing the rise of digital.

Some insight from Customer Journey Marketer, breaks down a little more why the previous customer funnel wasn’t quite cutting it in the dawn of this digital age, and what the new funnel can offer customers.

The Old Customer Funnel:

  • Inconsideration of external influences
  • Customers are linear and the same
  • Lack of focus beyond the point of purchase
  • Lack of granularity
  • Lacking perspective of journey

The New Customer Funnel:

  • Customers can enter at any pre-purchase stage
  • Customers do not enter every stage
  • Movement in non-linear way
  • Customer journeys are individual experiences

 

So, How are Businesses Using the New Funnel?

Good question! And it’s one that’s on every savvy business’s mind. The streaming service Netflix is using this new funnel with the non-linear perspective at the forefront, as described by Blue Coda. For instance, the average Netflix user would usually enter at the Engagement stage of the funnel.

Netflix market effectively to their customers with a “call to action” by offering a free streaming trial upon subscription for a month on their landing page with just a URL or Google search. This non-linear approach helps to reel in potential long-term subscribers quickly, and enable Netflix to collect data which can lead to profitable conversions. In a time with iron clad subscription polices, they emphasise that users can cancel this at any time, which increases trust in their service too.

According to Towerdata, customers crave that “1 to 1 level” experience and personalisation of their journeys’ which Netflix do throughout. After Engagement, the customer could then move their way down to Advocacy after watching their favourite series with personalised recommendations for similar streaming content. They could pass this onto friends and family, even before they make their way back up the funnel for an official subscription at the Purchase stage.

Another business that is putting the new marketing funnel to good use is Pinterest, as they prepare to launch their ad business in the UK market. Marketing Week demonstrates that they too market themselves well at the Engagement stage, which prompts potential customers to relinquish their data by signing up to their service, which would enable them to view more pins and to create their very own.

UK County Manager for Pinterest, Adele Cooper, highlights that businesses that work with them have the option of a using a “conversion pixel” which tracks if customers click on a pin and what they go onto do next. This means that ad companies now know what to market to their customers as they could make their way to Expansion with targeted ad campaigns personalised to there need and wants, before the Purchase stage has even been met.

Is it Worth the Journey?

It’s not just Campaign Monitor that has proclaimed the death of the old marketing funnel, but a marketer himself – Mckinsey – has also declared the concept of the funnel entirely dead as we knew it. However, according to McKinsey and Company, revival is not far away in the form of the Customer Decision Journey. 

Albeit, this model underwent a revival of its very own after failing to meet the forever changing scope of digital. Previously, its journey allowed customers to actively evaluate products or services through technology, while being able to add and remove choices. It also included a feedback loop where customers could continuously evaluate products and services after purchase, prompting products to perform and brands to provide a satisfactory experience every time. However, now in an era of accelerating digital advancements, the Customer Decision Journey was forced to undergo a drastic change.

Throughout the new journey, McKinsey argues that the stages of Consideration (Awareness) and Evaluation (Discovery) can be compressed, or in some cases completely eliminated. Businesses do not just react or respond to customers as they make purchasing decisions, but they also shape their decision journeys entirely. The rise of the digital plethora that once allowed self-controlled and self-educated consumerism, as outlined by Davies BDM is now fuelling the underpinning of further technological advancements that allows businesses to take back control. They have greater control over aspects like design and optimisation, and are now being able to create a space for not just value for the customer, but simultaneously for businesses too with “end to end purchase in consumer markets” being the end goal in this strategic model.

Albeit, an improvement from the linearity found in the traditional funnel with its entry and re-entry method, the Purchase stage is still a primary point of contact with the onus on customers to make a buyer “decision” on their journey. And with personalisation and customer individuality at the forefront, it is arguable that emphasis in this stage is complying with the demands of digital consumerism, because the pivot for customers has now become “the experience, not the purchase.” According to Relevance, personalisation can increase “five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend, and can lift sales by 10% or more.”  Customers feel more connected to the message that a business is sending out through personalisation also. Despite the “circularity” of the Customer Decision Journey, it is merely limited to “eating its own tail” while the focus remains on B2C transaction, and the assumption that can customers will remain loyal even if they have a good post purchase experience. Yes, there is more freedom for customers to explore, but ultimately the static nature of the end goal limits this model to a similar function of the traditional funnel. Customers crave a human touch, and businesses that use this strategic tool can risk compromising customer the longevity of their customer life cycle, and ultimately their sales if the journey itself to a potential purchase is indeed a bumpy one.

The connection between the stages of Purchase and Advocacy of both the new funnel and the Customer Decision Journey has also been criticised by marketers. Both models allow non-linearity to move freely throughout, but only once a customer has interacted with a product or service in some way. Take Netflix, for instance, and its call-to-action landing page, or Pinterest and its coaxing to sign up for more pins. The Harvard Business Review argues that now with the expansion of digital, the Purchase and Advocacy stages are now entirely disconnected, because people no longer have to be a customer or relinquish their data to become an advocate for a business. Potential customers are now experiencing what businesses have to offer through live events, content marketing, social media and word-of-mouth. This advocacy is an individual journey in itself that is not acknowledged fully with the previous strategic models, which  puts emphasis in the business, before the customer. True non-linearity through the customer journey is yet to be achieved, and now with more than 4 billion digital users around the globe and only predicted to increase by 20% each year, businesses that continue to rely on the convergence of Purchase and Advocacy could find themselves disconnected from their target markets before they have even truly met is this digital dichotomy.

It is food for thought whether the Customer Decision Journey has met its limitations, because its promise to reclaim self-controlled and self-educated consumerism as its very underpinnings for their B2C goals are undoing itself as customers’ feelings aim to be at the heart of every business – and not their money. For businesses to reject this concept would ultimately mean rejecting their customers. As they continue to shape their own individual journeys, and let the journey’s of others influence them, the impulsive nature of human behaviour is the foundation for the personalised digital experience to just keep getting bigger.

What about the Future of the Funnel?

The Customer Decision Journey and the funnel – new and old – don’t quite offer a smooth journey just yet. But just like the dawn of digital, they don’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon, and they have a been a catalyst for further development of the journey customer’s embark upon. As predictions rise to up to 72% of marketing teams to increase spending and create bigger budgets for marketing tools and technological assets in the next two years, and as marketing strategies shift to transactions in the context of a relationship one thing can be for certain…

That in an age of counting followers and subscribers as a sign-point for the changing face of digital, the customer funnel – and the customer journey itself – will be changing right along with it on its very own journey. And businesses that embrace the multi-dimension of social influence, advocacy from non-customers and truly non-linear paths to purchase, they too are sure to come along on the journey.

Harnessing the power of social media for small businesses

Written by June Dennis, Dean of Staffordshire Business School, Chartered Marketer and Trustee of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.


If you only have a small marketing budget, social media can seem like an ideal way to promote your product or service. Twenty years ago marketers could only dream of having access to such a huge audience so quickly.  However, where does one start?

Here are just four suggestions that could help you get more out of that limited budget:

Know your audience – it’s so obvious, but it’s really easy to make the simple mistake of taking your eye off the ball when it comes to ensuring your communication channels and messages are targeted at the appropriate audience(s).  We can get carried away by all the opportunities open to us that we forget what the purpose of engaging with social media actually was!  For example, why use Facebook if you’re primarily targeting a business-to-business audience?  (Sometimes, there’s good reason to do so, but you need to know why).  Spend time to make sure you know who your intended target audience is and what the key message is that you want to communicate with them.  Only then can you identify and choose the communication methods which best fit your message and audience.

Know your limitations – basically, don’t try to do too much!  Social media may seem very low cost compared to other forms of advertising or sales promotion, but there is still the cost of your time to factor in, at the very least.  It’s also very content hungry and if you commit, say, to writing a daily blog or tweeting several times a day, you may find you crash very soon.  Take note of what other businesses your size manage to do and try, where possible, to plan out your messages in advance.

Know how to create synergy – try to use the same or similar content more than once if you can. So, if you write a blog or post something on LinkedIn, can you direct people to it via Twitter? Could you use the copy for some promotional material or a newsletter? When you put something on YouTube, how can you maximise its use? It’s pretty obvious, but not everyone does it. Encourage customers and staff to send in stories which you can promote. I’ve found that people get a buzz from seeing something they’ve submitted being used or published and it creates a virtuous circle and they submit more material….

And, finally, think of ways you can work with others to create mutual benefit. A while back, I did an interview for a friend who was looking to increase traffic to her website via YouTube. As a result, I also sent links to my contact to her webpage and used the content of the interview to develop this blog. We both benefited and had some fun doing it.

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Using Digital to Build Your CV

If you’re anything like me, you would have read enough tips on CV building to write your own novel. But what do we really learn? How do we know that the document we’ve just spent four hours putting together is even going to get a second look from our dream company? We don’t. But if we do know what tools are available to build a great CV, maybe we’d one step closer to the dream.

Example of Canva Free Resume Template

Gone are the days that a CV format consists of a black and white document with Times New Roman font and maybe the odd line of bold. Employers want to get a glimpse of you from the first few seconds. So, my first tip, do not be afraid to be yourself and make the use of digital tools that are available.

Firstly, ask yourself which industry you are trying to enter, this is key to choosing the type of design for your CV as it has to be relevant. If you’re looking to build something a little more interesting that gives you the freedom to show some of your personality through colour and images, try Canva, a free online design tool. This has a range of templates with suggestions of content and layout, but also allows you to amend any settings to your personal taste.

On the other hand, you may be looking for a professional CV with a moving edge. Video CV’s are increasingly common particularly in the creative and also sporting sectors due to the nature of the roles. Software such as Windows Movie Maker, Apple iMovie or something more sophisticated like Adobe Premier Pro are great for editing your own footage.

Credit: powtoon.com

Finally, and this is exciting, how about creating your own animated video of a day in the life of you? Powtoon is a free online tool that allows you to create a cartoon character and tell a story of your education, experiences and skills through video. Powtoon is YouTube certified and has recently become partnered with HubSpot, meaning it’s great not only for personal development but for work related projects too. It is a simple to use, flexible tool that allows you to create approachable content and particularly for a CV, include a visualisation of a persons skills and knowledge.

A CV doesn’t have to be a chore, take the opportunity that digital has given us to explore creative ways to present yourself as a professional.

Author: Kathryn Taylor, MSc Digital Marketing Management Student

Digital Marketing Assessor at Total People Ltd

How YOUR Business Can Benefit From Machine Learning!

It is no secret that the landscape of marketing is changing, with a huge shift in activity from traditional methods to digital marketing methods. Machine Learning is at the absolute forefront of this change, and is tipped to be the key to successful business online.

What is Machine Learning?

Machine Learning (ML) is closely related to Artificial Intelligence (AI), a topic of discussion that is prevalent not only in marketing, but as a cultural issue. ML is the application of AI to systems, allowing them to learn from experience. This involves complex algorithm’s that allow a machine to use data to produce predicted outputs.

In marketing terms, this means that a program can gather relevant information, analyse it, and give a specific output, whether that is a prediction or action. This is an exciting prospect for businesses as it can lead to increased efficiency and decreased costs.

So, how can you, as an organisation, utilise machine learning?

Utilising Big Data – 

Digital is growing rapidly, and is fuelled by the amount of data available online, labelled as ‘Big Data’. IBM reported in 2013 that 90% of the world’s data had been produced in the last 2 years. Although this number may seem overwhelming, analysing it is HUGE business, with International Data Corporation predicting it to reach a value of $203 billion in 2020.

With this mass of data, analyst’s need the help of machines if they wish to be able to analyse it fully. Data Analytic programs allow this to an extent, but ML programs, such as Torch, have the ability to spot hidden correlations and patterns in this data, which can be used strategically.

Chat bots – 

Creating a dialogue with customers is crucial to businesses online, and one way to do this effectively is to use chat bots. Chat bots are becoming increasingly popular, and with good reason. Using a chat bot, a customer can open a dialogue to, for example, buy a coat. In this example, a customer would message the business through a messaging app such as Facebook Messenger, and the bot would then reply. The customer would then tell the bot what style/colour of coat it desires, and the bot would provide you with options matching your needs.

As a business, it allows you to communicate with huge numbers of customers on an individual basis, without the need for humans for each customer. This not only saves costs, but is a method that is increasingly preferred by customers, especially millennials. Although Chat bots are already beginning to revolutionise customer service, it is important to realise that the tool is still in its infancy, and so inevitably as technology advances, more and more opportunities concerning them will arise.

Image result for chat bot

Recruitment – 

Another way ML can improve your business activities involves recruitment. This is no more apparent than in ML tools used by companies like Zoho, such as Spark, which allows you to flip the equation in job searching – instead of candidates giving information and a list of vacancies being provided, Zoho uses information regarding the vacancy provided by the business, and supplies a list of candidates that best fit the role.

This can benefit your business because it ensures your prospective employees possess the traits you are seeking.

Oho landing page

Content Management –

With the swathe of content available to consumer’s, it is only natural that it becomes difficult for them to find the content they want to see. Businesses can address this problem through machine learning. By using a machine learning platform, businesses can use the data from previous content consumers have interacted with to predict other content that would be liked, and to ultimately produce content that resonates with their consumer’s. One such example of this is Pinterest. Pinterest use the previous images that their users have ‘pinned’ to suggest other images and content that users would like to see.

Image result for pinterest

This is Just the Start!

The benefits listed above should make it clear that ML has immense potential for business and marketing. It is now being used by giant companies, such as Google and Amazon, but there is no reason smaller companies could use it with just as much benefit. As the technology behind this area grows, organisations will be able to interact with and influence consumers like never before. Make sure you aren’t left behind.

Does your business use machine learning? How does it benefit you? What other benefits are available to businesses through this platform? Please share your opinion below.


by Rory Tarplee

LinkedIn

MSc Digital Marketing Student (Full Time)

 

8 Trends To Keep Your Eyes On In 2018

1. Instagram Stories Drive Upcoming Instagram Trends

Instagram Stories is a big deal and they’re not going away. Daily viewers of Instagram Stories surpassed daily SnapChat viewers just one year after launch, and the growth isn’t stopping.

Instagram Stories was likely the biggest single change in the Instagram UX, and its marketing implications are huge.

A huge deal with Instagram Stories is this: accounts with over 10,000 followers can now add a link within the feature. Considering the fact that the only other place you can put a link on Instagram is just the one buried on your profile page, this is a huge deal, as it multiplies buying or inquiry opportunities by orders of magnitude.

Instagram Stories in particular will be relevant from a marketing perspective because, compared to other transitory video platforms, Instagram metrics are eminently trackable.

A final note on Instagram Stories: Their foundation is social media engagement gold. Video drastically outperforms all other forms of content on every test.

2. Influencer Marketing Makes Major Contributions to Social Media Engagement

Influencer marketing is big business — a billion dollar industry by some counts. There is an exhaustive list of micro-celebrities who earn six figure incomes. And this isn’t a fluke. Influencer marketing is uniquely keyed to exploit certain facts about a growing number of buyers.
As Millennials advance their careers, and Generation Z starts theirs, an enormous population’s purchasing power is increasing swiftly. These two groups — who, combined, literally comprise most of the world’s population — are uniquely influenced by this marketing method.

3. Generation Z to Decide Social Media Trends

We’ve mentioned Generation Z in both of the previous topics for good reason.

RetailDive had this to say about Generation Z and their associated social media trends:

“Gen Z is two- to three times more likely to be influenced by social media than by sales or discounts — the only generation to value social media over price when it comes to making purchase decisions…”

Furthermore, 81% report watching at least one hour of online video per day, or more, according to a study by Fluent, covered by AdWeek. Combine these facts and realize that droves of Generation Z will graduate college and/or start careers next year, and you start to see the powder keg.

4. Messaging Platforms Make Companies Accessible

 

What do you know about WeChat? They’re a wee little Chinese messaging company . . . errr, one that’s looking to cross 1 billion users this quarter. WeChat and WhatsApp are absolutely ubiquitous across either ocean, reaching across many different functions to dominate social media, direct messaging, and even purchasing and commerce.

Every year more and more buyers are Millennials and Gen Z, and fewer and fewer are older. In case you’re not aware of these people’s overwhelming preferences when it comes to talking to a company, we’ll illustrate in their native language:

top-social-media-trends-20185. Live Streaming Explodes

Live streaming isn’t about live streaming. At least not in the way we’re going to be talking about it. You’re going to see a lot more of it in 2018, and the people who do it well will be fully with the times and accelerating. Its prevalence will increase because it works.

But there’s something more at work here.

It’s actually about technology. We get better phones every year. Does that mean that we’re running the same apps better? Sometimes. But once the technological baseline of the average user has clearly moved up a notch, it becomes about making more robust apps that do more and fully take advantage of that new technology.

The smartphones of today are better than what we used to have by orders of magnitude. Furthermore, our data speeds are better, and are poised to make yet another insane leap in the next few years when 5G becomes the standard.

Live streaming is a medium or implementation of social technology that’s uniquely positioned to take advantage of hardware improvements for the next several years. The resolution of an image the size of a phone screen can only get so good before you have to zoom in to see a difference.

But better video processing across the board means all devices involved can handle more streaming at a better quality across more channels at the same time. This is such a huge change that it’s possibly unclear that anyone is even capable of fully understanding the ramifications.

6. Twitter is Going to Change

And they themselves might not even know how just yet.

Twitter has been slowly circling the drain, in some respects, for a long time now. 2017 pulled no punches with the social network, either. Twitter needs to make some big changes to stay relevant, as its growth is the slowest of all the major social media platforms.

7. Online Hangouts Become the Norm

Online hangouts go hand-in-hand with the live streaming trend, and with Generation Z. Consider Houseparty — an app for multiple friends to essentially FaceTime with each other in a group setting.

Houseparty made quite a wave in 2017 with rapid growth, and hit its stride well enough to inspire copycats, including perhaps an effort on the way coming from (no surprise here) Facebook.

The online hangouts trend is also going to intersect with VR. Sure, everyone promised everything this year with VR and AR, and all that ultimately came of it was two weeks of Pokemon GO.

But this year actually has the potential to be different. Many promising programs have another year of beta testing still left under their belts, but the technologies are improving in exciting ways. Once again, Facebook is at the epicentre, with Facebook Spaces.

8. Social Platforms See More Hardcore Moderation

The last year or so has forced the hand of several tech and social media titans to intervene and play a more active role in content moderation. Those manoeuvres, in retrospect, felt more like damage control than any sort of final solution.

We’re likely going to see companies revisit this in a more significant or longer-lasting way, and definitely more proactive than reactive.

As leveraging social media outlets for marketing first took flight, some were dubious of their staying power. The years since have changed sceptic’s into believers, and what’s on the forefront will clearly and easily amplify the channels’ relevance even further.

2018 is here… but were you prepared?

2018 social media trends predict that time on social media platforms will increase. This means you will need to improve your online presence in the year to come.

 

By Richard Holland – MSc Digital Marketing Student

 

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