This is the twenty seventh episode of, ‘This Week In Organic’, the weekly show that debates the ramifications of the latest SEO and content marketing news.
In this episode we discuss how you quantify the impact that online marketing has on offline sales, what content marketers can learn from Google and how you cover live events for maximum exposure. Plus much more!
Sign up to watch the next show live over at www.thisweekinorganic.com and share your thoughts on what’s discussed using the hashtag #TWIO on Twitter.
DAVID BAIN: How do you quantify the impact that online marketing has on offline sales? What can content marketers learn from Google? And how do you cover live events for maximum exposure? All that and more in This Week in Organic, Episode Number 27.
Broadcasting live on Blab, you’re watching This Week in Organic, the weekly show that debates the ramifications of the latest SEO and content marketing news. Sign up to watch the next show live at thisweekinorganic.com.
Hello and welcome, I’m David Bain and each week I’ll be joined by some knowledgeable, opinionated folks to discuss the latest happenings in anything that impacts organic traffic. As for you in the live audience, get involved! Click on the ‘tell a little bird’ button, our ‘tell your friends’ button, and on the top left-hand side, the ‘share the show with the young followers’. Tell us what you think and what’s being discussed in the comments section to the right-hand side as well, and I’ll try and read out as many thoughts as I can.
But let’s find out more about today’s guests, where they’re from and what’s caught their attention this week. So starting off with James.
JAMES BAVINGTON: Hi everyone. My name is James Bavington and I’m the Technical Director at Creare. We’re a full-service agency based here in the UK in Rugby.
DAVID BAIN: Lovely, thanks James. And of the topics that we’re going to discuss today, does anything in particular jump out for you at all?
JAMES BAVINGTON: It does, yeah. We mainly work with small to medium-sized and local campaigns, as well as e-commerce so I’m very keen to talk about the offline purchasing habits and attribution along with the discussion around whether directories are still relevant in today’s SEO toolbox.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, marketing has split out into offline marketing and digital marketing and maybe it’s converging back together into just marketing. Or maybe just digital marketing now?
JAMES BAVINGTON: Absolutely.
DAVID BAIN: We’ll see how it goes.
And also joining us today is Victor. Hi Victor.
VICTOR BERNACE: Oh hi. How are you? It’s Victor Bernace and I’m here in New York. And if I’m a little bit slow it’s because I’m trying to adjust to the British accents.
DAVID BAIN: I thought you were going to say it’s the lag of time actually, between us.
VICTOR BERNACE: [laughing] My experience – I’m a small-time advertiser for my business. I’ve done some search engine advertising on Google andBing. But I also have a lot of experience advertising. I’ve been a politician, or would-be politician in New York, so I’ve spent easily a quarter of a million dollars putting ads on television, using commercials, flats, what you would consider offline marketing – shaking hands with 4000 people, knocking on doors. So I have that kind of experience.
DAVID BAIN: Wow that’s great. It’s always interesting to see what you’ve done with that and we can discuss how that impacts online as well. That’s part of the topics today so very interesting indeed. Thanks for that.
And finally, also joining us today is Chris.
CHRIS MARR: Hi everyone. I’m Chris Marr from Scotland here, so you’ve not only got the English accents but the Scottish accents as well! Across the board! So I’ll try and speak as clearly as possible.
I’m Chris Marr, based up here on the east coast of Scotland. I run a content marketing consultancy agency and I guess in reference to your question David, we do a lot of live events so that’s probably where I’ll be able to bring in some thoughts and some ideas and some opinions. But I’m also interested in all the rest of the topics as well to be honest with you, because it all comes together at the end of the day – the digital, the offline, it all becomes part of the main marketing mix anyway. So yeah, I’m very interested in today’s topics. Thanks for having me along.
DAVID BAIN: Great, thank you Chris. Integration is the word of the day, apparently.
CHRIS MARR: That’s it.
DAVID BAIN: Good, good. Well topic number one is – if you are an online retailer, can you afford not to participate in the Black Friday sales? And what can content marketers learn from the current Black Friday campaigns?
So Chris, what are some of your Black Friday offers at the moment? Are there any that has caught your eye at all?
CHRIS MARR: Well Black Friday is great for the digital discounts that you get on software that usually cost a few hundred dollars – you can get ridiculous discounts on it, which is brilliant. It’s fantastic. But I’m not really an offers kind of guy. I don’t really do offers for clients. I don’t really run offers or anything like that. It’s not a key interest of mine. I’m much more interested in the longer-term marketing of things. So offers aren’t really my kind of bag, if you will. I don’t really get that fired up about it either. So when it comes to Black Friday, like today, a lot of my posts on Facebook were, ‘Don’t buy anything today!’ So I was kind of anti-Black Friday, but not in a way that was hateful or anything like that. I think people get carried away by it a lot of the time.
From a content marketing perspective, I would like to be on the reporting side of things, about how it could have a negative impact perhaps, on business. I think there is danger around all of these things when it becomes so commercialised. From a content marketing perspective, I don’t really see any real value there, other than the fact that you might be able to report or be able to create some sort of content on the success that you’ve had around some competitions or around some offers, or some discounts or something like that. Other than that, it’s just an offer that you’re putting out in to the world.
So there isn’t really any content marketing value there. I don’t think anyway. But that’s my perspective, I guess.
DAVID BAIN: No that’s a great perspective. And it’s very easy to jump on the bandwagon and just try to do the same as everyone else, but as a business leader you also need to step back and actually think, ‘What impact is this going to have on my business over the long term as well?’
It’s funny actually; I got an email from Kelvin Newman, at BrightonSEO, just an hour ago or so. And he sent an email out to everyone to say, ‘It’s Black Friday, so we doubled our prices!’
CHRIS MARR: Ha!
DAVID BAIN: So that was quite an interesting take on it. You are riding on the trend but you’re not actually succumbing yourself to the trend.
CHRIS MARR: Yeah. Having a sense of humour around this is not a bad idea.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, exactly.
James, what is your experience with regards to Black Friday?
JAMES BAVINGTON: Well I think Black Friday is still quite a relatively new term and I think a lot of shoppers and people who are buying today are a little bit more sceptical perhaps than in previous years. Even in the UK just yesterday evening –we have a programme over here Victor called Watchdog, and they were actually showing in the spotlight how a lot of big retail names are actually putting their prices up earlier in the year and discounting them closer to the time. So I think that side of Black Friday and the actual transparency over deals is a little bit more in the spotlight. So I think people, the intended customers and consumers are a little bit more sceptical.
Even myself, I confess I have bought a few things this morning, but that’s just purely down to doing a bit of Christmas shopping, I don’t think I have actually been enticed in by any specific deals. I think if we’re looking to work with our clients to help with marketing on Black Friday, I think that the more rounded, percentage-based discounts perhaps could be a little bit more beneficial than having crossed-out prices.
So I think there are a lot of people having fun with it, you almost can’t go around branded websites today, on Black Friday, and not see that kind of special offer. So it’s still very much in people’s faces when they are on line, but I think that people have to do a lot more to stand out today.
DAVID BAIN: As a customer, it currently seems like you’ve got to be a little bit careful because with a lot of big companies there may be a loss-lead with one or two products, but perhaps the rest of their offerings are actually increased in price slightly, in the hope that along with the bargain deal you are going to add one or two other items to your basket and then they may even actually be more profitable than they normally are. So it’s an interesting strategy.
But Amazon actually intrigued me with what they’re doing. They’re offering, for anyone who is a member of Amazon Prime, they’re offering £3 not to get the delivery early. So they are thinking of customer service as well, the overall experience with what they’re delivering, to try and ensure that everyone is happy and they don’t actually upset people by perhaps not being able to deliver on time. So you’ve got to think about your whole customer experience as part of it as well. And it’s not just about getting as many customers initially in the door as possible.
Victor, you’re in the country that started it all! [laughing] What do you have to say about it?
VICTOR BERNACE: Yeah, I was at a Thanksgiving dinner with a close friend of mine last night. And his brother-in-law, he lives for Black Friday, he plans it out. And what I’ve noticed is that a lot of consumers now, they have a specific plan. There are maybe deals that he is getting a lot of ads thrown at him for, but he wants to buy an iPad for his daughter and he wants to get the best deal. He researched it and he’s planning on going to Target, and he’s going to get a $100 coupon back that he’s going to use to buy a keyboard for the iPad. And that’s his plan and he’s been researching it. But he’s not going to be buying everything or going in to buy this one object and then get ten more objects.
So I think that’s the trend with consumers here. They are being more directed to very specific plans when they go shopping. Some other consumers, like me for example, I have never had a TV – well for the last ten years I have not had a television, so I don’t see the Black Friday advertisements and all that coming at me, trying to encourage me to go out shopping. So it doesn’t have the effect that it has on a regular consumer. For some shoppers who are offline, Millennials, people who don’t have televisions, what I say is that I go to specific websites – I go to some android websites. The Wirecutter is a website that reviews technology products and I’m looking for specials there, but that is the extent of my research. I’m not seeing ads or things like that.
DAVID BAIN: Okay. So you’ll buy something. It sounds like everyone is thinking that you’ll buy something if you had the intention of buying it to begin with, but they’re not looking to buy something just for the sake of it. Or perhaps not; we haven’t got a fair representation of the average consumer here but that’s our point of view obviously.
Andy Halliday is saying – oh by the way sorry, Victor, the first thing I should have said to you is a Happy Thanksgiving! We don’t particularly think of that in this country. [laughing] Hopefully you had a nice evening last night.
VICTOR BERNACE: Yeah.
DAVID BAIN: But Andy Halliday is saying on the chat, ‘Organic won’t help on the day, you have to do other marketing to drive customers; email so they pay-per-click direct.’ It must be a very interesting ride for pay-per-click advertising, to wonder if you’re actually going to be breaking even, to see what happens with the cost-per-click for everything. That certainly shouldn’t be your sole focus. If you are only driving traffic that way then your profitability isn’t going to be that great, I guess. But perhaps that is beyond the remit of this current conversation.
So let’s wander to the second topic, which is Google AdWords is actually trying to quantify the impact that online advertising has on offline purchasing habits. But is it really possible to actually accurately attribute online marketing activities to offline sales?
To James maybe, first, do you have any clients or have you talked to anyone who is trying to attribute traffic that comes through the door of a shop or comes in over the telephone or some other method to actually pinpoint a particular online activity that actually impacted that?
JAMES BAVINGTON: We do and it’s actually surprisingly more and more common among a lot of our clients. It doesn’t matter how big they are or what industry they are within. They like to have real transparency over exactly where their customers are coming from.
I think as marketers, aligning a client’s budgets and campaigns with regards to which channels are working, can be increasingly difficult to do so. I think a lot of our clients are currently working through this. We are working with a very large company based down in London and they’ve got a lot of tracking on their website – any email enquiry or sale that comes through they have full visibility. However, one of the key things that they do struggle with is the people that simply pick up the phone or walk into their showrooms – to actually understand where that attribution is coming from.
And at the moment we are encouraging our clients to physically ask their customers where they are coming from and if they are coming in via footfall. But it is obviously difficult. And if you have lots of staff, that’s quite a big infrastructural change that’s required that also needs aggregating down into one place so that somebody can make sense of it all.
I think Google are getting there, steadily, with obviously the telephone tracking that they now offer in AdWords, combined with other third parties. We use a company called Calltracks for also getting visibility over organic search telephone leads. I still feel that physically being able to attribute people walking into a store is still going to take some time and it’s interesting to see that Google are taking more steps towards this.
DAVID BAIN: Absolutely. Victor, you mentioned that you’d paid quite a bit of money for advertising but mostly possibly offline in the past. Have you actually done online as well and tried to attribute that to what you are achieving offline?
VICTOR BERNACE: As a small advertiser, sometimes I feel overwhelmed because there are so many – I always think of it as like a street performer trying to send too many balls up into the air and you are trying to not only do call tracking then you are trying to attribute a code to work out who paid you on the purchase from the attribution. You are trying to see where they came from, the geography, what key words. So after a while you start getting overwhelmed with all of these different things.
I think that a lot of these things that Google are always rolling out are signs for very, very large advertisers. Small businesses, the pizza owner on the block – it’s just right over their head. They are not going to do that when they do any Google AdWords advertising.
DAVID BAIN: So do you think Victor that this is a tactic for Google to actually try and justify advertising, increasing their pay-per-click that they are actually paying, and saying, ‘Look, not only are we bringing in these transactions that are happening online, but we are also impacting this. So you can afford to pay not $20 but $30 per click’?
VICTOR BERNACE: Yes, I mean obviously the more complex it is the harder it is to figure out how to be efficient with your research and AdWords that are working and so you get into this cold war kind of scenario where you are bidding up and up and you don’t know what’s working. You do need to have somebody who is like an accountant or a statistician working behind the lines trying to figure out what is working your campaigns.
And I think that many advertisers when they talk about content, sometimes the most basic content production or advertising is better than all these complex things that you do. I can give you an example, just from what I’ve done in advertising in politics – this example always blows people away. When you run for political office you put your name on the ballot and it shows up there. And I’ve done this four times. The first time I ran my name was on the ballot, Victor Bernace. That’s it. I got 2% of the vote, 2%. And that was a shoe in. The second time I ran I changed my name to reflect my full name, which is Victor Armando Bernace. My middle name – Armando. It is legal, I just left it out the first time I ran. The result on the election – 25%.
DAVID BAIN: Wow! And obviously other things could have impacted that result. How confident that…
VICTOR BERNACE: What I’m trying to get at is that by just changing one word in your name, adding one word, it was the Latino name and there is a large Latino group in my neighbourhood – 50% of the vote, and all of a sudden all of these consumers said, ‘Oh, well I identify with this guy. He is one of us! I think out of pride, I’m going to vote for this guy Bernace.’ Bernace doesn’t mean anything, it is French in origin. But Armando says, ‘He is one of us. I’m going to vote for this guy.’ And so all of a sudden – I thought about all of the advertising, thousands of flyers sent out, TV ads, resulted in 2% of the vote. From then on in the future, Armando – 25%. It didn’t matter what I did, I didn’t put a single ad out and still I achieved 25% of the vote.
DAVID BAIN: Wow. That’s absolutely incredible and certainly a lesson that you should be split testing everything you do, if possible, if you are driving enough traffic to justify it obviously. A great example, thanks for that.
Chris, with regards to attribution, are you actually trying to define which referring sources of your traffic actually results in the sale, the conference purchase perhaps? And if so, what attribution model do you favour? Do you favour a U-shape with more on first touch and last touch? Or is quite tough to justify doing that?
CHRIS MARR: Are we still talking about paid ads in this as well? Do you want me to refer that back to AdWords?
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, yeah. I’m trying to define how to attribute traffic and obviously we are talking about paid ads a little bit and also offline marketing as well. Take it in a direction that you feel…
CHRIS MARR: Yeah, okay because I had a train of thought in my head and it wasn’t actually for me it was for a client that we are working with. And I think it might work better actually, because they are doing a lot of the main steps that we are building over time.
So if you rewind the clock to eighteen months ago, there wasn’t any tracking, they didn’t know where their customers were coming from. And over a period of eighteen months we have managed to really sharpen up their AdWords and get to the point where we are tracking each step, trying to figure out exactly where the customers are coming from. And I guess the product is kind of storage and removals, so it’s not really like an online purchase. And another thing about it as well, is that customers typically they only really buy once, or not very often. It’s not like a repeat purchase, like a pizza, for example. It’s not something that you are going to be buying all the time.
So, I guess my point was going to be something like we are getting smarter all the time, but we are really focussed on measuring only the key metrics. There are only maybe six or seven metrics that are really focussed on, that we only care about, because the rest are fine – if the other ones are going in the right direction then everything else should be okay as well.
So from a client perspective, they aren’t really bothered about this sort of minute detail about how to actually do it. In fact we out source all of our AdWords to a guy who only does AdWords because we know how specialist that field is. So I want an expert to deal with that and what I want him to tell me is what the conversion rates are. How many people are visiting our webpage from that ad and are filling in a contact form? And how much does that cost us to get a contact form filled out? After that it’s up to the company to make sure that they make the sale, put the person into the CRM and equate it to a sale.
So my point is that I think using something like AdWords, whether you are using it to get more customers or not, which you should be, it actually gives you quite good information about how well your website is performing, if you can get the conversions and things like that. Even if it does result in a sale that doesn’t happen online, I think it gives you some good information about how everything else is performing as well. So I think it still plays a role in the mix.
We’ve got a content strategy at the back of all of that as well and I think it’s helping us to drive our cost-per-click down, our conversion rates down, because we’ve got the content there and it’s really improving the website. So I think you have to have this integrated mix and if your clients have got the budget to do it then I think it’s worth getting an expert in or doing it yourself (or whatever you need to do) to find out what opportunity there is online for driving more traffic to your website.
DAVID BAIN: Chris you mentioned that many clients aren’t interested in finding out about things like what is happening with AdWords and how does it work. Is that a mistake do you think? Or do you think that it’s right that they shouldn’t be focussing on that and they should be focussing on their own business?
CHRIS MARR: Well it depends. So we’ve had clients at both ends of the spectrum. One who wants every single detail – graphs, numbers, the lot, which will actually force me to spend a day writing reports. And at the other end of the scale, which is like, ‘I trust this guy; we know that everything is happening, we know that it’s not going to happen overnight.’ Two ends of the scale entirely. And I don’t think it’s wrong, because the manager of the company that I have in my head just now, he’s running the business, he’s got people to go and see, he’s not the marketer – that’s why he hired us to be the marketing people.
I don’t know what the balance is, somewhere in the middle probably is the answer, but even, I mean, he’s a business owner or something functional, I don’t want to know about it, I just want it done and I want to know if it worked or not and how well it’s working. That’s it. Did it get us a customer today? Great. Or whatever. Just the big numbers please.
I think that’s better, I’d rather work with that. I don’t think it’s a mistake, I think it’s about knowing which numbers are the most important ones to measure.
DAVID BAIN: Chris is asking a good question in the chat and I’m going to fire that at James – so you need to be prepared James! So that’s, ‘At what point does the confidence we get with data become potentially damaging to our efforts?’ What do you think of that James?
JAMES BAVINGTON: So I think, if I understand correctly what Chris is asking, it’s a case of if the information that we’re learning through this attribution – actually I’m not sure that I fully understand the question. Sorry Chris.
DAVID BAIN: Maybe he’s thinking about situations where the clients actually focus too much on the data, or maybe he’s talking about some campaigns that are actually just led by the data rather than actually common sense and a bit of intuition about the market yourself personally. Maybe take the question that way? Do you see too many marketers maybe relying on what the data says rather than actually a bit of common sense and looking into the market themselves? Or is it the other way around? Not enough data being looked at?
JAMES BAVINGTON: I can relate to what Chris was just saying a moment ago. We also have clients who want to get very, very granular with the detail and they can be so hung up on organic rankings or paid search visibility that they get lost in the data. And I think because as marketers, the attribution modelling that obviously Google are trying to do – to come back to your earlier point David, it’s obviously to do with people wanting to spend more money with AdWords and having that trust in the service.
You do also have to take a level of common sense as you were saying, with regards to the other factors, because even if we could literally tag human beings in the same way we do pets and we can work out when they are going in and out of stores exactly, there are still lots of other aspects to the marketing that the data just simply won’t show us. So I still think it has to be taken with a pinch of salt and looked at with the wider common sense aspect of it. I agree.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah absolutely, it’s not just about the volume of data it’s about how you interpret that. Yeah.
Well the third topic is that Google seem to be doing a great job with their contact marketing. We’ve seen their Google Doodle, for example, on a regular basis, but now they are starting to step things up with their Star Wars experience. So what can content marketers in general learn from Google? Victor, have you had an opportunity to check out what Google have been up to with their Star Wars site?
VICTOR BERNACE: I have followed the link and it makes sense. I also saw the Business Insider article talking about how it basically gives a topic of conversation to keep Google in the conversation, for people at work look at the Google Doodle, but it’s an old and tried tactic.
It’s the equivalent of a politician that is in the right place at the right time – a horse gets run over and then the media is there to cover that and all of a sudden the politician is there standing next to a dead horse saying, ‘This is horrible! We should pass a law against this! We have to prevent this – we can save it!’ So whatever topic is in the news, you try to take advantage of it and get publicity by being right next to that important trending topic.
But Google seems to be creating the trending topic by taking these miscellaneous birthdays and events that people don’t even think about and doing it in a creative way. Sometimes they take advantage of a trending topic but sometimes they create one too.
DAVID BAIN: Is that a great thing to do Chris? Or is that something that Google are encouraging people to do perhaps, look at the search results? But it’s not really tying it back to what Google offers as a company.
CHRIS MARR: It’s a funny question. Because my head has gone down the road of, why would Google even need to invest in content marketing, being the actual number one search engine?
DAVID BAIN: Is that what they’re doing? Are they not doing content marketing?
CHRIS MARR: I guess they are but they can do whatever they want can’t they? It doesn’t really matter! [laughing] They can play around with things to their hearts’ content if they want to; they are the number one search engine. I don’t know – do they do any advertising? I mean, really? In the grand scheme of things, do they need to?
I don’t know, I’m kind of throwing it out there, thinking to myself.
DAVID BAIN: They do pay-per-click advertising for their own services.
CHRIS MARR: Yeah, they don’t have to pay for it. They are the thing that we use every day. I don’t know what to say. It’s like trying to break down Coca Cola’s content marketing strategy isn’t it? I don’t really have an opinion on it really, to be honest with you.
I think they are doing qualitative marketing but they are doing it in a way that’s trying to create interest or to entertain, isn’t it? It’s more to stay relevant maybe. I don’t know.
DAVID BAIN: But is that not a good lesson for other content marketers out there? Perhaps they try and too soon tie back their content to precisely what their product is, when perhaps they need to just build a conversation and then people will find out about what they do actually from that.
CHRIS MARR: It depends on what your philosophy is around content marketing I guess, because there are a couple of different strategies aren’t there? You could do one that is really focussed around helping your customers to make an educated buying decision. Or, you can create content marketing that sort of entertains and creates an emotional connection. You’ve got to have a bit of both I guess.
I can only say for small businesses – I think it’s more about getting somewhere in the middle there. It’s about creating content that’s kind of indirectly or directly related to what you do, but doing it in a sort of light-hearted way, or having some sort of personality about it, because you really do, with small businesses, it’s about how can I get the best, the most value, out of the time that I’m spending doing the thing that I’m doing, because resources are tight. And getting people to do content marketing in the first place is quite difficult anyway because it doesn’t look like there’s a direct impact on the business.
I think what we could probably learn from Google is that it’s okay to have fun I guess, with your content marketing. But the thing is, for Google it doesn’t matter what they do, it’s a lot easier to do though, the Google Doodle is on their home page.
VICTOR BERNACE: One point you made – if I may, is the emotional point. Most of this content is not to sell products I think, or expand, they are a monopoly in that virtually when you Google something. But they want to make us like Google as a person, make us smile when we see the Doodle. And you could say that they are just doing it for fun, but it might have more mischievous reasons.
Google might be afraid that in the European Union you are going to go after them and try to shut them down with all the complaints against the company in Europe. So it is sort of pre-emptively trying to make everybody in Europe and in the United States like them and to think of them as a person rather than as a big, giant, monolithic corporation. The more likeable you are the less likely it is that you have anti-trust actions or that you can get consumers calling in their elected officials. So it might be part of that kind of strategy – a long-term strategy on being likeable to the consumers.
DAVID BAIN: That’s a good point, yeah. Well Chris Green is sharing a video link. Chris I hope that you’re not trying to encourage everybody here to actually move away to somewhere else and that this isn’t interesting for you. Maybe you can summarise what the video is about! Watch it after, okay?
James, what are your thoughts on this one here? Are Google doing the right thing? Are they actually consciously trying to implement a content marketing campaign or are they just having a bit of fun and not even thinking about how people perceive them as a brand?
JAMES BAVINGTON: I think it’s probably all of the above. One of the great things with Google is that they don’t necessarily tend to tie themselves to one particular medium. Obviously everything that they tend to do is typically online, with the content marketing but they just use the full spectrum of what’s available and what’s relevant and what they think people want to see.
I think a lot of the time marketers work with their clients to market content associated with their products or services, and I think one bit of inspiration that I have taken from Google is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be to do with what you do. In a way Google has zero relation to Star Wars yet they have tied themselves quite closely with it, because obviously we saw the Easter Egg that they released a few days ago, but there are other countless things that you can do with Star Wars, like siding issues – whether you the light side or the dark side, and then have a sort of themed Google experience around the interface. And for me as a user or Google, perhaps all be it a power user, I quite like to see what the next key thing is that they’re doing, that they’re innovating.
And as a marketer, it’s their originality and yes they probably do have very large budgets and floors of people sat around thinking these things up, but it’s almost a case of – I see it go big or go home. If they were doing the Star Wars thing on a very small scale or really simply, people wouldn’t really be sharing it and wouldn’t be engaged with it and wouldn’t be in awe of it. I’ve seen countless bits of content marketed even recently where people are just doing something someone else has already done but perhaps not to as a good a level. And it doesn’t quite have that same impact. And I think what Google do, is when they do something like what they’ve done with the Star Wars Easter Egg, they do it properly and that’s the key inspiration that I take from what they do.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah. You said Easter Egg a couple of times there and maybe they think that their brand is a bit too techie and stuffy and most people don’t have any feelings towards it. And these little Easter Eggs, when they actually started the website abc.xyz and if you go into the source code of there you find links in there that the general public probably wouldn’t be aware of. And that’s their sense of humour. So it’s their way of hopefully softening up their brand. Possibly, or maybe it’s just a bit of fun.
So – sorry Chris, I thought you were about to say something there.
CHRIS MARR: I was going to just say isn’t this just their brand?
JAMES BAVINGTON: Yeah, yeah.
CHRIS MARR: This is just what they do, isn’t it? It’s their unique selling proposition or whatever you want to call it, it’s the thing that they do. They just do it. It’s the thing they’re always done.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah. It’s their persona.
CHRIS MARR: Exactly. It’s their personality. It’s the thing they do. So it’s cool, it’s awesome actually. I love how they do it. I wonder if it’s just marketers that talk about it.
DAVID BAIN: [laughing]
CHRIS MARR: Just throwing that out there. Let’s not get into that discussion!
DAVID BAIN: Maybe we should stop talking about that…
CHRIS MARR: [laughing]
DAVID BAIN: So going on, we’re going to be talking about whether web directories still matter, how you cover live events for maximum exposure and how you do quote content marketing effectively.
But first of all just thanks to people who are participating in the comments there. Again I’ll keep on trying to read them out. I know Chris was on last week’s episode that got recorded live at the Digital Marketing Shows, it was good to see you there. Andy was on a previous episode as well. So good to see you guys back there. So keep it up there.
But moving on to the next topic, which is – Yahoo announced back in 2014 that it would slowly kill its directory and now it’s finally happened. They started redirecting it section by section but now dir.Yahoo.com redirects to aabacosmallbusiness.com. But how important are web directories nowadays? Is it still worthwhile getting links from them or are they just not so important moving into 2016?
Victor, shall we start you off on this one? What are your initial thoughts on this one?
VICTOR BERNACE: I think Google and its ever expanding takeover of the universe is making web directories irrelevant, little by little. So there’s this battle – when you do a search for an airline ticket and you can go either to Kayak or Expedia, and now Google gives you search results for that too, and they have their own search engines for that. They are expanding into everything. So eventually even directories become not as worthwhile to go and link up with when you do SEO Google and that’s your site, without being on a directory, depending on other factors. So it is part of that trend.
There are other counter trends, people fighting over where you create a very valuable one site that gives very specific information, so it’s better than you would get in a directory or Google, and eventually those sites obviously get bought out by Google.
DAVID BAIN: [laughing] Yeah. Are we going to be living in a Google World in a couple of years’ time James?
JAMES BAVINGTON: I already am! [laughing] I think a lot of us are. Yeah, it’s a really interesting topic, web directories, because in short my answer is yes, I do still think it is important. And I think more so for smaller and local businesses because if you were to do a search today, if I were here in my office in Rugby and searched for plumber, the majority of the listings for any kind of blue-collar search are going to be a lot of web directories. There are obviously Yellow Pages or Yell.com, Thomson Local, Yelp – these are getting more and more prominence.
DAVID BAIN: So does that mean the only important web directories now local web directories?
JAMES BAVINGTON: Possibly yeah. Don’t get me wrong, I know some five or six years ago one of the key general necessary tactics along with building links was building links on directories and I think that whole side of directories for the sake of it are completely irrelevant. For me it’s worthwhile getting on the key directories. There is a term – I can’t remember who coined it, called Barnacle SEO, whereby you add your website, your business presence and optimise it thoroughly on all the search engines. So that not only when you do a search for the brand name is that whole first page of the search results you on each of those directories with reviews ratings,, but it shows a little bit of brand authority and relevance.
And we shouldn’t forget that websites like Yell.com or Yelp or Tripadvisor have got a big customer base and people do use them. They might not be flipping through a Yellow Pages phonebook anymore but a lot of people do still look for local businesses, tradesmen on these directories. So it can be just as important to ensure that a customer is listed on them, listed correctly with good photos and course to action, just as equally as a website I think.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah I know. There are a lot of good points there. I’m sure it depends on your business as well. I’m interested that Google are taking over the world but Google are controlling obviously what it displays in its search results and if it decides that it wants to display Tripadvisor and maybe review sites prominently in relation to a brand, then obviously that should be the focus in terms of where else you want to actually talk positively about your brand online. And if it’s deciding not to actually list website directories anywhere near its top ten pages then it becomes fairly worthless to actually get a listing in there I guess.
JAMES BAVINGTON: Sure.
DAVID BAIN: Chris, you were nodding away when I think James said something like, ‘Well it’s completely irrelevant or worthless now.’ Do you spend any time on website directories?
CHRIS MARR: Not really. We’ve had quite a mixed experience with this. We’ve done a lot with citations – like name, address, phone number, that sort of stuff. And that’s been quite good for one of our clients’ websites. We’ve built a lot of stuff around that. So it’s not the same thing really but it’s similar in tactic I guess.
You mentioned it sort of depends on the type of business that you’re in – also it depends massively on the competition in Google, in the search. So, I’ll give you an example of this – we had a client who was a Yell premium customer and our organic search for our own website property was actually ranking higher than Yell.com’s results in search. So we decided to scrap that premium account with Yell because it wasn’t performing for us.
Also you’ve got to think about the buying process as well. We couldn’t go on Yell, they’re at a different part of the buying process than they are when they are on your web server. They typically can be.
So we basically have seen it from lots of different angles and one of the angles has been very relevant for us recently, is the fact that it isn’t working for the company that we were working for. And it was specifically to do with the organic competition that was there for us. We were ranking higher for the search terms that we wanted to be found for, than we were trying to be found for using Yell. Our web pages were actually ranking higher than the directories were.
And for reference, what James was saying as well, it depends on the type of company that you work with. A roofing company for example. It’s very similar in that typically a roofing company, or removals or a storage company would be found in directories first before they’d be found on their websites but, because there is no one really in that space doing really good organic content marketing stuff, there isn’t a lot of competition there. So I think you can actually own that space organically, without being on these listings.
DAVID BAIN: I think Google are doing a better job now at knowing what the brand website is.
CHRIS MARR: Yeah.
DAVID BAIN: As long as you do a half-decent optimisation job on your own website, in that it should be ranking as number one for your brand. You are doing a pretty bad job if you’re not, obviously.
CHRIS MARR: Yeah. So it’s ranking for when someone doesn’t know what your brand is. That’s obviously the trick. And that’s where the directories come in. But I guess it really just depends.
There are quite a few variables in there – competition between you and your competitors and that of the directories and how people are buying from you as well. So if you have got a Yell directory and your website is on there, and you happen to get phone calls from it and you’re making sales, then why would you stop it? It doesn’t make any sense. You would probably put more money into it if you could. By the same token, if you’re spending £15,000 a year on Yell.com and it’s not actually bringing in any sales or any traffic to your website then you get rid of it.
DAVID BAIN: So the key is if it is driving traffic as well. If it helps with SEO then great, but you wouldn’t do it just for that like you maybe would have done five or seven years’ ago.
CHRIS MARR: If you have got really good, solid, organic search traffic and Yell.com happens to be, maybe 2% of your referred traffic, or something like that, you have to weigh it up. It just depends.
DAVID BAIN: Absolutely.
Well the second-to-last topic is: Google have launched an in-carousel content feed for live bloggers. This is only in private beta at the moment, but it could be a great opportunity for some bloggers to get featured prominently in search results.
So James, have you blogged, or micro-blogged from live events and if so, do you see that as actually being quite a good way to actually reach new people and be quite effective with your organic marketing in the future?
JAMES BAVINGTON: I think it can be quite effective. But I’m quite embedded with Twitter personally. If I’m at a conference, or at an event – I think Twitter have got it down so well. Plus it has your third party applications, so you can actually see what’s going on via the hashtag method.
There are other events, such as where Apple does their big launches, that’s when I tend to actually see what’s going on in the search results. So I do think Google are obviously trying to get a little bit closer to the text base that does seem to be dominated by other services like Twitter.
So it is an interesting step forward. And I was just doing a little bit of research on it earlier and I noticed that it requires a little bit of structured data to make it work but I do feel that it could bring live events much more closely together with people who are there and also launch bloggers who are doing a really great job in writing up for those who aren’t there.
DAVID BAIN: I guess it depends probably on the trustworthiness of your domain for the topic that is being talked about as well, because the websites that Google are testing for this particular service at the moment are newspaper-type sites. So I would say that it is unlikely that they are going to accept quotes or comments from just anyone in relation to a current live event.
JAMES BAVINGTON: Oh of course. If you think about it, Google have tried authorship seniority with GooglePlus. They’ve previously included authorship in the search results but they eventually took it away. Quite how they gauged those credentials – I’m sure they’ve already got an algorithm running with regards to domain authority, whether they identify in the moment the blogger, their following, or what their own authority is.
It’s a very good question because I think that is quite key in insuring that the quality results do appear correctly.
DAVID BAIN: Victor is this something that maybe appeals to you a little bit? Perhaps on political campaigns, if you can provide live blogging updates and get featured prominently in Google, then potentially you could drive a significant amount of traffic for that?
VICTOR BERNACE: Well it’s like anything Google does. If it’s the flavour of the month and you jump on it, like James was referring to the author tag, and you jump up to the top of the rankings then you benefit from it. Eventually they give up on it, or if it was a success they will keep it going forever. But that’s one of the benefits of always being in the know, in the industry, looking out for up and coming trends like this and trying to take advantage of it so you can get at least that temporary pop-up to benefit your business or your politics, to get your branding out there.
DAVID BAIN: Or benefit Google, because I remember back in 2010 or so, Google brought out the Caffeine update. Before then they were pretty poor and being able to deliver up to date information and people had started to go to Twitter to get that live information. I reckon part of this is obviously Google have to be very careful to ensure that they are delivering the most relevant, up to date results to the people using their service.
Chris, as a content marketer, is live blogging and getting featured at the top of Google for those live updates something that you may talk to clients about, or is not something that is going to be on your radar really?
CHRIS MARR: I don’t know much about it. No, I don’t think so. The number one reason is because – let me think about this for a second. Live broadcasting is pretty easy to do these days and a lot of people are doing it on their mobile phones with periscope and things like that. Usually when you are at a live event you are there to engage in the wider conversation around the whole event.
So I think for me, for the stuff that we’re doing in content and also in the live events that we’re doing, we try to capture the conversation from the people that are there. How much people can participate from the outside in, I don’t know.
I know that you can obviously join the hashtag on Twitter. Twitter is great at that – that’s one of the things that wins. We had a Twitter wall at our last conference and it was amazing the amount of conversations that were going on. Just by having a slightly competitive edge for everybody, like giving them some reason to tweet, just excelled the whole thing. It was amazing.
You have to get everybody involved in the conversation. As soon as you try to put it somewhere like Google, it seems a bit detached from the actual conference, from the actual live event itself. And naturally if you can engage everybody within the conversation in the event and you can give them some sort of platform to get the conversation out there, like Twitter for example, and it’s really easy for people to get involved in that conversation too.
I don’t see the benefit really.
DAVID BAIN: Maybe you encourage people to actually live blog on their own blogs and that would be perhaps more advantageous for you rather than people actually live blogging on Twitter, micro-blogging.
CHRIS MARR: You can do that anyway.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, but and then to actually find a way to syndicate the feed to actually collate all the blogs that are going to be talking about you and then add the feed together and create one feed out of it and perhaps create a live feed at the event.
CHRIS MARR: Yeah. I can see the longer term SEO benefits of that as well. Like if you are doing it through Google and you are doing an event, say every year it was building and building and building every year. I could see a huge conversation being built around that, and maybe driving even more traffic to your website over that period of time.
So I guess – and this is the thing that Victor said as well, who knows whether it is even worth their time? You might say, ‘This is great, let’s do it!’ And then six months down the line they may say, ‘This is not working, we’re going to axe it now.’
Sticking to a platform that is really highly engaged already is always a good idea, especially if you are doing events and it’s got to be easy. It has to be easy for people. It’s got to be frictionless almost.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, it comes back to doing things for traffic and hopefully having SEO as a side benefit but not doing things just from…
CHRIS MARR: Yeah, but live events is massively about the community and the culture around that, and the conversation that is taking place. So you don’t want to risk that. Ticket sales, the traffic is fine, but when people are there, the magic is in the room, that is what you really need to try and pull out somehow. I think that’s important. You don’t want to waste that by trying to get more traffic or doing something else.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, good point.
EvanUK is saying, ‘Didn’t Twitter go into partnership with Google to display Tweets in the SERPS? Or would that not be a conflict of interest?’
Yes they did and I guess it will be up to the lawyer to define conflict of interest! [laughing] People in business and have multiple different relationships there so we are seeing Twitter more prominently now, certainly that is assisting Google to display live results.
I reckon we should move on to the last topic, which is: this week UK Apprentice candidate Gary Poulton gifted us with an interesting quote, ‘He left a sour taste in the client’s eye.’ [laughing] I’m sure it wasn’t as intended but it’s certainly made him infamous on social media. It brings us the important point that many marketers often share quotes as a significant part of their content strategy. So is sharing quotes a good use of resources? And if so, how do you actually quote content marketing effectively? Or are other forms of producing content more effective for your business? Is maybe original content better?
So I reckon we should come to Chris with this one first of all.
CHRIS MARR: Yeah. I’m just trying to get over that quote.
I think making sure the quotes are accurate, first of all, is probably a good idea. But yes, I think it works. It works on certain platforms, like Instagram has proven that sharing quote images and things like that, if that’s what you’re referring to?
DAVID BAIN: Mm.
CHRIS MARR: That works really well on Instagram, really well. There are people who have made it a huge success in building up an audience there using quotes, totally shareable. And if you get it right it can completely resonate with your audience as well.
So, it can work as part of the mix. I think you can over do it. And I get fed up with it. I like them but I get hugely fed up with it on Facebook and especially on LinkedIn as well. But it works really well on something like Instagram if you get it right and it resonates with your audience, like I said.
DAVID BAIN: Is it wrong just to do that on Instagram? Do you need to mix it up with other things even on there?
CHRIS MARR: Absolutely, yeah. It’s like everything – I think you need to have a bit of mix, especially personality. For example, the two things that I’ll add to this and then I could…
DAVID BAIN: We have a challenge with your connection I’m afraid Chris at the moment. You are going on to audio only at the moment. Maybe – can you still hear us Chris?
CHRIS MARR: I can hear you. You can’t hear me?
DAVID BAIN: Okay, I can hear you fine now. You’ve just gone on to audio only actually, so if you’d like to carry on your two points that you were going to make?
CHRIS MARR: Sorry, the internet’s gone a bit funny.
Yeah, the two points I was going to make: I’ve seen people make the transition from using other people’s quotes to using more of their own quotes, because maybe they’ve published a couple of books or they’ve got some sort of authority out there on content.
So I think it works in general. I just think you have to make sure that it’s right for your audience and you mix it up maybe with your own quotes, and a bit of personality as well.
It just works. I don’t know, they are just massively shareable. That’s the power of the internet isn’t it?
DAVID BAIN: Yeah. But the important point by the sound of it, that you are making, is that you don’t have that as your sole content focus. You need to be subtle with it and perhaps just every so often sharing a quote.
CHRIS MARR: Yeah, I think it can get boring very quickly.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah. A lot of people do it.
Victor – I saw you smiling a way with a couple of points that Chris was making there. Have people quoted you? Or do you actually try and share quotes online as well?
VICTOR BERNACE: No, I totally agree with what Chris is saying. If you always try and jump on a quote or something like that, it looks mechanical and artificial. It really has to speak to your soul, or the soul of the brand. So you connect on something, and it can be an amazing viral marketing result.
The last time, about two weeks’ ago, I quoted something, I wasn’t trying to advertise but I heard the Republican debate and Marco Rubio basically said, ‘We shouldn’t have Philosophy Majors, we should have more builders and people who work with their hands.’ So I went on Twitter and I was like, ‘Whoa! I’m a Cuban Philosophy Major and I’m insulted!’ And then there was a whole thing on Twitter with Philosophy Majors making fun of this Presidential candidate. They were saying that Philosophy Majors don’t make money, that they’re useless. And so if it speaks to you, you do feel that you want to get into that conversation.
It’s the same thing with the brands. If it’s something that’s related and intrinsic to the brand then go for it! You might get a great result. But if you’re just trying to find something funny, it looks artificial. It doesn’t work.
So I agree with Chris.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, thank you. And James should a brand only share a quote that it has direct interest revolving? Or is it okay to actually share any kind of quote, if it provokes some kind of funny conversation?
JAMES BAVINGTON: Yeah. It really is quite a good topic. I agree with what Chris was saying. It does need to be used sparingly, in moderation and in the right way. Humour, satire, stupidity, those kinds of things are always going to gain interest and attention when you see them on your Facebook timeline or on Twitter. I think they just have to relevant, because if somebody is obviously just quoting something and there’s no meat behind the bone when they actually come through, then you are potentially causing more harm than good.
I think quotes work better, or work really well when you’re looking for affirmation of a point that you’re making. So if you are talking about an idea or a concept and you can put a little quote with an authoritative name underneath it to reinforce the point you’re making, that can work just as well. I see that all the time on blog posts or on conference talks where people are using other people’s quotes to reinforce an idea that they’re suggesting.
But I think we’ll continue to see it as long as quotes are relevant, people are always going to be drawn to them. In the same way that we see people doing their own take on John Lewis’ man with the telescope advert, in a way it’s the same thing, people are quoting the activity that somebody else is doing. So I think it comes in many forms and is part of that humour. I was handed an iPad yesterday and somebody played me the Littlewoods version of the John Lewis advert – I don’t know if you guys have seen it?
DAVID BAIN: I’ve seen a few versions but I don’t think I‘ve seen that one.
JAMES BAVINGTON: Yeah, have you seen it Victor, over in the US?
VICTOR BERNACE: No, actually. I don’t have a TV. Maybe it’s been running too much on TV.
JAMES BAVINGTON: No, I wouldn’t say you are missing anything. [laughing] But I think it’s just interesting how people use quotes. I think as long as it’s done tastefully and it has impact behind it, we’ll continue to see it and it can work well.
DAVID BAIN: I think that’s a lovely point you made actually, incorporating quotes as part of what you’re already talking about. You can do things like maybe embedding Tweets within a piece of content that you’re producing. And of course you have different types of learners as well. You have visual learners, or people that love reading a lot of text as well. And perhaps actually, you can use a quote or some imagery to actually emphasise what you are actually talking about in a previous piece of text as well.
JAMES BAVINGTON: Yeah.
CHRIS MARR: It’s the narrative; it’s your ongoing narrative, your social content, your brand, the stories, the actions. It’s the whole thing. It has to just be relevant doesn’t it? We’ve all of us have said it. That’s when it can work really well.
DAVID BAIN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Well I reckon that just about takes us to the end of this week’s show. So there’s just about time for a single takeaway from each of our guests. And some sharing to find out more details after that. So shall we start off with Victor?
VICTOR BERNACE: Oh well thanks for having me on. This is Victor Armando Bernace and I hope you enjoyed my comments and hi to everyone in England from New York.
DAVID BAIN: It was great having you on Victor. And if you had one take-away from what we’ve discussed so far to share with everyone? What do you think people should actually think about and perhaps implement within their businesses?
VICTOR BERNACE: I think in content marketing or advertising the most important thing, like I was referring to, are the basics. Sometimes the smallest change on your website or on your ads – it could be a different word, like I was joking with my name Victor Bernace or Victor Armando Bernace, can have a significant effect.
As you were saying, A and B testing is important. One or two small changes can have such a great impact, bigger than any call tracking or off-content tracking and people coming to your store. So it’s about the basics, go back to the basics.
DAVID BAIN: Great point. Thanks Victor. And also with us today was James.
JAMES BAVINGTON: Thanks David. So I am James Bavington from Creare. I think based on the topics that we’ve been discussing today, I guess my top tip would be don’t do something for the sake of it. Whether it be content marketing for Black Friday or using a quote or integrating the new live blogging information. There is a lot of stuff going on in the industry but just concentrate on the things that matter the most and will have the biggest impact first.
DAVID BAIN: Great advice. Don’t be a sheep. Perhaps you can actually use what’s going on to your advantage but actually go in a slightly different direction, so latch onto it slightly but not following the crowd. So thank you for being with us James, lots of value there I think.
JAMES BAVINGTON: Thank you.
DAVID BAIN: And also with us was Chris.
CHRIS MARR: Yeah, thanks very much for having me guys and it’s nice to meet both James and Victor as well and have a chat with you about all things content marketing. You can get me at @ChrisMarr101 on Twitter and if you want to take the conversation there, that would be awesome.
I think the biggest take away for me are two things. One – just really focus on your audience. I think that’s the key thing, to really get closer and closer to your audience as much as possible. I think marketing is hard, but it gets a lot easier when you start to understand who you are actually trying to communicate with. And then on top of that, just make sure that whatever you do is relevant to them and also be yourself as well. Make sure you’ve got your own personality in there. Don’t be afraid to do something a little bit different that makes you feel that you are trying to embrace your own personality as well.
DAVID BAIN: Great, thanks Chris. I like the fact that you used, ‘Communicate with,’ and it’s a conversation rather than actually communicate to, which other brands are still a bit too guilty of doing.
And I’m David Bain, head of growth here at Analytics SEO, the agency and enterprise SEO platform with big insights. Sign up for a free demo of our platform at www.authoritas.com and you can also find me interviewing online marketing gurus over www.digitalmarketingradio.com.
Now, if you’re watching the show as a recording, remember to watch the next episode live, so head over to www.thisweekinorganic.com and be part of the live audience for the next show.
But for those of you watching live we also have the audio podcast of the previous shows. So just sign up to the email updates at wwwthisweekinorganic.com and you’ll receive the podcast links from there too.
But until we see you again, have a fantabulous weekend and thank you all for joining us. Adios and thanks again to Victor, James and Chris. Great show.
VICTOR BERNACE: Take care.
JAMES BAVINGTON: Thanks.
Working as Content Marketing Director for Authoritas since March 2015, David also hosts our own weekly show – “This Week In Organic”, commonly referred to as #TWiO.