SEO in the festival season: which retailers have the right strategy?

Summer in the UK means festivals, and there are plenty to choose from again this year.

Festival goers need the right equipment: clothing and camping equipment, as well as waterproofs for the English weather.

Thanks to data from PI Datametrics, I can see which sites have prepared for the festival season, and which ones have room for improvement.

Seasonal SEO strategy

We’ve looked at seasonal SEO before, and it’s all about optimising for key periods of the year, and ensuring that your site is in prime position to profit from the spike in interest and search traffic which follow.

Optimisation need to be done in advance, and sites need to hone their internal linking strategies to avoid any cannibalisation of their own search traffic.

This means creating hub or landing pages for target search terms, and linking back to these pages using the target keywords.

Festival search trends

Google Trends data gives a good indication of the products that people are likely to be looking for and the peaks in interest.

search trends festival

To take ‘festival clothing’ as an example, here are some key trends:

  • Festival wear terms peak yearly in May, June, July and August.
  • In 2015 ‘festival clothing’ peaked in August and was searched 33,100 times.
  • In May 2016 ‘festival clothing’ was searched 40,500 times.
  • ‘Festival clothing’ has risen 82% from May 2015 – May 2016.

trend seo

This kind of trends data can be valuable to plan your content and SEO strategy round (see above).

  1. Content needs to be planned and published well ahead of the target event or season to allow time to optimise it for searchers.
  2. It’s important to be there when customers are searching for related products and considering purchases.
  3. This is the peak purchase period. If you have the right strategy, this is when it can pay off.
  4. The discount period is a time when interest is declining, but still comparatively high. A good time to reduce excess stock.
  5. Don’t delete the page once the season has passed. Keep it fresh and ready for next year so the planning doesn’t go to waste.

Example 1: ‘festival clothing’

This is what search performance should look like ideally. The sites here all rank consistently for the selected term, and they’re competing against each other, not their own content, for search rankings.

festival clothing top

ASOS is the top site for the term above, and this is the landing page for the term. What’s key here is that the retailer has created this dedicated page and linked to it consistently.

festival clothing

On the flip-side, failing to plan correctly produces this kind of inconsistent performance.

festval poor perf

Example 2: festival essentials

These are the top performing sites for the term:

  1. Gigwise
  2. Mountain Warehouse
  3. Skiddle
  4. Tesco
  5. Her Packing List
  6. All Noise
  7. Go outdoors

As we see below, they all rank consistently, more or less, for the five months before the peak for festival-related traffic.

festival essentials

 

 
One of the top performers, Mountain Warehouse, seems to have planned its content strategy very well.

The is the page Google returns for ‘festival essentials’, a checklist of key items, all of which link to the relevant product categories. As I write, it sits at number three on Google UK, in prime position to attract product searches.

mountain warehouse seo

By contrast, Millets – though it has a festival landing page – has done less work to optimise the on-page copy.

millets seo

It also seems to have neglected internal linking. It has lots of content related to festivals and key products on its blog, and therefore plenty of opportunity to link consistently to the landing page above.

millets blog

There’s a lot of content here, and many opportunities to link to the landing page, or even relevant product pages, but not a single link to a product (or product category) sold on the site.

For comparison, look at this content page from Mountain Warehouse, which links back to the products it mentions.

It’s very odd, as Millets has got certain parts of the strategy right, but has totally failed to join it up. We have some useful content around festivals, and a landing page for the term.

All Millets needs to do is to link consistently from the content to the landing pages. It’s a real missed opportunity.

In summary

The examples above show the importance of a unified SEO and content strategy for seasonal events.

It’s about knowing when the seasonal traffic spikes are likely to be, the key terms to target, and then implementing the right strategy well in advance.

This also underlines the importance of content and SEO teams working well together. On Millets, it looks like the teams producing the content have no idea of the SEO strategy at all.

Google to roll out updates and new formats for mobile shopping and travel planning

Mobile will play its biggest role ever in 2016 and as Google reveals: mobile travel and shopping searches are already up nearly 30% year-over-year.

To help with this rise in demand, Google announced yesterday in a blog-post possibly timed to steal some Prime Day thunder, that it will soon begin rolling out new mobile-centric features for PLAs, holiday booking filters, its YouTube’s TrueView shopping feature and a new Showcase Shopping ad format.

That’s a lot of new info to wade through, but it’s all designed to help prepare marketers and mobile users for the October – December holiday season, which you’re all thinking about now right? Right?

Travel planning and booking

According to Google, visits to mobile travel sites made up 40% of total travel web traffic in the first quarter of this year, while individual travel web sessions are becoming shorter and travel mobile conversion rates have grown 10% as users are increasingly ready to book on mobile.

To help with planning and booking travel ahead of time, Google has introduced a few new features:

Hotel Smart Filters

You’ll now be able to filter hotel search results based on rating or price with a single tap. So “pet-friendly hotels in San Francisco under $200” will theoretically find you something relevant.

Hotel Deals

When searching for a hotel, you may now see a ‘Deal’ label when a hotel’s price is lower than usual. These deals are automatically identified by Google algorithms when it sees a significant reduction in price. In early tests, Google saw that hotels marked with the ‘deal’ label received about twice as many bookings as other hotels.

Hotel Tips

The ‘Tips’ feature will offer real-time analysis to help users find the best hotels for their needs. Tips may be shown to people when they could save money or find better availability by moving their dates slightly.

Flights price tracking

Instead of having to continually check prices in Google Flights, users can now opt-in to track ticket-price changes for a specific date and route combination. When prices either increase or decrease significantly, they will be notified by email and Google Now cards.

Flight price tracking

Showcase Shopping Ads

This is a new format designed to help shoppers who use broader search terms, such as “women’s athletic clothing” or “living room furniture.”

Rather than present them with one specific product ad that probably isn’t relevant, Showcase Shopping Ads provides a more in-depth “visually rich experience” showcasing multiple related products.

showcase shopping

All merchants running Shopping Campaigns in the US, UK, and Australia will be eligible to have their products automatically appear in Showcase ads in the coming weeks.

Google also states its experimenting with a premium version that allows retailers the ability to curate the experience.

New features for TrueView

Almost half of the US population (47%) says that YouTube helps them when making a decision about something to buy at least once a month.

TrueView is Google’s tool that allows ad viewers on YouTube to find out more information and click to buy.

According to Google, the number of advertisers using the product is up 50% since January and in recent weeks, about 1/3 of them are using it every week.

To help give retailers more control over branding, Google is introducing two new features:

Companion banner

A new interactive banner appearing next to the video that lets viewers scroll through products while the video is playing next to it. The banner also shows viewers the most up-to-date product information.

Product picker

This lets advertisers choose and prioritize which of their products are featured as cards in a TrueView for shopping campaign.

Trueview for shopping companion banner

Currency converter

And finally, Google is currently testing a tool to perform currency conversions in Australia, Switzerland, Canada, and the UK. This feature allows you to convert the currency in your product data locally. So a person shopping in the UK can see products sold by a US retailer, listed in British pounds.

Currency conversions

Facebook ad targeting: every possible option available [infographic]

A couple of weeks ago, a “simplified” Facebook Ads Manager user interface arrived, merging what used to be several separate targeting boxes into one megabox.

Now demographics, interests, and behaviors all live within this one ‘Detailed Targeting’ box.

Everything from job titles, to life events, to industries, to purchase behavior, are all lumped together in here. Advertisers will have to find it all by hunting with autocomplete.

This change makes it much harder to know which ad targeting options are available. Are advertisers supposed to search blindly, just guessing what targeting options Facebook has?

There are literally tens of thousands Facebook ad targeting options that go beyond basics like age, gender, and language.

Seriously, just look at what happens just for the letter A. You get everything from “In a relationship,” to “Asia,” to “Less than $20,000”

Detailed targeting used to be, well, more detailed! Facebook laid out the options in a much more logical and granular way for advertisers, many of whom already found Facebook advertising a bit overwhelming.

Isn’t there a much better way? Yes! All hope is not lost!

facebook-ad-targeting-options-infographic-snippet

A new infographic from my company, WordStream lays out every possible Facebook ad targeting option in one helpful infographic.

We’ve collected every single Facebook advertising option in the epic infographic below: demographics, interests, behaviors, connections, and remarketing.

Save it and use it as you’re preparing and optimizing your next Facebook ads campaign. Take advantage of all these powerful combinations to reach your target audience on Facebook.

facebook-ad-targeting-options-infographic-wordstream

 

How to use purchase intent for more effective keyword search

If you think the lowly keyword is dead, think again. Good research can help a business position itself with the the right content to engage the audience at different points of the consumer purchase journey.

Have you experienced one or more of these problems with your SEO and PPC ads?

  • Your pages are ranking well, even at number one in the search results, but they are not getting any clicks
  • Your ads are getting a lot of impressions, but they are not getting any clicks
  • Your pages in organic search results and ads are both getting a lot of clicks, but just not converting

If you have, it is likely that there is disconnect among keywords, ads, page description and landing page content.

Keywords_Disconnect_600

As more and more companies shift their digital marketing KPIs from traffic to conversions, these disconnects are huge roadblocks to business growth and need to be removed.

Why does disconnect happen?

In many cases, a disconnect is caused by these reasons:

  • Selected target keywords based on search volume (SEO & ads)
  • Used the same ad copy (ads)
  • Used the same landing page (ads)
  • Didn’t check which page is ranking for a keyword (SEO)
  • Didn’t check the organic search results to improve how the page shows up (SEO)

Basically, your SEO and paid ads have become very mechanical and perhaps even routine. You have forgotten people are your audience, and not Google or any other search engine.

If you want to succeed with SEO and paid ads, you need to understand what your audience wants, and start giving them what they are searching for.

For example, when I was searching for a pair of yoga pants, I specified a size as “petite”, and got the following results:

Keywords_petite yoga

Sadly, all four of the paid ads failed to provide me with what I wanted on the landing page even through three of them do mention “petite” in the ad title. Also, six out of eight of the listings in Google shopping failed by not mentioning “petite” in the title. One of them did mention “petite”, but gave me a pair of fitted work pants instead of yoga pants.

In this case, 10 out of 12 advertisers tried to bait me into the site using a title that matched my search but neither the description nor the landing pages matched what I was looking for.

This happened because they didn’t care about what I wanted by understanding the intent behind my search keywords: “petite yoga pants”. They were hoping I would mindlessly click and look around.

How to use keywords to improve content for better audience engagement

1. Listen to the voice of the consumer

Keywords are great in the sense that they let you know what the audience wants. Consider keywords as an indication of the voice of consumer.

Keywords_Audience Engagement_600

In the new keyword research model, search volume is not the main focus. What you want to do is to identify the keywords used in each stage of the customer journey.

People at the beginning of the customer journey usually use big keywords with a high search volume – and are therefore unlikely to convert for a while.

While the search volume may be small, long tail keywords are important because people who use them are likely to know exactly what they want, and are probably very close to a conversion point.

2. Serve the consumer relevant content

Once you finish your keyword research, group them based on the different stages of the customer journey. The next step is to map keywords to the most relevant content on your website for SEO.

For paid ads, create a landing page with the content that meets the needs of the searcher’s intent throughout the specific stages of the customer journey. These pages are commonly referred to as ‘preferred landing pages’ (PLP). By mapping keywords to the right content, you are going to improve the ranking, click through, and the conversions.

Google has said it values websites with good usability, and by good usability, they mean that searchers can find what they want quickly on the page. It validates the importance of keyword mapping to the right content and ensures the content truly represents the intent and needs of the searcher.

The relevancy is not limited to the landing pages. The ad copies, the page title and the description for the organic search results play important parts in bringing searchers to your website. When there is not enough relevancy, disconnect occurs.

This is one of the easiest ways to increase traffic. If you haven’t looked at your organic search for critical phrases lately, do, and you might be surprised to see how poorly they represent your products and services.

Effective keyword research helps you to create compelling content that engages with the audience by providing content that satisfies their needs. Do you believe in the importance of keywords now?

Feel free to leave your comments below.

How to find copyright free images with Google Image Search and other resources

Whether maintaining a blog or a beloved long-running website, you will have likely run into problems with accidentally using copyrighted images.

It’s easy enough to do, there’s so much misinformation around fair-usage from country-to-country that it’s easy to assume you’ll be safe, but still end up with a huge invoice from Getty Images.

If you have fully paid-up access to an image provider or stock image library, then fantastic. But what if you’re just running a site with little-to-no revenue?

Or… what if you’re sick of seeing the same old lame stock photos of millennials taking selfies?

Images are a fantastic way to improve the readability of your posts and properly optimised images can also drive search traffic – you should definitely use them, even for the shortest articles.

Luckily there are many places you can find good quality images, which you can use for completely free.

Google image search – filter by usage rights

As I discussed in my post on optimising images for SEO, you can find unlicensed images directly on Google.

Just type your search query – today I’ll be looking for ‘cats that look like people’ because what the heck else is the internet good for…

google image search

Then click on Search Tools, then Usage Rights and select Labeled for Reuse.

google image search filter

It’s probably a good idea to then double-check that the image you’ve chosen is genuinely free to use. You can use a reverse image search like TinEye or ImageRaider to check any further usage rights.

TinEye

Flickr Creative Commons

Flickr is a massive user-generated resource for photography, with many professionals and semi-professionals showcasing their work here.

You can search all the images by usage rights, and use any that are labelled with a Creative Commons licence.

You just have to make sure you give full credit and link to the Flickr profile of the person who took the photo.

There are various licences available, so make sure you double-check the details. Some photographers will only agree to their images being used for non-commercial purposes for instance.

Flickr Creative Commons

Unsplash

Unsplash images are all copyright free, you just need to credit and link to the photographer.

unsplash photography

Image by Denys Nevozhai

These are incredibly high-quality photos, so don’t be surprised if you see them crop up semi-regularly, but so far Unsplash seems to operate relatively under the radar.

Morguefile

Despite the name, Morguefile is a lovely place to visit and search for creative commons photography.

morguefile homepage

FreeImages.com

The quality is a bit more hit-and-miss on FreeImages.com, but the search is easy to use, with handy filter options, and the free-to-use and premium images are clearly separated.

free images

OpenPhoto

Again, the quality is hit and miss on OpenPhoto, but its search tool will often surface some gems.

open photo

Create your own images

Alternatively, you could just create your own graphics, charts or infographics to make your posts more appealing.

You can look through our favourites here: 17 data visualisation tools. Many of these are free, and in the case of Piktochart, incredibly easy to use…

piktochart

Screenshots

If you’re writing ‘how-to-guides’ you could take screenshots of anything on your computer screen.

There’s a Chrome extension called Awesome Screenshot that allows you to take screenshots of your browser window (either partial or the whole web page) very easily, and you can annotate the image before downloading it.

Or alternatively you can just press command+shift+4 on a Mac and use its own inbuilt screenshot tool.

Will Pokémon GO become a marketing platform for local businesses?

Nintendo’s Pokémon Go, a free augmented reality (AR) mobile game, is on fire.

According to Similar Web, the Android version of the app was installed on more than 5% of all Android devices in the US within two days, giving it an install base larger than Tinder, the popular dating app.

And with more than 60% of US users who have downloaded the app using it daily, SimilarWeb estimates Pokémon GO’s daily active users count will surpass Twitter‘s.

What’s more: Pokémon GO players are highly engaged, spending far more time in the app than they do with some of the most popular social apps, including WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat.

time-v-social

Pokémon GO, which calls on players to hunt for the virtual creatures in the real world through an AR experience, has caused Nintendo’s stock to rise nearly 25% since its release even though it could be a while before Nintendo’s profits from the game move the needle.

But while Nintendo might not not profit significantly from the Pokémon GO craze for some time, savvy local businesses are already looking to capitalize. As Jason Evangelho, TweakTown’s VR editor, has detailed, Pokémon GO draws players to Pokémon Gyms and PokéStops, real-world locations that can include local businesses.

While local businesses can’t currently elect to become Pokémon Gyms and PokéStops, some lucky enough to have found themselves on the map in the game are embracing players, a move that could allow them to convert Pokémon GO players to paying customers.

For example, when iconoCLAD, a clothing store in Salt Lake City, Utah, learned that it was home to a PokéStop, it put out a sign welcoming players and encouraging them to consider picking up some clothes in addition to their virtual pokéballs.

This caught the attention of locals, and Fox 13, a local television news station that featured the store in a news report on the Pokémon GO phenomenon.

poke

iconoCLAD isn’t alone in embracing Pokémon GO. The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas is home to multiple Pokéstops, and while Pokémon might seem like an odd fit for an art museum, Crystal Bridges didn’t hesitate to use its Pokémon GO prolificacy to promote itself.

“As general admission to Crystal Bridges is free, it will cost you nothing to visit the Museum and rack up your Pokemon captures, and you can enjoy some terrific American art as you go,” Linda Deberry, the museum’s senior copy editor and publications manager wrote on the Crystal Bridges blog.

“We only ask that you be careful and be aware of your surroundings as you do battle so you don’t inadvertently back into an artwork or trip up a fellow museumgoer.”

Future possibilities

Local businesses that are home to PokéStop can more aggressively court players thanks to an in-app purchasable Lure Module which “attracts Pokémon to a PokéStop for 30 minutes.” Combined with Pokémon GO-specific messaging and promotions, that could prove to be a valuable tool for increasing Pokémon GO foot traffic and turning it into revenue.

For local businesses that aren’t PokéStops, capitalizing on the game could be more difficult, but Pokémon GO’s commercial opportunities almost certainly won’t be lost on Nintendo and in the future, it’s possible that the company will seek to build offerings around Pokémon GO that allow local businesses to pay to become Gyms and PokéStops.

And if Pokémon GO proves to be more than a short-lived fad, it could be just the start of a wave of AR games that local businesses can tap to capture new customers and bring existing customers back through their doors.

Five reasons why you should invest in social customer service

If you’re a business in 2016, chances are that you’ve invested time and resources into maintaining a social media presence, to promote your brand and engage with consumers.

But have you made the same level of investment into providing a dedicated customer service on social media?

Many brands, despite having a social presence, aren’t investing the time and resources into providing a good customer service on those channels.

A report by NM Incite into the ‘State of Social Customer Service’ found that although nearly 1 in 3 social media users prefer to reach out to a brand via social channels instead of over the phone, only 36% of users with a customer service inquiry reported having it solved quickly and effectively.

14% of users reported the company engaging quickly but failing to solve their issue, and 10% never received a response at all.

The fact is that when brands are present on social media, users increasingly expect to be able to reach out to them there and receive an effective response.

Providing a timely and helpful response to customers is of huge benefit to a business, but failing to provide a good response or even engage with a consumer can be even more costly.

Many businesses are understandably wary of engaging with consumers on such a public forum, but social media customer service and care can be incredibly effective when handled properly, and it’s well worth your time to make sure your business does it right.

To explain why, here are five big reasons why you should be investing in social customer service.

A cartoon graphic of three blue Twitter-style birds, tweeting an exclamation mark and a question mark in speech bubbles emitting from their beaks.Image by opensource.com, available via CC BY-SA 2.0

1) It’s convenient

The idea that social media provides a faster response to customer service enquiries is not necessarily true, as this can depend on the complexity of the requests, the volume, and how well-equipped a company is to deal with them. But what it does provide is convenience.

As Guy Stephens wrote in the ClickZ Intelligence Social Media Customer Service: Best Practice Guide:

“People like to say that social is all about speed. I don’t subscribe to that view. Telephone or email are in many respects probably faster, so there has to be something more about social. I think it may well be convenience and the fact that it the channel is not owned by the company.”

Chances are high your customers already spend a lot of time on social media. Last year, GlobalWebIndex found that the average person spends a total of 1.72 hours on social networks, accounting for nearly 30% of their daily internet activities. So it makes sense to engage your customers where they already are – especially given that…

2) People expect a response – and they like to be heard

Dale Roberts reported for ClickZ back in April that response rates for brand surveys have dropped from 20% to just 2% over the past 20 years. But while customers have a limited amount of patience nowadays for being surveyed, they absolutely still want to be heard; they’re just using different channels to communicate with brands.

Research commissioned by Lithium Technologies in 2013 found that 53% of people who tweet at a brand expect a response within the hour. This figure shoots up to 72% when people have a complaint to make.

A vector graphic of a stopwatch, with the hand moving towards the '2' position.
Research by Lithium Technologies indicates that 53% of people expect a brand response on Twitter within the hour. | Image by ClkerFreeVectorImages, public domain image

When companies don’t respond to customer messages within the expected time frame, 38% of customers were found to feel more negative towards the brand, while 60% were prepared to take action to express their dissatisfaction, from denying the brand their business to publicly shaming them on social media.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however; the same study also found that when brands provide a timely response to customer concerns, 34% are likely to buy more from that company, 43% are likely to encourage friends and family to buy their products, and 42% are willing to praise or recommend the brand through social media.

3) A good impression counts for a lot

So as we’ve established, your customers are already present on social media and will most likely be communicating with your brand there as well. The way you respond in that situation can make all the difference to your brand’s reputation and profile.

Social media has been a game-changer for customer service in that it makes brand-customer interactions much more public, making companies accountable for the way that they deal with customers.

This might seem daunting, but it also provides companies with a major opportunity to create a positive impression for their brand, and showcase their commitment to good customer experience.

Take British Airways, which managed to find an opportunity for humour in a customer’s complaint on Twitter, while still taking the time to address their concerns:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Customers don’t always take to social media to complain – many want to express their appreciation. It’s always nice to get the good feedback as well as the bad, and the way that you respond to it can invite more of the same.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

A long Twitter exchange between an American Air customer who has been flying with the brand since he was 6 years old. He thanks the airline for a fabulous flight, and American Airlines responds by saying, "That's music to our ears, we loved taking you #homesweethome! Thank you for your business and loyalty, Jeffrey!"

4) Customer service makes a huge difference to customer retention

We’ve already seen that the kind of response customers receive on social media can make a big difference to how they feel and act towards a brand. But it isn’t just about fending off a bit of negative feedback: the data shows that customer service as a whole can massively influence a customer’s choice of brand.

According to data gathered by Zendesk, 40% of customers began purchasing from a competitor brand based on its reputation for great customer service, while 85% were willing to pay up to 25% more to ensure a superior customer service experience.

On the flip side, 82% of customers were found to have stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer service, while 95% of customers have taken action as a result of a bad experience. Of these, 66% wanted to discourage others from buying from the company.

There’s an oft-repeated saying that retaining a customer is five times cheaper than acquiring a new one. While this has been disputed – and the exact figure is probably a lot more difficult to quantify – it’s clear that investing in a good customer experience across all channels is an extremely worthwhile business decision.

And not making efforts to provide good customer service can be genuinely costly.

A picture of an outstretched hand with a bubble floating above it. Inside the bubble is a cartoon image of a person's head and shoulders, wearing a red jacket and tie.A customer in the hand is five times cheaper than a customer in the bush. Or something like that, anyway. | Photo by geralt, public domain image 

5) It can be beneficial for product research and marketing

As Matt Owen wrote in our ‘Social Customer Service: Best Practice Guide’,

“In addition to providing information, social media channels should provide an open space for customers to discuss issues they have with a product or service, and the more constructive businesses will see this as a valuable source of product feedback, which can guide their own internal focus and reduce wastage.”

Savvy brands have also found ways to turn customer feedback on social media into an opportunity to upsell products.

Take Marks and Spencer, whose social customer service representatives respond to customer questions and criticism by recommending them products that they might like, or making sure that the feedback they have is passed on to the relevant internal teams.

This makes customers feel like they are heard and that the brand values their feedback, while also making it more likely they will come back to buy a similar product, or an item which was previously out of stock, if the brand keeps the lines of communication open.

With all that in mind, there’s never been a better time to start making a dedicated investment into good social customer service, and set yourself apart from competitors who aren’t yet in the game.

And if you need any more guidance on how to give your customers the best possible experience on social, check out ClickZ Intelligence’s report ‘Social Media Customer Service: Best Practice Guide’.