big seo trends in 2017

5 Big SEO Trends In 2017

SEO – one of the most frustrating parts of digital marketing. It is constantly evolving. One minute you think you’ve got it all figured out, and the next, Google goes and switches up the algorithms to Unicorn 4.0*.

*I made that up btw, but you feel me

The days of keyword stuffing and buying all the back links you can are long gone, and in it’s place… say hello to high-quality, engaging and innovative content.  SEO is a never ending conversation, but as we don’t want to take too much of your time, here we have identified five big trends affecting SEO in 2017.

Search intent is a thing

We’re all familiar with keyword planning, but it is no longer the only factor. It’s not just about a person searching for ‘digital marketing’ and hoping to find a relevant digital marketing agency. As an SEO strategist you need to look passed this, move further along the customer journey, and try to figure out their intent behind the search. Why is that person looking for ‘digital marketing’? What is their end goal? What do they hope to achieve from that search? If you can answer these questions, you’re on the right track to creating content that is more relevant.

Be aware of voice search

Voice search is on the rise. Heck, even my grandparents have Alexa in their house! With Amazon’s Alexa, the recently introduced Google Home, and the likes of Siri and Cortana, it is so important to pre-empt the change and be ready to create content that is voice friendly.

Instant answers and position zero

If anyone could find a position higher than first, it would be Google. That’s right, another huge trend emerging is the rise of ‘instant answers’ and ‘position zero’. As illustrated below, it’s the box that appears above the search listings, where Google is trying to ease a user’s search experience and answer a question instantly.  The downside to this: Google could stop you from getting certain traffic by answering a question without an additional click needing to be made. The upside: if there is no instant answer to a specific search term, you could aim to get into position zero with your own answer, and above all of your competitors. This post here explains that process pretty well.

google instant answer

Natural high-quality links

Once upon a time, people would use black hat SEO techniques such as link farms. This means that they would seek links from all over the web, from unrelated websites with bad or little content. The focus now is very much on quality over quantity – with fewer, high quality site links being favoured. Of course, the next step up from those high quality site links, is natural high quality links.  It’s a fair marketing game plan to reach out and marry PR efforts with SEO in order to gain visibility and drive traffic to your site, however Google is paying more attention now to links where someone has naturally shared with no brand affinity or direct marketing effort. It’s not easy of course, but it feeds into their belief that successful SEO strategies come from engaging, innovative and valuable content. The idea being, if it’s an amazing piece of content, people and influencers will share without being prompted to.

Off page SEO

This is really an extension of the point we’ve just made, but off page SEO accounts for a huge portion of your efforts. Essentially it’s what you hope to happen once you have created engaging content worth sharing. In short, off page SEO is all the places on the internet that have shared your piece and linked back to your site. The Google translation of that: ‘A lot of people are linking to your site, so it must be awesome, and we must link to you too.’ Companies spend so much time on on-page SEO that it is easy to forget what happens everywhere else, so be sure to keep off page SEO in mind as it may account for 70% of your SEO efforts online.

3 Easy Ways To Segment Your Email Marketing Lists

For some small companies, email marketing can get overlooked. And it’s not because small business owners don’t realise the benefit, it’s because they simply don’t have enough time to create consistent mailers.

For those that do find the time, ad-hoc messages are favoured, and the audience tends to be the entire database for the sake of ease.

However, sending to all can have a detrimental effect on your marketing efforts. Pushing the wrong messages to inactive email users, or old email addresses, can really affect your sender reputation. Also, sending the same message to everyone increases your likelihood of alienating certain customers, and boosting unsubscribe rates with incorrect communications.

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Here we take a look some basic email marketing segmentation criteria you can use, that won’t take a great deal of time, and that will help to maximise your email marketing efforts.

1. Geographic segmentation

This is pretty self-explanatory – segmenting based on geographic location i.e county, country, city, time-zone, etc. Customers respond well to things that are most relevant to them, so if you can provide them a service close to their doorstep, they’ll be more likely to engage. Also, it shows that you have a basic understanding of the customer you are serving.

2. Basic interests

This works especially well in B2C and e-commerce – segmenting based on interests and prior purchases. So if your customer regular shops for one brand of sour beer for example, why not offer them an alternative sour beer brand. This shows them that you are interested in their interests, and increases the chance of conversion. It is also quite basic segmentation, and could give you a decent opportunity to up-sell to an alternative product.

3. Behaviour based segmentation

Imagine you have a group of loyal customers that always spend between £100 – £200 on weight loss meals, every month, on your online store. Their behaviour is predictable. You know that they’ll need the weight loss meals again next month,so why not beat them to the punch and email them with a loyalty offer, and seize the opportunity to up-sell.

5 Cool Marketing Tools That Are Free

If you’re a digital marketing professional, you’ll understand how hard it is to keep up with all the latest innovations. Here at Rocktail Marketing (not a shameless plug, we promise), we can completely relate.

Often someone in the office will mention a tool, and someone else will give this completely blank look. We’re hoping this article will save you that embarrassment.

There are so many awesome free marketing tools out there, that you might not even know you’re missing out!  So, here we take a look at five (free) digital marketing tools that we’re totally loving at the moment:

1.Buffer

This is an awesome one for social media managers. The free version allows you to schedule posts on Facebook and Twitter, and it even recommends optimum times for posting so you don’t have to think about it. We’re a big fan of the clean dashboard too – it’s straightforward, modern and in no way confusing. If you fancy upgrading, the Buffer for Business allows you to pull curated content through a feed, allowing you to share content relevant to your business, without having to spend hours trawling the web.

2. Hashtagify.me

Another handy tool for social media managers here! Now, we all know the value of a hashtag, but sometimes don’t you wish that someone would just tell you the most engaged hashtags on Twitter? Hashtagify.me does this. You can search a subject, and it will show you the relevant hashtags surrounding it, and what people are talking about.

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3. Hello Bar

This one seemed a little too good to be true, but it’s a cracking tool for email marketing folks. If you’re trying to grow your email subscriber list, and grab the details of the visitors to your website, then it is worth installing Hello Bar to your website. Essentially, it’s a bar that pops up on your website at the right time, and helps with lead generation. Plus, the code is simple to install!

4. Google Keyword Planner

SEO can be a long, arduous task, and sometimes trying to source the appropriate keywords for your strategy can be a pain. Google Keyword Planner allows you to search your keywords, see keyword groups, and produce a list of new keywords for you based on what you input.

5. Google Business Listing and Bing For Business

These are another couple of tools that can aid with your SEO efforts, and better yet, they are free! If you have ever wondered how people get there business to show up in the top right-hand corner of search engines (like below), then this is how. Listing your business properly can help to give your SEO a boost, and make you look a little more legit when people are searching for you. Google and Bing both have to send you snail mail (post) to send you a verification code to verify your address, so it’s another way for potential clients to know that you are who you say you are.

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An update from the team

Since launching Rocktail Marketing in September we have enjoyed great client growth, who have seen the value in our mix and match menu of digital marketing services.

In fact, our initial growth and our plans for the future mean we’ve moved into new offices! You can now find us at:

Copthall House
King Street
Newcastle-under-Lyme
Staffordshire
UK

4 Tips For SMEs In An AI World

Adopting artificial intelligence (AI) is fundamentally no different than deploying actionable data, or even making the switch from paper processes to email and digital processes, a generation before that.

It’s important to normalise the idea of using AI.

It’s not a job destroying, sentient being that teams should be afraid of; it’s using apps that learn how to gain efficiencies over time. And these apps will be used more and more in the coming years.

“A lot of what AI is being used for today only scratches the surface of what can be done,” Babak Hodjat, co-founder and chief scientist at Sentient Technologies, tells Investor’s Business Daily. “It will become so ubiquitous that we won’t even call it AI anymore.”

There are many companies that offer business intelligence solutions that allow basic functions to be completed efficiently and effectively. Small to medium enterprises (SMEs) can benefit too from AI, even though it might seem unnecessary and out of reach for some.

Here are some ways SMEs can benefit from the emerging technologies:

  • Reporting, online analytical processing, data mining, and bench-marking, to help the business understand better the different variables that affect its performance and progress.
  • Small businesses can actually benefit from AI technology to help reduce the costs of running the organisation
  • AI software can complete repetitive tasks to allow humans to concentrate on other creative duties, something which is of huge importance to small businesses where time, people and resource is everything!
  • It provides actionable intelligence which helps drive better revenues towards the business.

4 Practical Uses For AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is popping up everywhere, but is it practical right now? Here we take a look at four practical applications for AI:

1. Virtual Assistance

Josh Sutton, who heads up the AI practice at Publicis.Sapient, the digital transformation company says, “Chatbots and virtual assistants are enabling a fundamental shift in how people interact with technology. I believe that over the next decade we will see virtual assistants become a core part of our normal experience across almost all of the activities that we engage in during a normal day.”

2. Generating Insights

We all know that there is a vast amount of data about everything, everywhere. However, on its own that data is useless without effective machinery to transform it into something of value. That’s the role that machine learning is starting to play. Today’s systems can not only take in billions of data points and analyse them in minutes, they can also learn from the data and get better over time.

What makes artificial intelligence systems so powerful is that, unlike purely statistical approaches, they can learn. That allows them to adapt when market behaviour changes as well as continually improve performance as more data comes in.

3. Automation of Manual Processes

History has taught us all about labour saving devices from the agricultural tractor to the household toaster, but AI is taking this to a new level by learning to quickly automate routine cognitive processes much as industrial era machines automated physical work.
Smart algorithms are already replacing junior lawyers for legal discovery and companies like Narrative Science can do routine journalistic work, such as summarising box scores and financial reports.

4. Unlocking Unstructured Data

Traditionally, almost all of the data we analysed was structured data, the kind that gets captured and stored in a database. So we were reasonably good at deriving insights from data generated for that purpose, like sales from a cash register or answers to a consumer survey, but most everything else got lost.

That’s a bigger problem than most realise, because structured data represents only a small part of the information available to us. In fact, it has been estimated that 80% of digital data is unstructured.

An area of potential is the ability to understand consumer conversations. One company, Mattersight, uses call centre conversations to identify customers’ personality types, so that they can be served by someone with a compatible service style. We are really just beginning to unlock the potential of unstructured data.

Why Artificial Intelligence Technology Will Change Marketing

No matter your views on artificial intelligence (A.I.), there is no denying that it will forever change our world – and in many ways, it already has. From self-driving cars to cognitive technologies in the workplace, the transformation is well underway, and there is virtually no sector that will remain untouched. Indeed, recent research suggests that IT executives across industries are well aware of A.I.’s promise, and are actively seeking to implement the technology in one or more aspects of their organisation.

But when it comes to cognitive technology, not all solutions are created equal — in fact, few of them really qualify as “Artificial Intelligence” at all. For example, while Analytics platforms are valuable in their own right, they cannot be classified as A.I. In large part, this is because they are completely dependent upon human experts to make observations, test relationships between data sets, and draw conclusions, explains Wise.io. Moreover, predictive analytics is only as good as the data it uses, and while it can give you useful insights, they are often compartmentalised; in and of itself, an analytics platform cannot provide proactive solutions.

Genuine A.I., on the other hand, is significantly more comprehensive in both its scope and its applications. By leveraging predictive analytics, A.I. uses machine learning to work backwards from the results, uncovering the complex issues driving a particular desired outcome. Importantly, it does so in real-time, making observations across all data inputs and adjusting its behaviour with minimal need for supervision.

Infinite Possibility

It’s easy to imagine the promise such technology holds in the marketing sector. Every campaign across every channel could be monitored around the clock, and no longer would different tools be needed to process data and glean valuable insights from separate data streams. Modifications could be made as soon as they are needed, based on observed (and predicted) consumer behaviour. Marketers could spend more time developing their unique messaging and less time tracking and analysing clicks and impressions.

This is not some far-off, sci-fi pipe dream — Albert from Adgorithms is delivering on that promise. He is the first cross-channel marketing software that’s powered by artificial intelligence, and therefore acts more like a member of your marketing team rather than a tool.

The question is whether marketers will embrace that promise by trusting platforms like Albert with control over some campaigns, allowing them to put their valuable time to higher-level tasks. A.I. is going to sweep the global business landscape, and autonomous marketing platforms like Albert will be leading the charge — that is, if today’s marketers are ready for them to do so.

What’s The Need For People In An Artificial Intelligent World?

It’s the question on everyone’s mind – will Artificial Intelligence (AI) replace humans? With the fast development of new technology, some professionals are considering the notion that the need for ‘real-life people’ will soon become obsolete.

Of course this is a bold statement to make, and one that is hard to determine given the rapid and constant developments in technology. But let’s consider for a moment that AI would become advanced enough to replace human functions – what would the risks be, and what would we miss about human interaction in certain decision models?

Many of the risks discussed surround the idea that AI will become super-intelligent, even more so than the human brain, thus meaning we can not predict how AI technologies will react and move forward in the future. The unpredictability of AI is a massive risk to both the world, and the specific functions and industries, it is intended to serve.

As we have never experienced the evolution of a technology such as AI before, it is hard to determine the effects, and whether the need for people in certain jobs would be necessary. Some industry experts have commented on the evolution of this technology, being similar to the evolution of humans. So if we consider that analogy, what would be the need for the weaker and less intelligent beings controlling certain occupations, and decisions and actions within those job roles? Surely we would conclude that there would be no risk if the ‘super-intelligent’ machines were in control.

The answer from most experts to that question is this: the worry is that AI will be competent enough to set goals, with those goals possibly being misaligned with our own.

If we take this back to digital marketing and predictive segmentation, you will see the issue. Hubspot co-founder, Dharmesh Shah talks of how AI will allow for, “the ability to do things without us explicitly telling it what to do.” So for example, the ability to recommend content to a user, or send an email based on preferences or selections without us setting the command in motion.

But what if AI begins to act and set goals and trends based on it’s own understanding, rather than predicting and acting based on our (a business’s) overall objectives. It could have the power to move forward regardless of human decision, ambition and strategy – something which could potentially make or break a multi-million pound business.

Shah does go onto say that as far as marketing departments are concerned, the need for people will stay, stating “More interaction design is what marketers will do rather than the mechanics of marketing.” So this suggests that humans in a marketing sense will focus on the creative side, something which technology will have a harder time automating given the nature of idea generation. However, there is a concern that whilst bots and AI will take over the menial tasks, it does not alleviate the risk of things potentially spinning out of control.

How Will Predictive Segmentation Change Email Marketing?

Email marketing is rapidly becoming more automated, with auto-trigger sends being favoured for prompt, reactive customer engagement. With basket abandonment being such a huge issue for online store retailers, it’s no surprise that automated email is taking over.

However, marketers are now faced with the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, and the new levels of automation that now present themselves. For example, the notion of predictive segmentation, which will ultimately speed up the targeting of customers, something which up until now has been a manual and arduous tasks to those businesses with smaller CRM resource.

Salesforce, a popular email campaign management tool, caught onto this view, and developed ‘Salesforce Einstein’. A tool which allows businesses to tap into their customer databases and automatically discover relevant insights, predict future behaviour, recommend next actions, as well as impressively automating tasks.

This tool does not just target the customer database as groups, it focuses on single customers, ultimately giving fully personalised segmentation. Something which most CRM and email departments simply do not have the time to do, especially when considering extremely large databases.

It’s this type of AI that really speaks to 2017 marketing departments, where the need for personalised customers efforts is higher than ever before. Reeha Alder-Shah, Managing Partner of DARE recently stated, “One of the biggest digital marketing trends for 2017 will be the rise in brands trying to create content that connects with audiences in more personal, relevant ways… This won’t come from a new piece of technology, but through brands and marketers simply using data better.

While Alder-Shah suggests that this will not come from technology, Salesforce have cleverly managed to merge technology with the advanced data analysis desired. A combination which could provide many businesses with incredible opportunities moving into the new AI age.

Whilst the analysis of data through an AI method may provide a significant challenge to the ‘human marketer’, industry professionals do believe that there is a necessity for AI to be overseen by a ‘real-life person’. With many suggesting that the AI will simply be optimising the data and content that the ‘human marketer’ has created.

Ultimately though, AI is going to change the face of email marketing, allowing marketers full, in-depth access to databases that they have otherwise only been able to scratch the surface of.

In-House Marketing vs Outsourced Agency Marketing

So imagine you are sitting in your office, thinking about your marketing, and you are trying to decide the best road to go down. Many questions run through your head: Do we need a couple of people? Do we need managerial experience? Do we have the time to train and nurture a graduate? What types of marketing do we even want to try? The questions go on and on.

Now, a lot of businesses have a fair idea of what they want to achieve through marketing, and as such, they have an idea of the type of person they want managing their activities. But most companies we talk to find that they haven’t explored all possible options, and we usually discover that it is because there is a fear associated with going down the agency route. 

Here we take a look at the different factors to consider when deciding to employ an in-house marketing person, or choosing an integrated marketing agency to manage your activities.

Skill set

This goes back to the first set of questions you will have asked yourself. Does the person need managerial experience, or do we want to train and nurture a marketing graduate? Just these basic questions will give you an idea of whether you need someone with experience of marketing in-practice, or marketing on paper, and whether you would be comfortable to let someone else get on with it.

Now think again, do you want someone with a specific marketing skill set e.g email marketing speciality. Or, do you want an all-rounder, who will take a crack at all things marketing?skills

Generally speaking you will find a person to fit the bill, and who will tick all the boxes, but what if your marketing needs develop? One of the issues with the marketing world is that it is always evolving and adapting, which means that going down an agency route gives you access to a variety of individuals with a wide range of skills. Agency marketing brings a diversity to the table, which can sometimes eclipse the skill set of an in-house marketing team.

Budget

A lot of business professionals that we have spoken with fully expect agency marketing to come with a hefty price tag, and we’ll be honest, sometimes it does. But, a. not all marketing agencies charge the earth, moon and stars for an integrated service, and b. those that do, probably do because the results they plan to deliver will be pretty extraordinary. Having a lot of high calibre marketers, designers, developers and strategists in one place is expensive – but it can also pay dividends to you as a business. It’s all about risk, and whether you have the capital to take that risk.

A point you must consider is that the price you will pay for a typical marketing assistant, can also buy you a marketing package at a respectable agency. Budget is just one factor to consider amongst many. If you can afford an agency, but want to work closely with someone in-house, the sensible option would be to stay in-house and develop your marketing efforts that way. If you have the budget but don’t have the time to spend developing, then outsource and see the benefits of your buck without having to lift a finger. As we said, it’s about a number of factors, all of which need to be considered.

Creativity

As we touched on before, marketing agencies employ experts from all industries and all walks of life – meaning that the creativity levels are generally pretty high. Sometimes when you employ a marketing assistant, or a small marketing team, creativity can become stagnant, because it is hard to drum up new and innovative ideas for the same product over and over again.

The perk of outsourcing is that you get fresh eyes on it, with fresh ideas, and you get creative decisions made based on a backlog of industry experience.

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Control

This is the deciding factor for most businesses that sit on the ‘in-house/outsource fence’ – control. Will we have enough control if we outsource to an agency? Will the agency be able to liaise with our other departments effectively? These are valid questions too, and important for making the most of your marketing efforts. After all, it’s pointless trying to successfully market a product if you are not listening to the feedback from the guys who go out there and sell it, or without listening to the sales team’s latest product push requests for the month.

Remember, those that have worked in marketing agencies, have also worked in-house and understand the complexities of a corporate environment. And as such, many marketing agencies are happy to liaise via email/phone/messenger with all the relevant departments as they would if they worked in the office next to you. But control is an understandable barrier – for example, if you go next door and ask someone to rustle you up a graphic real quick, odds are they’ll do it. If you have to call up your agency, it can take a little longer due to their other client commitments. It all depends on the needs of your business.

What have your experiences been of in-house or agency marketing? Let us know in the comments.