How Google can help you win the moment

Micro-moments

It’s no secret that mobile has dramatically impacted how we do business and how consumers interact with brands online – the latest data indicates that mobile is still on course to overtake fixed internet access and that mobile ad spending accounts for 49% of digital ad spending.
As a result of this mobile shift, Google has conducted some interesting ethnographic research over the last year to explore how consumer behaviour is changing and gain an understanding into the needs of real people. Some of the stand out insights from the research includes:

  • 82% of smartphone users use their phones to influence a purchase decision in a store
  • 62% of smartphone users are more likely to take action right away to solve an unexpected problem or task because they have a smartphone
  • 90% of smartphone users have used their phone to make progress towards a long-term goal or multi-step process while out and about
  • 91% of smartphone users turn to their phone for ideas while doing a given task

Google’s research has led them to the conclusion that consumer moments of truth don’t happen in a defined, logical order anymore. Instead, they happen at seemingly random times in a consumer’s life – what Google have defined as ‘micro-moments’.

What exactly are ‘Micro-moments’?

Micro-moments are moments when consumers act on a need, e.g. to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something or buy something. They are intent-rich moments where decisions are being made and preferences shaped.

Google recommends marketers consider four key moments and explain the importance of Moments in relation to mobile devices:

“We turn to our phones with intent and expect brands to deliver immediate answers. It’s in these I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-do, I-want-to-buy moments that decisions are made and preferences are shaped”.

What are Google's Micro-moments?

From the ZMOT to Micro-moments – an evolution

Before looking at micro-moments in more detail, it’s worth re-visiting Google’s research on Winning the Zero Moment of Truth from 2011, which helped marketers involved in advertising, search and social media understand how they can win key moments of truth in the early stages of discovery.

The core premise of the research explained how the traditional ‘mental model’ of marketing, where a consumer follows a predictable consumer journey from ad (stimulus) through to purchase (first moment of truth) and experience (second moment of truth) has been disrupted – consumers do not react instantly to advertising. Instead, they proactively look at reviews, ask friends for advice on social media or research products on blogs before making a decision:

The Zero Moment of Truth

The introduction of the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) challenged marketers to consider new, intentional strategies to enable brands to become discoverable and capture attention in the discovery stage before guiding consumers through to purchase.

Micro-moments is follow-up to ZMOT and influenced by the increasingly ubiquitous nature of mobile among consumers. Instead of thinking about one common Zero Moment of Truth in any given situation, Micro-moments encourages marketers to consider many different, real-time, intent-driven micro-moments related to hundreds of different scenarios, all of which give marketers an opportunity to shape consumer decisions.

How do micro-moments influence modern marketing?

In many ways the underlying theme of Google’s Micro-moments research is not new. The idea that the consumer journey no longer follows a predictable, linear model, and the need to create more fluid, bespoke personas for our customer groups, has been covered before:

The Digital Marketing Funnel

However, where I think Micro-moments is particularly interesting is in the mind-set shift it encourages us to adopt. Living in a mobile-orientated world has dramatically impacted how consumers think, search and buy online and as a result marketers must respond accordingly in order to succeed.

Micro-moments in action

With Google’s data and research in mind, let’s consider some examples of Google’s Micro-moments in action and how they may influence marketing decision-making:

People evaluate purchase decisions ‘in-the-moment’

Consumers have their smartphone to hand at all times and this has implications for brands who sell products in physical locations. According to Google, 1/3 of online consumers aged 18-34 say information discovered through search caused them to buy a more expensive product in a store if that product is more effective.

This insight provides a clear opportunity with search. Mobile means consumers can instantly search and compare products in the moment, meaning marketers must win these moments by providing timely and relevant information, such as product details, reviews and testimonials.

People solve problems ‘in-the-moment’

If something breaks or goes wrong, or if a consumer suddenly thinks of something they might need in a given moment, they’re likely to pick up their smartphone to take action. Google has found that online consumers purchase in unexpected places – 39% in the kitchen; 28% in the car; 21% in the bathroom.

In moments like this it’s important to be found so search is again a key consideration. However, in order to seal the deal marketers must also ensure that the mobile experience is consistent from start to finish. The user experience and shopping process must make things easy for the consumer, meaning products are first easy to find, followed by a painless checkout process.

People pursue big goals in small moments

We often think that buying a large purchase, such as a new piece of technology, car or even house, as something that requires dedicated research time carried out in one go. However, nowadays research is conducted in ‘stolen moments’ spread across the day, for example waiting in a queue, during a lunchtime break or sitting in an airport or train station.

Mortgage calculator - Google Trends insight

Google has found that mobile queries for mortgage calculators have grown 66% since last year, illustrating the demand for research tools such as these ‘on the go’. Mobile moments are critical within long consideration journeys, with people chipping away at bits of research in free moments. Marketers must therefore ask:

  • How can I be helpful at each moment and build consideration?
  • Am I shaping preferences starting from the beginning?
  • Do I offer the right experience for the screen and the context?

The micro-moment action plan

In order to be there when our customers need us, Google offers the following advice:

1. Make a moments map

Identify a set of moments you want to win or can’t afford to lose by examining all key phases of the consumer journey.

2. Understand customer needs in-the-moment

For each moment you want to win, put yourself in the consumer’s shoes. Ask “What would make this easier or faster? What content or features would be most helpful for this moment?”

3. Use context to deliver the right experience

Leverage contextual signals like location and time of day to deliver experiences and messages that feel tailor-made for the moment.

4. Optimise across the journey

People move seamlessly across screens and channels. Ensure your brand delivers seamlessly in return and don’t let competing objectives or department silos stand in the way.

5. Measure every moment that matters

While the return on investment for certain moments may not yet be directly measurable, use credible estimates to ensure nothing’s falling through the cracks.


Five key social media trends from #SMWF 2015

SMWF

I had the pleasure of attending day 1 of the Social Media World Forum in London on the 8th June. As you’d expect from an event like this, there was a lot of great stories, insights and new information from the world of social media on topics ranging from humanising your brand and content through to UGC, CGC and online reviews.

Instead of producing a round-up of the individual sessions I attended at #SMWF, I thought it better instead to highlight some of the key themes and trends I took from the event. From day 1 alone I picked up on a number of recurring topics, with the top five including:

  • Paid amplification vs. organic growth
  • Reviews, user-generated content (UGC) and community
  • Rational vs. emotional thinking
  • Disrupted business models
  • The power of brand storytelling

1. Paid amplification vs. organic growth

It’s been long documented that organic reach on many social channels (most famously Facebook, which has seen a decline of 12% to 6% over the last few years, and now often at 1% for some pages) and brands are beginning to face the stark reality that they will need to ‘pay to play’ to reach their target audiences within the social space.

Simon Veaney, Director of Social Media Communications at American Express, advised that in order to succeed in today’s modern social media world we should focus on producing less content, but what we do produce should be remarkable and amplified to a wider audience. Simon then provided a set considerations to help brands balance their paid vs. organic approach to social media:

1. Picasso’s Bull – Apple uses Picasso’s Bull to teach minimalist design principles as part of its Apple University programme and Simon explained how this relates to us. By understanding how a piece of content is constructed (from the bear essentials to the finished article), we can tailor content by channel to maximise effectiveness. For example, a three minute clip might work on YouTube for desktop consumption but a 90 or even 30 second version is required for mobile where screen sizes are smaller and internet connection often weaker

2. Blogger outreach – American Express works with bloggers who have genuine credibility and can use their influence to reach niche audiences. However, the influencers must choose you – there has to be a match between blogger and brand

3. Use the Twitter approach – Twitter often talks about “planning your spontaneous moments”, i.e. plan in advance the type of events relevant to your brand and how you can create content around the things that people are engaged with ‘in the moment’ (think World Cup, Oscars, Glastonbury etc)

4. Consider sequential messaging – avoid the ‘matching luggage’ approach to content creation. You don’t need content to match across all channels or to cram everything into one message – consider a series of posts that tell a story or message over time.

The Facebook approach

2. Reviews, UGC and building a community

Whilst there was a breakout session focusing specifically on this subject, this was also a theme I noticed in a number of sessions and something that was clearly resonating with the speakers and panel members.

The importance of using UGC to build community and engagement shouldn’t be underestimated. If we look at Apple, for example, they have built a powerful army of brand advocates over time whilst Adidas have researched how people are using their products by asking them for direct feedback online.

Online reviews, built into ecommerce sites, can also offer a lot of value by enhancing the customer journey and ultimately increasing conversion rate. There are inherent risks in enabling consumers to review your products online but there are also considerable benefits if the right philosophy is adopted. Thomas Cook, for example, offers reviews as well as photos and Q&As, all of which helps reduce fears and anxiety before booking a trip to a new destination.

Some of the key takeaways I picked up regarding this topic included:

  • Authenticity is key. Whilst incentives can work to drive reviews and UGC, they can also be harmful if the community believes good reviews have been ‘bought’ rather than earned
  • Consider how UGC can be built into multiple marketing platforms, both online and offline (e.g. social media channels, banners, packaging etc)
  • Use UGC to make product/ service improvements. Is there recurring feedback relating to specific features that can be improved?
  • For online reviews, set out your success measures up front. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) used the following:
    • Quantity (number of reviews)
    • Authenticity (genuine customers)
    • Conversation (hotel -> guest interaction)
  • Get executive buy-in. Building reviews and UGC into a website is a big undertaking for many brands to executive level support is crucial.

3. Rational vs. emotional thinking

The concept of left vs. right-brain thinking is not new but how often do brands consider how customers use their brain to make decisions and tailor their messaging and content accordingly?

Logical emotional

Customers will often make decisions based logical and/or emotional reasoning and there’s an opportunity to create effective content based on these touch-points.

In her excellent presentation on the Consumer Economy in the Digital Age, Prelini Udayan-Chiechi, VP Marketing at Bazaarvoice, talked about how Clinique use evocative imagery within their website to elicit emotion whilst at the same time leverages user-generated reviews to help customers make rational decisions about the right product for them.

4. Disrupted business models

I thought it was interesting to hear a number of speakers throughout the day talk about case studies from the sharing economy.

The rise of peer to peer networks

The prominence of peer-to-peer companies like AirBnB, Uber and Viber is an indication that consumer behaviour and expectations are changing, and as a consequence are affecting the way they interact with brands. As a result, businesses are having to learn to accommodate ‘disownership’, i.e. consumers, particularly Millennials, are favouring renting rather than owning products and services (think Netflix, Spotify and even mobile phones).

Whilst I don’t necessarily believe that we’re seeing the end of traditional business models, new ones are emerging and are genuinely challenging the status quo. This means that brands must consider how digital disruption in their industry could affect how consumers interact and evolve their business models and approaches accordingly.

5. The power of brand storytelling

Whilst the benefits of effective storytelling is well established, it was still good to hear some interesting case studies as to how brands are using storytelling and storytelling techniques as part of their content marketing and social media strategies.

As part of a panel discussion specifically around this topic, companies including The North Face, Goodyear and Elle UK talked about what storytelling really means in this context and what we can learn from their efforts.

Some of the key takeaways included:

  • Storytelling is about engagement and sharing. So to really make this work make an effort to understand your customers (age, demographic, like/ dislikes) and create content that’s relevant to them
  • Effective brand stories are often connected to the brand’s core values
  • Tailor stories by platform, i.e. online/ offline; Facebook/ Twitter. Each platform and channel will have unique features that resonate with audiences in different ways
  • Consider crafting stories as part of an overarching strategy that works across multiple channels. For example, John Lewis’s 2013 ‘The Bear and the Hare’ campaign spanned TV, social media and in-store experiential marketing
  • Reconcile structured and unstructured content. Map out content options and identify channels and formats to push to consumers. Look at data from previous campaigns – what’s working? What can be optimised?

Google’s mobile algorithm update – the impact

Print

If you’re involved or work in search marketing, you’ll have no doubt been aware of Preparing for Google’s mobile algorithm update since it was announced in the autumn of 2014 and rolled out on April 21st, 2015. Many predicted major changes as a result of the update, with Google’s Zineb Ait Bahajji saying at SMX Munich that the upcoming mobile-friendly algorithm update would “impact more sites than their Panda or Penguin algorithms“.

So What Has the Impact Been?

It’s fair to say that the impact of the mobile update has been underwhelming for many in the UK. Google had stated that the update would affect more queries than Panda and Penguin updates, and although no official numbers have been disclosed, more volatility has been observed on previous algorithm updates.

Who were the winners and losers?h2>

Surveys of keywords across websites are useful for seeing the overall impact and the Searchmetrics winners and losers report offers a useful review of the impact of these changes across keywords:

Searchmetrics winners and losers

Analysis of the first week listed Next.co.uk as the website with the biggest loss. Analysing it reveals how big an impact the update may have had on SEO performance with Next.co.uk losing visibility on key generic keywords, including:

Keyword performance

Pages that were not mobile-friendly on average dropped five positions, which is enough of a drop to significantly impact CTR and therefore share-of-voice.

Other losers included sites such as non-mobile-friendly Songlyrics:

Songlyrics performance

Although there were some positive results, too, including GQ:

GQ performance

What Does Google Say?

It’s good that Google has given plenty of warning and education on this update. On April 21 they issued this clarification in a blog post that downplayed the importance of the mobile-friendly ranking factor:

“While the mobile-friendly change is important, we still use a variety of signals to rank search results. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank high if it has great content for the query”.

This information would have been useful before and might have prevented the ‘mobilegeddon’ hype… but it does explain why the impact has been less than expected.

What’s Next for the Mobile Update?

It’s likely that Google will roll out improved iterations of the mobile-friendly algorithm over time. There are two key ways in which Google can improve the mobile algorithm update:

1. Get better at detecting whether there is a mobile experience

Google can make improvements to how it detects whether there is a mobile-friendly webpage or not. Currently it is possible to trick Google into thinking you have a mobile-friendly website and get the positional improvements even if you don’t. If you simply redirect a user to a mobile friendly page and then navigate them back to the desktop page, you will be rewarded as being classified as being mobile friendly

2. Quantify whether or not that is a good user experience

There isn’t much consideration given to how good or bad the user experience is on a mobile device. Over time, we would expect Google to incorporate more user signals into qualifying how good the mobile experience is look more at behaviour metrics and search sequence, so focus must now turn from just having a mobile site, to making it as good as possible.


Preparing for Google’s mobile algorithm update

Google mobile update

Overview

Earlier this year, Google revealed that there will be an algorithm update on the 21st April, 2015 that will expand their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.

This will mean that websites not deemed to be ‘mobile-friendly’ will suffer from reduced visibility within organic search results. It’s also possible that this reduction in visibility may extend to desktop as an additional incentive to webmasters to improve mobile experiences.

Google has announced that this update will take place in ‘real-time’, meaning that if changes are made to make websites more mobile-friendly, as soon as the changes have been indexed by Google the benefits will be realised. Google has also said that this algorithm update will take place on a page-by-page basis, meaning that only those pages that are not mobile-friendly will be impacted, rather than the wider domain.

Why is Google implementing these changes?

At present, mobile search results are simply not good enough for the increasing majority of people now using Google on their mobile devices.

Despite the promotion of YouTube, Android and Google+, Google is still heavily reliant on AdWords to generate the majority of their revenue. If search does not offer value to users, then they may end up going elsewhere, representing a risk to Google’s revenue stream.

At the moment, mobile search results largely match desktop and are ranked based on the merits of the desktop site rather than their own. However, this is no longer acceptable with mobile traffic likely to outstrip desktop by Q2 2015:

Google does not want to be serving half of its users with sub-optimal search results and are therefore making efforts to mitigate this issue.

Case study:

Both desktop and mobile search results for the query [trains to paris] return Eurostar as the top result:

Eurostar search results

However, the user experience between desktop and mobile differs greatly. The desktop user lands on the Paris route landing page. The page provides the user with information about the route and offers the ability to start the booking process. The mobile experience, on the other hand, is much different. The search listing indicates that the user will land on the same, or at least a similar, page:

Eurostar UX

But instead the user is instantly redirected to a page where they must select their language, despite having arrived from Google UK. Furthermore, once the user has selected their language they are re-directed to the mobile homepage. Whilst this webpage does enable them to navigate to the page they ultimately require, overall it is a poor user experience.

This algorithm update was on the horizon

Over the past few months, Google has put some effort into informing webmasters about the performance of their mobile websites and alerting them to the issues they may have. These actions have included:

WMT - mobile usability report

  • Mobile-friendly snippet – Google start to signpost mobile-friendly websites in mobile lists next to the meta description

Mobile-friendly search result screenshot

  • Automated messages – Google has sent emails to webmasters with sites offering a poor mobile experience
  • Notification of update – it is rare for Google to confirm an algorithm update, let alone give advanced notification, and this provides an indication of their desire to give webmasters an opportunity to make improvements

How to prepare for the algorithm update

Here are five recommended actions to prepare for Google’s April mobile algorithm update:

1. Be mobile ready – make sure you have a mobile-friendly website and that the user-agent handling and redirects are handling Googlebot correctly

2. Have a view on mobile – evaluate your web analytics and understand what proportion of your traffic comes from mobile

3. Review behaviour metrics – analyse how your mobile traffic performs on your website. Benchmark key metrics including bounce rate and time on site to understand which pages require improvement

4. Check for notifications – check Google Webmaster Tools to see if Google has sent a notification about your mobile experience

4. View the Mobile Usability Report – with Webmaster Tools, look at what errors Google are reporting and what pages they apply to

Most brands know that they need to be ‘mobile-friendly’ but there are many ways to embrace mobile. Google prefers certain approaches over others so it’s worth exploring options that will prove a win-win for you and your customers.


The Wonderful World of Social Media

Tweets and hashtags

Last year I was asked to present to my company on the subject of ‘social media’. I was given only 10 minutes to present and with social media being such a vast and unwieldily subject, I had to think of how I could inspire and engage a diverse audience within a limited space of time.

Social media has always been a personal and professional passion of mine and so I didn’t want to put together a recycled, ‘cookie-cutter’ style presentation. I wanted to tell story about social media and I therefore researched not only where social media is today and how it’s being used but also the history and future trends we can expect to see.

The research into the history of social media led me to the work of Tom Standage, deputy editor of The Economist and author of ‘Writing on the Wall’, a historical look at the origins of social media. Tom’s presentation to Google provided a great starting point to my presentation, to which I added a middle (where social media is today) and an end (emerging trends) to form The Wonderful World of Social Media:

One of the key aspects of the presentation I wanted people to take away was what I defined as the ‘five key tenets of social media’:

  • Connection
  • Engagement
  • Shared interests
  • Content
  • Conversation

From my research and my wider understanding of social media, many of these ingredients have always existed, from the days of Cicero in the late Roman Republic to the dawn of the digital age in the late 1990’s. Whilst we often consider the ‘social’ elements of ‘new media’ to be a relatively new phenomenon, it’s interesting to see how many parallels there are today with the way our ancestors interacted many years ago.

Social media is here to stay, although it’s likely to continue evolving and merging with many other disciplines. It’s difficult to predict the future although I believe we’ll continue to see an increase in mobile adoption and a focus on data to drive creation, an appetite for visual, ephemeral, ‘snackable’ content and a push towards paying for social visibility.


The top skills of an effective SEO manager

To be a truly effective digital marketer, it’s important to develop a good range of skills and experience regardless of which digital discipline (SEO, UX, analytics, social media) you practice. For a couple of years now I’ve been using the T-shaped marketer approach as a template for my professional development, something that Distilled and Rand Fishkin from Moz have discussed in detail.

T-shaped marketer

As Rand Fishkin explains:

“T-Shaped basically refers to having a light level of knowledge in a broad array of skills, and deep knowledge/ability in a single one (or a few)”.

Essentially, breadth breeds respect and overlapping knowledge yields creativity. There are great benefits for digital marketers who, whilst specialising in a single area or discipline (e.g. SEO), also develop knowledge across a broader spectrum of skills (e.g. social media, content marketing, web analytics etc).

What makes a great in-house SEO manager?

With the T-shaped marketer approach in mind and an appreciation of how SEO has evolved over the last 5-7 years, what skills should the modern SEO manager possess? The days of creating sites using ‘thin’ content and building cheap links are long gone. Today, genuine relevance through quality content and earned links requires the modern SEO manager to leverage a wide array of skills to ensure they drive rankings and quality organic traffic to the websites they’re responsible for.

1. A strategic perspective

Modern SEO managers must have the ability to develop a strategic perspective and tie their SEO plans to the goals and objectives of the business. Having a strategic perspective enables you to define an approach and create a long-term vision for how you see SEO adding value to a business over time.

2. A clear understanding of best practice tactics

From strategy, tactics should follow. The modern SEO manager should have a good appreciation of the most effective SEO tactics at their disposal. With search engines becoming ever more sophisticated, it’s not possible to simply ‘chase the algorithm’ to be successful.

Below are a set of very helpful infographics outlining some of the best tactics for on-page, off-page and technical SEO:

On-page

Moz - perfectly-optimized-page

Off-page

The Periodic Table of Success Factors

Technical

Moz - web developer's SEO cheat sheet

3. Content marketing

Whilst content marketing is a key tactic and could therefore reside in the sub-section above, I’ve singled out content marketing for specific focus due to the importance it plays in today’s modern SEO landscape.

As highlighted in my post on content marketing trends for 2015, there are clear benefits to integrating SEO and content marketing, including:

  • Keyword research
  • Campaign planning
  • Developing quality content
  • Content distribution
  • Analysis

4. Analysis and insight

The modern SEO manager must have the skills to effectively analyse performance and generate insight. Whilst some companies (usually medium-large) may have analytics or insights teams, the ability to competently conduct analysis of their own will put SEOs at a huge advantage.

There are two areas where I believe a good SEO manager can add value:

– A clear view of core KPIs and success metrics

An understanding of what core KPIs to use, against which you can measure how you’re performing vs the strategy and filter insight back into the operational SEO process.

– What is the competition doing? How do you compare?

Effectively benchmark performance vs competitors, providing you with an understanding of gaps, opportunities and areas for improvement.

5. Brand management

A great SEO manager will not look to build content and optimise websites in isolation (see point 1 – ‘a strategic perspective’, above). They will need to have an appreciation of the brand and what the company stands for, all of which will help inform the content and SEO roadmap.

Whilst SEO managers need not be branding experts, I believe they should be confident articulating what a brand is and how it impact the work they do.

Simon Sinek, author of ‘Start with Why’, uses a great concept called the ‘Golden Circle’ to question why brands exist and what they do and how they do it:

6. People management and team building

Many SEO managers work alone, sometimes the sole subject matter expert in the company. However, whether within an SME or a large corporation, at some stage many SEO managers will be looking to either manage an existing team or to build one of their own.

People management is difficult skill to master but one that all great SEO managers must possess. As teams become bigger, the manager must have the ability to juggle resources, motivate the team and ensure that the strategy is being executed.

The Harvard Business Review suggests the following key components to people management:

  • Selection
  • Expectation setting
  • Motivation
  • Development

7. Stakeholder management

Modern SEOs must have the ability to effectively manage the concerns and interests of multiple stakeholders. It’s not possible to simply manage SEO in isolation; instead SEO should be considered from an integrated perspective, i.e. how does it tie in with other areas of the business.

As with people management, stakeholder management is a learned but very important skill, involving a blend of understanding, astute analysis and empathy Some of the key stakeholders I would suggest an SEO manager must be aware of include:

  • Senior management
  • Ecommerce
  • Brand
  • PR
  • Procurement
  • Agency
  • Google

Where do the various stakeholders lie on a Power/Interest matrix?

Stakeholders_matrix copy

A stakeholder’s position on within the matrix indicates the relative power and interest in your work and the actions you may need to take with them.

Summary

Managing SEO today requires more than being an adept technician and practitioner. The modern SEO manager must possess a wide array of skills and competencies, enabling them to effectively manage strategy and set a vision whilst simultaneously be aware of, and execute, tactics that cover on-page, off-page and technical elements of SEO.

The modern SEO manager must also be an astute manager of people and multiple stakeholders, as well as possess an in-depth understanding of the brand and what it really stands for.

A ‘T-shaped’ skill provides a sound template for how effective SEO managers can approach their career development. Managers should continue to develop their skills within the discipline of SEO, but also develop broader skills in other technical areas (such as analytics, PPC and web development) and softer skills (people management, communication etc).