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How to succeed with marketing in a post-pandemic world

The last few months have been tough for businesses; logistical struggles and diminished customer purchase power have seen businesses of all sizes, and across a majority of sectors, feel the financial pinch. In these types of situations, many businesses turn to cut backs in marketing budgets in order to alleviate financial strain, but it’s often great digital marketing strategy which can help to deliver an upturn in business during difficult periods. 

Here Chris Attewell, CEO of leading digital agency Search Laboratory, argues why now is not the time to step back on marketing activity and offers expert advice for businesses looking to achieve success in a post-pandemic world through cohesive digital strategy… 

  1. Know when to press ‘Go’

With things seemingly much more normal in day to day life, a mistake brands need to avoid making right now is to switch their marketing activity on. Despite shops, restaurants and even offices opening back up, the customer journey in many sectors is still far from ‘normal’.

Knowing when to resume activity can be the difference between making and losing money. Too soon, budget is used with little results; too late, and you miss out on the initial flurry. 

Monitoring search impressions via Google Search Console is the quickest way to gauge when your industry is beginning to pick up, as it indicates rising interest in your products. However, as you can expect impressions to fluctuate daily, comparing the average number of daily impressions of the last three days compared to the last ten and twenty-one days will show if there is an upwards trend. 

2. Segment your pixel audiences and CRM lists

The pandemic has resulted in a lengthened sales cycle, meaning consumers are spending more time in the research phase and delaying purchasing. If you were tracking users who engaged with your website before or during the pandemic, use this time to segment them and know what messages you want them to see ready for when the market picks back up.

As lookalike and similar audiences are based on recent data, these lists may be skewed due to a different sales cycle during the pandemic. Instead, segment your pixel audiences or CRM lists to create user groups before and during lockdown and test the difference to identify different audience groups; you can then tailor the messages shown to each group for better performance.

3. Build an online local presence

Although travel restrictions within the UK have been lifted, many consumers are choosing to stay closer to home when it comes to eating out, shopping and undergoing leisure activities. For businesses where customers are required to go instore to complete their purchase, consider narrowing down the geo-targeting for paid campaigns to avoid wasting budget, and use this time to build a strong local SEO presence. Creating or updating your Google My Business listing(s) and getting listed in important local directories can help to boost your online presence for location-based searches, helping to drive more footfall as restrictions ease.

4. Create ‘soft’ conversions

While many businesses are already be seeing an uplift in web traffic and sales already, a return to pre-pandemic levels of sales may be slow. Adjust your expectations and set ‘soft’ conversions based on the current needs of your audience. Doing this allows you to measure success in a climate where customers are not buying as much or as often, and means you can still capture valuable data to inform your digital strategy. Consider how you can provide genuinely useful and engaging content that matches the needs of your customers and can be used to capture data and soft conversions – such as downloadable guides or webinars.

5. Optimise for long-term results 

The immediate future is uncertain, so use this time to focus on improving your long-term success. Ensuring your website is SEO ready now will help to drive organic traffic in the long run. Review your website architecture and speed, and current content and identify where and how you can improve technical elements of the site, and where you can improve or create content to make the site more relevant for your audience’s search queries and needs.

6. Fine tune your Google Analytics 

Google Analytics is a valuable tool which can be used to understand who your customers are, how they are finding you, and what they want from your business. Now is a great time to set up Google Analytics, if you haven’t already, to track customer behaviour and use these insights to develop an effective marketing strategy. Review the metrics you track – do they correlate to your current business goals? Ensure tagging and tracking is set up so you have access to all the data required to make informed business decisions moving forward. 

7. Join up your offline and online data 

Tying up online behaviour (how a user interacts with your business online) with offline behaviour (such ringing up a sales person, attending an event, shopping in-store) helps you to see how your online marketing activity leads to new customer acquisition and vice versa – insights which will help to shape an effective marketing strategy. If you have a CRM system, link it up with Google Analytics so you can track how users behave across the full user journey. Whatever the unique behaviours of your customers are, finding and measuring highly engaged users that have a higher rate of conversion is a relevant way of measuring successful sessions if sales are lower than they usually would be.

For more help with your marketing, download our whitepaper: https://www.searchlaboratory.com/downloads/kick-starting-your-marketing-in-a-post-pandemic-world-whitepaper/

PODCAST: The digital marketing landscape in 2020

In the latest podcast from Search Laboratory, founder Ian Harris is joined by Rob Marsden, Head of SEO and Pete Whitmarsh, Head of Paid Media, to discuss the role of artificial intelligence and machine learning over the past year and where they expect this trend to go in the year ahead.

They also delve into the effects of voice search and the rise of Marketplaces on SEO and PPC, and the future of data collection and protection for marketers.

Check out the full podcast here: https://www.searchlaboratory.com/2020/01/what-does-2020-hold-for-digital-marketing/

Alexa, do I need a voice search strategy? – Why your business should consider the merits of implementing a voice search strategy

With voice search dominating the realm of SEO and business news, Jimmy McCann, Head of Digital Strategy at international digital marketing agency, Search Laboratory, discusses how voice search is becoming the default search method for consumers worldwide and why voice search shouldn’t be overlooked as part of a business’ digital strategy.  

Implementing voice search technology 

With recent partnerships being established in the world of voice search, such as the NHS and Amazon, this only scratches the surface of voice technology. The possibilities are endless and this partnership only works to emphaises the technology is here to stay, with more and more consumers creating demand for home voice assisted devices, including Amazon’s Echo and Google Home. 

In turn, a growing number of brands are turning to SEO specialists to improve their search engine results page (SERP) ranking due to the rising popularity of voice search amongst consumers. The popularity is bound to lead to an even greater influx in brands looking to gain market share and a slice of the action. 

Of course, as with any strategy, voice search can’t just become a ‘me too’ exercise for brands. Rather, the approach must be considered and highly strategic. There are many reasons why it is becoming necessary for some brands to adopt voice strategies, but rather than panic and invest in this new technology without thought, it is essential those looking to integrate voice search within their existing offering – like the NHS – to do so in a way that ultimately works to benefit the consumer and the broader business strategy. 

The impact of voice search on SEO

That said voice search is a hugely popular emergent technology that will only keep getting bigger. As it does grow, the way SEO is conducted will be impacted, and this is where larger numbers of businesses that don’t necessarily see a need for voice search considerations as part of their digital strategy may become impacted.  

Voice technology isn’t new by any means. In fact, it was first designed in the 1950s but with the new home assistant device, it has taken a place in the forefront of consumer minds. The technology is improving at such a rapid pace that it is constantly interesting consumers. Just like social media and smartphones, voice technology is here to stay in the consumers everyday life. 

Businesses who want to remain visible to consumers in the coming years will have to find a way to incorporate voice technology, or at the least an SEO approach that considers the nuances presented by voice search, into their digital marketing strategies. 

With voice searches, users do not see a full SERP and decide from there which link to click, but rather are presented with the top result or answer spoken back to them. As such, businesses will no longer be fighting for a place of page one, but rather for the top result every time, for every search term. 

Using voice to enhance the customer experience 

Voice does also offer other benefits for businesses. Building a voice search strategy isn’t just about remaining relevant – it is also about creating a unique customer experience that will build on relationships first made via computers and ultimately, build brand loyalty. The most sophisticated home assistants such as Alexa and Google Home can tell the difference between voices asking questions. This means that they can provide valuable insights about specific users that can lead to more personalised content for the consumer. 

Eventually it is predicted that voice technology will also allow brands to interact with consumers in a more natural and seamless way, with the aim of encouraging customer retention and loyalty. Finally, voice search interactions take far less time than text-based ones, which makes life more convenient for busy consumers who expect a quality experience and instant gratification every time they interact with a brand. Customers want brands to stay on the fringes of their life until needed, at which point they want immediate support and service.

As voice technology continues to grow and become more popular among consumers, it will become increasingly important for businesses of all shapes and sizes to include a voice search strategy into the overall digital marketing plan. 

Along with already changing the way people approach SEO, voice search is also giving businesses an opportunity to create an enhanced customer experience, and brands that want to compete and stay relevant will have to get on board.

Beyond that, voice search could also prove to be a great tool for increasing web traffic and beating the competition, as long as businesses have a solid voice-optimised SEO strategy in place to get their brand to the top of the SERPs. 

Online visibility is more than Google search: ignoring other platforms is losing you sales

The number of consumers heading to the internet as the first step on their purchasing journey is growing at a rapid rate. In fact, with over half of UK consumers preferring searching online than browsing a physical store, it’s easy to see why brands are utilising search engine optimisation (SEO) for comprehensive online visibility.  

Holding 92% of the global market share, Google is the natural choice when implementing an SEO strategy. However, taking a linear approach to your online visibility with Google alone is losing you sales. 

Jimmy McCann, Head of Digital Strategy at Search Laboratory is here to explain why you need to take a holistic approach to your integrated digital strategy to ensure 360 online visibility for your brand… 

The importance of organic, paid and multi-channelled advertising

If recalling the last time you purchased an item without searching it online beforehand seems like a distant memory, you’re not alone;  82% of all smartphone users say they consult their phones on purchases before they make them in store. In addition to searching on Google, consumers may look at reviews, marketplaces and social media to gauge whether a brand and its product is trustworthy.

It is therefore important for businesses to create a multi-channel strategy, rather than focus their entire marketing efforts on Google. 

Widening your brand’s reach by appearing in multiple channels is a crucial step that will allow you to reach prospects at more touchpoints in their customer buyer journey, increasing the likelihood of making a sale. 

There are various platforms that offer paid and organic methods to reach your target audience. Not all will be valuable to your business; using an appropriate attribution model along with carrying out an analysis of your customers and target audience will help to identify which channels you should start with.

Paid media is a great way of reaching your exact audience. Paid search on Google is invaluable, but there are other platforms that your business needs to take advantage of to get in front of consumers at different stages of the customer buyer journey:

A good digital strategy should have paid and organic activity across multiple channels, with each channel’s activity integrating with the overall strategy.

Scaling your brand internationally

For enterprises looking to expand their brand into international markets, understanding the local search landscape is crucial, and often requires going beyond the precincts of Google. 

The search engine’s market share varies internationally, which means an international SEO strategy needs to encompass other search engines.

For example, Bing’s presence in America far outweighs its UK presence, which took 33% of the market share in 2017. Whereas Yandex is prevalent in Russia, and Baidu is the market leader in China. 

In order to successfully expand into new markets, you will need to combine mother tongue knowledge of the local culture with digital marketing expertise. This will ensure that your strategy is localised successfully, avoiding any pitfalls of simply translating your brand. 

Set up an appropriate attribution model for your business needs

A customer will come in contact with your brand across multiple channels before finally converting. Using attribution models will help you to identify which touchpoints are most valuable in the customer journey. Google has multiple attribution models available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Setting up the appropriate model will help you to identify which channels to focus on in your digital marketing strategy.  

Building online visibility is a multi-faceted and often a time-consuming process but an integral part of growing your business, sales figures and customer retention rates. Your approach to digital marketing should remain a ‘work-in-progress’ and be constantly adapted to improve results. More importantly, your online visibility should span across different platforms and follow a paid and organic advertising strategy, which will ensure you remain market leaders and grow online revenue.