SEO in the Semantic Era (Part 5 of 6)

John Coburn of PraxisNow continues his sequence of posts on “SEO in the Semantic Era” with article 5 of 6 “The Role of SEO in Your Online Sales Process”

If you’ve been following this series of articles up to now, you will know that, more than ever before, search optimising your content is a key way to align it with different stages of the buyer cycle. Note that this does not deal with how strong your value proposition is, how compellingly you present it or how effective your post lead capture follow-up process is.

In essence, practically any piece of content can be search optimised for any stage in the buyer cycle. That is not to say that it will make the grade required to induce buyer action to progress to the next qualification step in your sales process.

Second Process

So, to add a greater degree of objectivity to search-optimising content, we now have a second process to consider – your sales process. So “content” actually has two overlaid processes to which it should align – your buyer cycle and your sales process. Not an easy thing to do – unless you’ve done all the planning and process mapping work in advance. Then it’s a piece of cake!

The Role of SEO in Your Online Sales Process

Two processes isn’t necessarily a bad thing! It means that you have a wider range of search targets than perhaps you had realised.

Whether you chose to optimise the same piece of content for both processes, or use separate content for each process, either way, it is important to know that, although an individual buyer may enter your sales process at any stage, there is always an alignment with the corresponding buyer cycle stage. But they are not the same.

The search behaviours are very often different between the two processes.

For example, let’s say you sell “antibodies” (a blood protein used in medical research – there are thousands of different types).

In the Awareness stage of the buyer cycle, a buyer may conduct a search for “types of cancer antibody used in research” or “cancer research antibodies” or “antibodies used in oncology”.

Clearly the buyer is early-stage as they are only “finding out” and you may have content that helps them do this – as well as guide them to the next stage in their journey. But your goal at this stage of their buyer cycle is to drill a bit deeper to find out what kind of cancer research they are doing and match it to the exact antibody that meets their need. You will do that in your content.

However, another searcher at a similar stage in the buyer cycle might have alternatively typed in “suppliers of cancer research antibodies” or “Best research antibody for . . . cancer” or “research antibodies with . . . function”. These search queries imply an intent, even though the searcher is still is discovery mode.

Persona Language and Semantic SEO

Search optimising content for these separate search behaviours requires you to have pre-empted [possibly multiple] persona language variations. With traditional SEO, this meant researching and creating a keyword list.

With semantic SEO, it means researching and capturing a wider persona language that does not just consist of keywords, but includes things such as problems and solutions that your target buyer has and how those problems and solutions are articulated including general and specific searches, paraphrasing and the many long tail variants that may occur.

SEO traditionalists may see this as pointless. That’s because they are thinking of SEO as a keyword-based discipline. In the semantic era, that’s like looking at television in black and white. There is so much more happening out there beyond simple keyword searches. Indeed, central to this is Google’s clear determination that content that is optimised for keywords alone does not confer relevance. That changes everything – more on this in the final installment of this series.

What does a Digital Sales process look like?

Although not within the scope of this article, it is worth getting a feel for what your digital sales process might look like. It is similar to a buyer cycle, but more focused on you as a seller. The stages can be simplified into six areas:

ATTRACT – ENGAGE – CAPTURE – NURTURE – ACQUIRE – GROW

If you would like to explore the above stages in more detail, take 10 minutes out to read about them at:  http://www.praxisnow.ie/digital-marketing/

 

Is SEO Getting More Complex

SEO has been complex for several years. For those who though it was simple, perhaps the absence of results are telling. Much of the methods that companies used to fool Google over the years are now detectable by Google’s indexing algorithm. Old ways of SEO are simply not effective nowadays.

Nevertheless, SEO is perfectly doable by every company who chooses to learn how to do it correctly. This does not mean that you must try to reverse-engineer Google’s algorithm or spend every living moment trying to keep up to date with every change that comes about. In SEO, the key is to be about three to five steps back from the “bleeding edge”. Let others do the painful figuring out! Too far back and you will fail. Too far forward and you will find SEO a black hole that will sink as much resource as you are willing to throw at it.

With a good SEO process, a responsible attitude to what the search engines are trying to do (present the most relevant content), and a considered methodology for staying up-to-date without getting completely overpowered by the mountains of available information (most of which is obsolete), SEO can be your biggest and most effective sales channel or sales lead generation source. But you have work to do first!

 

Coming soon: the final article in this series – article 6 of 6: “New SEO Considerations in the Semantic Era” coming shortly

This blog post was written by John Coburn (PraxisNow) who can be contacted at 01-2360076.  PraxisNow runs two SEO Certification Groups – each 4 weeks in duration: (1) Beginner to Intermediate SEO, and (2) Advanced SEO – details at  www.praxisnow.ie/seo-training/.  If you would like more information on Content Marketing and the digital challenge, check out their annual briefing at:     www.praxisnow.ie/digital-marketing-2015/

Previous articles in this series

(1) Introducing Semantic Search
(2) Semantic Search in Action
(3) Content Marketing in the Semantic Search Era

SEO in the semantic Era (Part 4 of 6)

John Coburn of PraxisNow continues his sequence of posts on “SEO in the Semantic Era” with article 4 of 6 “The Role of SEO in the Buyer Cycle”

The Role of SEO in the Buyer Cycle

SEO is often seen as just another digital marketing channel. Indeed, the perception is that it is getting more and more difficult to acquire a worthwhile organic search footprint in your served market due to increased competition and exponential levels of “information noise”. Both of these views are flawed.

Actually, SEO is getting easier! Just because the rules change regularly does not mean that it is getting more difficult. It is getting better in fact. Google in particular is doing a better job now than it ever could before, of weeding out less relevant content and bringing more relevant content to the fore. So, if your content is more relevant, and you can prove it, Google is taking care of all the less relevant, potentially competitive information noise for you. Voila – easier! All you’ve got to do is prove it.

Buyer and Seller Goals in the Buyer Cycle

Most digital marketers are aware of the idea of a “buyer cycle”; a sequence of steps that a typical buyer will go through from point of first contact with you to the point of becoming a customer and ultimately, a repeat customer. These stages are often compressed into four core steps – Awareness, Interest, Consideration and Decision. Sometimes a fifth step is added as Referral. During each of these buyer cycle stages, both buyers and sellers have different, yet aligned goals.

Awareness and SEO

At the Awareness stage, buyers are in discovery mode. They are researching, learning and observing. At this Awareness stage, the goal of the seller is not just to get discovered but to expose a need in the mind of the buyer. Very often, a buyer at the Awareness stage may not realise that they have an actual need until they discover something new that triggers realisation of the need.

SEO is perhaps the single most important digital channel at the Awareness stage for a simple reason. According to Forrester, somewhere between 88% and 92% of both online and offline purchases, start with a search. That’s where you will get discovered more of the time by those who don’t know you.

Interest and SEO

At the Interest stage, buyers with needs are seeking possible solutions to those needs. The seller’s goal at this stage is therefore to present their solution to the buyer’s need in the form of a value proposition.

If you’ve been successful at the Awareness stage, then you have some unique opportunities presented to you through clever use of your content. A potential buyer doesn’t stop searching just because they’ve found you. They will go on searching – but if you’ve piqued their interest and have exposed a new problem they might have or a solution to a recognised problem, then using your early stage content, you have the opportunity to plant some additional search criteria in your buyers mind that brings them closer and closer to the details of your solution.

In this instance, you will have already wrapped up the organic listings for the search queries you are suggesting and will be the most prominent player in the search results as the buyer explores the next level of detail. You are also helping the buyer to think in your terms and giving them the vocabulary they need to effectively explore potential solutions. This is a great use of SEO.

SEO in the Consideration Stage

At the Consideration stage, your buyer has a more clearly defined, evolved set of needs and an overview of potential solutions. Their goal now is to compare available solutions perhaps taking a wider view of potential solutions at a more analytical level. At this stage, the Seller’s goal is thus to differentiate; to ensure that the buyer is presented with compelling reasons that move the buyer closer to a favourable decision. This suggests the type and nature of content which you might produce and optimise for the Consideration stage in the buyer cycle such as case studies, comparisons, benchmarks and performance reports, testimonials, special reports, thought leaderships papers etc… All of which can be optimised for organic search which may even intercept traffic at a late stage in the buyer cycle who missed you in the earlier stages.

SEO in the Decision Stage

During the decision stage, the buyer is ready to buy and the seller’s goal is to convert. Before buying, a buyer may do one last trawl using search in an attempt to find content that supports or refutes the credibility, quality and referencability of your solution. All these potential buyer search motivations provide excellent scope to cover your bases using SEO.

Aligning Content to Stages in the Buyer Cycle

Buyer requirements for content at different stages of the buyer cycle vary in accordance with the nature of the sale (simple or complex), the type of purchase (emotional or rational) and the degree to which the buyer has a well defined or poorly defined purchase process.

Your first point of contact with a buyer may occur at any stage of the buyer cycle. Early contact at the Awareness stage may improve your ability to influence the buyer’s journey in a way that favours your solution. In contrast, late contact at the Consideration stage may involve you as a comparison only, since a decision in principle may have already been taken. In this later situation, it is significantly more difficult for you to make the sale. Nevertheless, value-driven, compelling content is the key to unlocking buyer engagement and involving them in your selling process.

Creating compelling content that is search targeted at each stage in the buyer cycle is a powerful piece of your online armoury provided it results in getting you found based on search behaviours that are specific to different buyer cycle stages. For example, in the early stages, search behaviours may be focussed on process or methodology – aligned to content such as guides, e-books, infographics. Late stage examples may be focused on comparisons or return on investment calculators which imply an imminent decision.

SEO, and in particular semantic SEO which focuses optimisation on problems and solutions, is the process by which your content successfully intercepts your targeted persona’s search behaviours. Irrespective of how compelling your content is or how effective your prospective customer journeys are, if your content cannot be found on the biggest of all the digital channels – organic search, the your content asset will never reach its potential. With semantic SEO, you are maximising your content’s distribution potential, not just as a part of your website infrastructure, but as part of a wider distribution ecosystem that includes optimised content being deployed and distributed through third party direct and indirect channels.

 

The next article in this series – article 5 of 6: “The Role of SEO in Your Online Sales Process

This blog post was written by John Coburn (PraxisNow) who can be contacted at 01-2360076.  PraxisNow runs two SEO Certification Groups – each 4 weeks in duration: (1) Beginner to Intermediate SEO, and (2) Advanced SEO – details at  www.praxisnow.ie/seo-training/.  If you would like more information on Content Marketing and the digital challenge, check out their annual briefing at:     www.praxisnow.ie/digital-marketing-2015/

 

Previous articles in this series

(1) Introducing Semantic Search
(2) Semantic Search in Action
(3) Content Marketing in the Semantic Search Era

eMail Marketing 101

email marketing

It’s a good idea to regularly check how your current marketing activities are performing for you. In this blog we want to show you how to get the most out of your email marketing campaigns.

Content is currently king so what better way to get people engaged in your content than email marketing! (If you think social beats email, Kissmetrics reported that Facebook and Twitter combined make up 0.2% of all emails sent on a daily basis) Here in Dara Creative, we use Campaign Monitor for our email campaigns.

Subject Lines – Short & snappy wins the open rates

According to a report by Adestra, emails that had a subject line with fewer than 10 characters had an open rate of 58%. While that’s a whopper of a statistic, it can be hard to keep subject lines that short and snappy. We would recommend a maximum of 50 characters for your subject line, but you’ll have to experiment to see what works for your campaigns.

Content – Entice them with snippets

People love free stuff but instead of giving everything away just give a taster. While you may have an amazing blog post or want people to download a whitepaper give a short blurb about it in your email and direct people towards your website. By doing this you can keep their attention for longer and get them more interested in your brand.

Testing – The more you test, the better!

Testing is a must. In Dara Creative, we A/B test the subject line in every email campaign. As subject lines can be tricky to get right, it’s a good idea to test. By testing you’ll start to get an idea about what people respond to. In Campaign Monitor you can test the subject line, the entire email content or the sender field. A nifty thing Campaign Monitor does, for the subject line at least, is it tells you how many extra opens and clicks you got because of your A/B testing.

Link Your Google Analytics – Data is your friend

One of the most important things to do before you set up your first campaign is to link your account with Google Analytics. By doing this you can attribute site traffic to your campaign instead of just speculating that it may have driven X number of visitors.

  • In Campaign Monitor, click on your client settings on the right-hand side of the page and select Google Analytics Integration.
  • Tick ‘Enable Google Analytics Integration’
  • Insert the domain you want to track (yourwebsite.com)
  • Name the campaign source – this what will show up in Google Analytics when you search your campaigns

 

Reports – Sure who doesn’t love reports!

While you may be rolling your eyes, you should always do a report roughly 4 – 7 days after you send out an email campaign. It’s good to keep an eye on who’s opening and clicking on your emails but did you know there’s more reports?

In Campaign Monitor there’s lots of nifty reports such as email link overlay, worldview and email client usage:

  • Email Link Overlay is quite a cool report as it shows you the email you sent but adds in the percentage of unique clicks for each link whether it was a text link, button link or image link.
  • Worldview, well, you can see where exactly in the world people opened, clicked and shared your email from.
  • Email Client Usage tells you what email client people use (gmail, outlook, apple mail) and which had the most opens. Why is this useful? It can help you gauge a few things such as how many people are reading my email on the go, should I invest in a mobile friendly email template or is there a reason why certain email clients perform better than others. As noted in our Responsive Web Design blog, 75% of the Irish population will have a smartphone by the end of 2013 so these reports can help you decide if a mobile or responsive template is for you.

 

Get in touch with Dara Creative at hello@daracreative.ie if you have any questions about email marketing, email template design or any of their services.

This guest blog post was written by Eleanor Tallon, Digital Marketing Assistant.

 

Compare the leading ERP systems at the ERP HEADtoHEAD™

The 4th ERP HEADtoHEAD™ is taking place on 4th/5th March 2015 at the Carlton Hotel, Dublin Airport. The event is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to see the top ERP software vendors, all under one roof. The ERP HEADtoHEAD™ is ideal for organisations that are currently evaluating ERP systems or that plan to do so in 2015.

Each product will be demonstrated by the top ERP vendors using a single script, allowing for a true like-for-like comparison. It is an ideal opportunity for senior finance or IT executives and members of their ERP selection teams to efficiently review the leading ERP products and to learn how to manage their selection process so that risk is reduced and benefits are maximised. Attendees will gain knowledge over the two days of the event that might otherwise take months of planning and meetings to achieve.

“If you are budgeting for or about to start an ERP software replacement or upgrade project this event should not be missed. It is a unique opportunity to compare some of the leading ERP products based on a defined script, not a series of generic sales presentations. Selecting the right ERP software can radically increase the efficiency of your business. However implementing the wrong system can have serious consequences, commented Sean Jackson, Managing Director of Lumenia, leading ERP consultants.

Products from leading ERP vendors, including SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Sage, Epicor, IFS, Access and Infor will be demonstrated. In addition, each vendor will have an individual demonstration stand, where specific project requirements can be discussed in between presentations. The event will also provide opportunities to network and compare experiences with other organisations also planning to implement ERP.

Each product will be presented once each day, with presentations taking place in three parallel streams. Attendees have the option to attend for one or two days. Special discounts apply for early bird bookings and for more than two attendees registering per company. Attendees that register for two days and attend the Wrap-up session will automatically be entered into a draw for a chance to win an Apple iPad Air.

This event will be facilitated by Lumenia, Europe’s leading independent ERP consulting organisation. Lumenia has managed over 100 ERP projects and will share project experiences and ERP selection and implementation knowledge during the event.

For further information and to register please contact Linda Davey on 091 746940 or by e-mail info@erpheadtohead.com or check out the event website www.erpheadtohead.com

Trends for Driving your Business in 2015

Trends for driving your business in 2015

It’s always hard to predict what will drive and have an impact on online behavior but we have dug around the corners of the internet to uncover, what we believe to be, the main digital trends that will impact businesses in 2015.

Privacy & Data

Data has become a valuable commodity in the digital sphere. In 2014, data, and the method of gathering data, has received a bad rep due to security breaches in major applications and websites such as eBay, Snapchat and Apple’s infamous iCloud leak. In 2015, people will be more aware of the information they’re sharing and who they’re sharing it with.

There are simple measures you can put in place to give your users peace of mind:

  • let people know you’re using cookies
  • have an up to date privacy and cookie policy
  • if there’s a user login, make sure it’s a secure connection using https instead of http

Seamless web experience 

According to GSMA Intelligence, there are now 7.3 billion devices (smartphones, “dumb” phones, tablets, etc) in the world; the number of which are increasing 5 times faster than the human population. We’re interacting with a greater range of screens and sizes so it will be even more important that the experience across these devices is seamless.

By having a responsive website design, you’re creating a unified web presence. If you want to find out more about why responsive design is so important, we’ve written blogs about both responsive web design and responsive email templates.

Personalisation

As there’s so much content and noise on the internet, it can be hard for your content to break through. A study by EConsultancy and Monetate found that 94% of companies believe that personalisation ‘is critical to current and future success’. Personalisation is simple to implement: use first names in your email marketing, SMS and you can even personalise your landing pages. It’s an easy thing to do that will instantly make your customer feel more connected to your content and brand.

Content Marketing

Creating interesting, helpful and relevant content is going to be even more important for any business in 2015. It’s estimated that the amount of information available on the internet will grow by 600% by 2020; a phenomenal figure!

Content marketing and social media marketing have become synonymous with each other. It’s regularly said that organic reach on social networks is decreasing and it’s true. Not only will content have to be super targeted to your audience but will most likely need advertising spend put behind it to push it out further to your audience.

 

This guest blog was written by Paula Connor, Dara Creative.  Get in touch with her at hello@daracreative.ie (01-6725222) if you’re interested in a responsive website or just need some advice on achieving your targets for 2015.

 

How to tell if you need a new website

new website

So your website is more than 3 years old. Is it still up to scratch?
Maybe you think it’s looking a bit sad and tired or it’s just not doing what you need it to any more, others in your company might think it’s just fine. So here’s some pointers to help you figure out why it could be time for a shiny new site.

First impressions count! A dated design can deter visitors

You probably won’t get a second chance to make a good first impression on your website visitors. The internet and it’s technologies have moved on leaps and bounds in the last 5 years.

Please consider:

  • Overall is the design is outdated, is your homepage static with little information? Does it properly explain your business offering? If there isn’t anything to engage and entice users they are unlikely to explore further. A site that’s informative, visually engaging and easy to navigate will lead to better conversions and a return on your investment.
  • Is the design clean, attractive and modern or does it say “Hello 1990’s”? A dated looking site can give the impression that your company is behind the times and you may lose out to a competitor whose website looks more professional. Newer designed websites are making better use of the larger width of screens and tend not to have as many boxed elements.

Technology Fail!

If your site is so old it’s practically in hieroglyphics then it’s highly likely that it’s failing fast on keeping up with the latest technological developments. Here’s some things to think about:

  • Does your site work well on mobile or tablet devices? Having a responsive website is absolutely vital today with over 65% of Irish users changing devices while researching online – read our blog article about Responsive Design
  • Do you have a flash element on the website – Flash is an outdated web technology and it can’t be used on most tablets and phones, losing you a huge audience
  • Your website is slooooow! It takes a long time to load, possibly due to old website software. Nobody likes a slow site and your visitors will bounce off your site for sure rather than wait for it. Test your site in the the Google Speed Check tool
  • Do you have an easy way to edit content yourself or are you relying on your web developer? Having a good content management system means you can keep your content up to date and relevant for your visitors without any techie know-how.
  • Is your Content Management System (CMS) up to date? Making sure that your CMS is up to date, for example installing the latest version, ensures that hackers can’t find weaknesses or a gap in the security of your software. Thus preventing your content being deleted, passwords changed or obscene content being posted on your website.

Write captivating content & Optimise for Search

The content on your site is as important as the design and build. Ensure that you’ve got engaging and informative text on your site, a few scant words won’t really do anymore – give the search engines something to crawl! Update and add to your content on a regular basis.

Your content should be proactive and include ‘Calls to action’ (eg ‘Get in touch’, ‘Book now’, etc). Way back when it was ok to have fairly passive content that had a little info about who you were – a simple online brochure as such. But now the best practice is to call out to your website visitor – be clear on your business goals and get your website working to help achieve them.

As well as the above, an up to date website will include the following:

  • A sitemap, legal and cookie policy, all of which are required
  • Google analytics – make sure you have tracking code on the site. Google analytics is an essential tool for every website owner who wishes to track the performance of your website – track visitors, goals/conversions, measure your advertising return on investment, track social networking sites. Google Webmaster tools provides you with extensive reports about your visibility online. The great thing about these tools is that they are FREE!
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – implemented on the site. This will help get your website found in search engines for keyword phrases links to your business’ products and services. It is something that every website should have.

After reading this you may realise your old site isn’t up to scratch. Dara Creative provide expert advice to help transform your online presence – you’ll be facing the future with your best foot forward in no time! If you would like to find out more about their services, you can contact them at hello@daracreative.ie.

This guest blog post was written by Paula Connor, Digital Marketing Manager, Dara Creative. You can contact her at pconnor@daracreative.ie

 

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