The Creative Store, recruitment, creative jobs, NZ creative industry, Creative store logo

What’s new in Search Engine Marketing 2018

What is new in SEM for business? Rebecca Caroe discusses the Wild West of agency service providers and how to avoid getting ripped off by a marketing firm.

Louise runs the Creative Store – a recruitment and placement agency specialising in the creative industries. This is her interview with Rebecca published in August 2018.  When starting our companies, Louise and Rebecca shared offices in the BizDojo and shared jokes about English sweets and beer!

Q. How do you define search engine marketing?

A. Anything you do for your business that gets it showing up in search results.  So this  can cover keyword SEO on your website, having a strong LinkedIn profile, guest articles, Slideshare presentations and advertising.The Creative Store, recruitment, creative jobs, NZ creative industry, Creative store logo

Q. Are many companies doing a terrible job of this?

A. It is my view that SEO service provision is a “wild west” there are a lot of cowboys.  This is not just a supply side problem, it’s also caused by clients who do not brief well, are not experienced buyers and have unrealistic expectations of what is possible.  We know that business owners come to our events because they want to learn.  Many tell anecdotes about past experiences which didn’t go well.  To challenge and counteract the wild west, I am part of a Facebook group called The Ethical Digital Marketing Community (EDMC) – you’re very welcome to join us, share and learn together.  I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers.

Q. How do you identify your clients?

A.  Our clients are businesses who sell to other businesses.  Many are new to marketing and do not have in-house staff with expertise.

Q. You can spot pretty quickly where they are going wrong

Normally, they aren’t going wrong – they are getting started.  For many, the part of their marketing which they notice is not performing is their website.  It’s not showing up in search, they aren’t getting inbound enquiries and competitors are more prominent.  We recommend they do a self-test using WooRank Checker or Hubspot Website Grader Tool and see what their website score out of 100 is.  That identifies many of the areas where they’re underperforming.

Q. If clients wish to engage you, is this on a retainer or do you do a sweep of their work for a charge?

A. We do both.  Unusually for an agency we are very happy to train and up-skill the client’s team and also work with existing agencies who they already have on retainer.  Our strategic leadership allows both to deliver better outcomes for the client – and that is always the end goal.  By having a clear strategy and goals we are able to brief agencies better, they work to a clear objective and the client trusts us both to get the results.  It’s a win-win-win scenario.

Q. You are hosting an exciting event with Blair Enns in October about this subject – how do you put a price on your work – what will we expect to see from this workshop?

A.  Blair is a world expert in how to win without pitching.  October is his first event on the topic of pricing creative work.  His thesis is that most creative firms under-price their skills and expertise.  And so he teaches “value pricing” where you learn how to price the client, not the job.  Watch Blair’s summary webinar and understand where you could improve http://pitchpack.co.nz/pricing-creativity-free-webinar/

Q. Who needs your services the most?

A.  Owner-managed businesses where the owners don’t know modern digital marketing and are too busy to do it themselves.

Q. Where is the future of SEM going?

A. Deeper and wider into ever more businesses.  Good SEM techniques are straightforward to apply to any business.  I summarise this into – State what you do, Answer questions clearly and Keep your focus on local or niche audiences.  Then repeat and improve. 

Q. Any helpful tips and hints to our clients on their SEM and simples fixes they could be applying?

A.  Sure – Three things.   1 do a website check and see what your score out of 100 is.  2 connect your Google Analytics and Search Console so you can see the queries driving your natural search traffic.  3 review where your last 10 new clients came from – was it referrals or web search or directories or public speaking or something else.  Then double down on what’s working and do more of it.

Q. Where to from here for Creative Agency Secrets

A. More collaborative relationships with other agencies and mutual clients.  I firmly believe that collaboration is an under-used business principle and it is working amazingly well for us.  Who doesn’t want to look good in front of the client?

Search Console and broken website links

Has Google been sending you emails recently?  If you are the webmaster for your domain, you will be getting messages from Google Search Console as they find new errors on your website.

Search Console email text alert

The newly helpful Search Console Reports are good to get.  This is all part of a rollout of improved reporting.  Now you can take control of your own website SEO and won’t have to rely on bespoke or paid developer tools which you don’t want to buy.

What does Google’s email say?

Typically the standard email you receive is not written in plain English – this is tech-speak.  Let us help you decode it.

New Index coverage issue detected for site https://www.yourdomain.com

The Google is trying to be helpful.   So click through from the link supplied and see what the Search Console summary error page says.  There are quite a few possible variations – but here are some of the possible issues [Read the Google Support page]

  • Error
  • Warning
  • Excluded
  • Valid

Helpfully Google offers suggestions on how to research the issue you can test if the Robots.txt file is blocking, you can fetch the page as if you are Google [superb trick this], View the page as a search result and lastly, re-submit to the Google database.

Don’t worry – this isn’t terminal

If you have received this message you can research some how-to guides, blast through the Support guide or call us and we will help you fix it.  Remember Creative Agency Secrets will teach you how to do these fixes yourself, or we can do them for you.

I just checked the error from one client and found a lot of other broken links – use a broken link checker tool to find your priority pages.  It’s worth getting these sorted out – you know “nanny knows best.

The (b)leading edge of Accountancy marketing

Sage publishes an annual survey of accountants attitudes – what’s interesting is that it is global and the summary report details some good findings about the profession.  It’s called The Practice of Now 2018 

As a marketer who works with professional services businesses, my reading highlights some big numbers in the research about artificial intelligence, fear of competition, lack of optimism and increasingly demanding clients.  The implications for marketing, I will cover at the end of this article.

10 take-outs from the Practice of Now 2018 report

  1. Clients are changing faster than accountants. – 42% of clients expect accountants to provide business advice.  This shows how frontline accountancy is in the mind of the client and how banks and business mentors have failed to take up the slack here, which is an opportunity for growth.
  2. Revenues rise as cloud accounting allows firms to be more productive.  56% of firms saw a revenue rise.  If your firm didn’t see this fee income growth – start to review your working practices.
  3. Practice Management in the cloud is at 53% adoption – clearly we are into the mainstream majority now.
  4. But confidence is lower – 40% feel less confident about the prospects for their practice.  Clearly Xero’s goal of putting accountants out of business is realistic and beginning to come true.
  5. Competition within the industry is more visible – are you buying up a practice from a retiring competitor?  Clients will go to an accountant who serves their needs – even to another city or country.  This is both a threat and and opportunity for new business development.
  6. Artificial Intelligence is helping free up administrative tasks and it’s more than just automation. Moving from data entry, email and diary management to higher value services is a no-brainer… but how to set it up is the challenge as these skills aren’t in-house and they may not be in the IT services organisations who work with accountants either.
  7. Most accountants are doing some workflow automation – 49% want to do more of it.  So the benefits are noticed (see 2 above).
  8. The language of accountancy is changing – “Tell me how much money I have” and “How much am I owed?” is SO refreshing compared to “debtors, creditors and accruals”.  From a marketing point of view, these messages are very powerful and simple – but does your firm use this language?
  9. Advisory services are wanted by 42% of clients – but if you don’t market & position the firm to capture this revenue, clients will go elsewhere.
  10. The BIGGIE – 67% of accountants say that cloud technologies make client collaboration easier. Phew, glad that worked out because it jolly well ought to be this way.

Should I worry about artificial intelligence?

If you’re not sure what A.I. could do for your business, start asking questions now.  Because we all understand automation in things like bank feeds, this is a very small part of the working practice move towards higher functionality for humans and lower functions for machines (or software robots).

The easiest way to understand the potential for AI in accountancy is this extract from the report

Candidates for automation already include assigning incoming bank statement entries with the correct nominal codes—via training the machine becomes able to predict what codes should be used—but in the near future the power of AI to learn means it will become involved with operations like analytics and report creation. For example, software will be able to predict a client’s cash flow based on the company’s previous behaviour. Based on self-generated data, AI will be able to make predictions and decisions. This isn’t limited to client data. By examining things like seasonality data, AI can help with practice management. AI and automation aren’t just desirable because they make life easier. Research has suggested that the tedium of repetitive tasks can lead to a high staff turnover, introducing additional costs for a practice such as recruitment and training. Automating these processes makes complete business sense.”

It goes on to say

“AI can flag the anomalies, saving time and resources, making the accountant more productive.”

Your strategic marketing pathway

And as a marketer, if I am advising a modern accountancy practice this is what they should be doing for strategic marketing.

Firstly get your brand positioning updated to reflect modern working.  Think Nena and Kim Wilde – “Anyplace, anywhere, anytime” and you’ll be on the right track.

How that branding plays out into your collateral, positioning, services and online profile should be straightforward.  The key is to get the strategy right first and the rollout should be clear.  You will need new keywords for SEO, your client communications will become driven by client preference and choice and your language will simplify and align with clients’ choices of words. 

Other than that, it’s marketing business as (un)usual for a modern accountancy practice. 

thank you,

How leading creative agencies collaborate

It’s the end of the year and time for reflection.  And for once, I’d like to talk about how Creative Agency Secrets works alongside other agencies to deliver high quality marketing services to our clients.

Specialist agencies serve clients well

Few firms can now offer a ‘full service’ to clients.  Creative Agency Secrets are specialists in B2B marketing but we only offer part of the suite of services which clients need.

As a result, we collaborate with other agencies.  These may already be in a business relationship with our client or we may recruit them via our Sub-Contracted Services practice.

We believe that this serves our clients well.  By finding agencies who have specialist skills the clients can get access to experts for their full marketing needs.

Case Study of positive creative agency collaboration

AdWords – Search Engine Advertising we discussed how to optimise the client’s advertising account and were able to cross-match the search queries out of AdWords and from Analytics which enabled us to discover several search phrases which were only on one platform and could be profitably used to drive results in the other.

Graphic Design Services – a range of collateral was specified by Creative Agency Secrets and the design agency responded to the brief with the client.  As a result of discussions, the client ended up finding a better solution to their business cards and brochure and together we created a much better design outcome.

This form of collaboration is only good for the client. It allows us to stand head and shoulders above our competitors and demonstrate strong value and high quality advice to our clients.

thank you,

Image credit: Learn Russian Step by Step

And so thank you to our clients for trusting Creative Agency Secrets and to our collaboration agencies who choose to work with us in this way.
We appreciate you both.
WooRank Website Test Tool

How to test your website is working effectively

May I show you a little insider secret from the world of web marketing?  It’s called a website rank check tool.  It shows you a score out of 100 for how well your website is built, secured and how well it delivers marketing engagement.

My favourite one is the WooRank tool – I have it installed in the toolbar of my Chrome browser.  But you can use this website or the HubSpot Website Grader Tool does a similar job – but from behind a registration paywall.

We use this when testing SEO on a website for clients.  But you can do it yourself – we’ll show you how.

A case study Central Flowers

WooRank Website Test Tool

WooRank Website Test Tool

I read a lot of newsletters and when I got one from a printer and web design company, I clicked through to their gushing review of their team’s work building a website for their customer.  So I decided to do an independent check on the website.  It scored 52.3/100.  Hardly a rip-roaring success for a new site.

You can see the result here and it demonstrates two things

  1. The web team are only designing for HUMAN visitors, not SEARCH ROBOTS
  2. The client is not expert in hiring and buying expertise.

First things first.  The web team should know about these issues

  • Headings should be in a hierarchy (they choose to only use H1)
  • Three image Alt attributes missing (so search engines can’t index the image and link back)
  • No anchor text in several external links (except the one going to the web design company)
  • No language declared (so the search engines know it’s English)
  • No blog – so the web rankings won’t become good because the site won’t get regularly updated (this is a failure of marketing strategy more than web design)
  • Secure (SSL) website but registered to a different domain (a property management company)
  • Automatic Copyright update to the correct year (it’s 2016 on the site)

These are hygiene factors.  They show up the lack of quality control by both the developers and to a lesser extent by the client.

The #1 mistake business owners make when buying a new website

The mistake is to buy a pretty design layout.  This is made by a designer.

What you need for an effective website is web development made by a web developer as well.  This sets up the effective tools and structures which humans cannot see from a website front end.  But robots and web search engines CAN see.  And now you can too.

Go and test your website using the Hubspot or WooRank tools now.  And send me the results.

Book in a 20 minute call and we will tell you what can be easily improved and how you can do it yourself (yes, really – most of these improvements do not require web development expertise, only editing in your CMS).

Or just buy the book.

Sumo logo and header

An Open Letter to Sumo.com

Dear Globally Successful Technology Business Owner,

Sumo logo and header

Sumo.com logo and header

I am delighted that you have successfully bought a new domain for your business sumo.com and are seeking to transfer the strong SEO from SumoMe.com to the new domain.

Tough job.

Your marketing coordinator wrote to me with a list of URLs on my site which are pointing to the old domain. I understand how much easier it will be for you to regain Search Engine first page results if these are redirected to the new domain.

She asked “do us a huge favor” to change the hyperlinks and to “change any mentions of SumoMe to Sumo“.

This is actually a lot of work on my website.

So I wrote back

Dear Nxxxxx, This is a big ask. May I suggest you offer us something to compensate us for our time? Maybe two free months of usage?

Waiting for a response…. since April 7th, 2017.

Lots of love

Rebecca (Pissed off business owner)

Marketing Rant coming up…

It does NOT have to be like this.

Be innovative with how you ask for Testimonials [or other favours]. How about offering a charity donation, an internship, some free consulting with your experts…. so many choices and so little cost to the business.

I am sick and tired of corporations taking advantage of their hapless customers and when the ONE TIME that I have some influence over the situation – they expect me to roll over and act dumb.

What would you do?

PS. No, none of the links are active – so the lady doesn’t have to do more SEO work to resolve the redirects [free little joke from me there!]

bad linkedin, location obscure, fake profile

Do Consumers Need to Know Where Our Business is Located?

Today’s always-on global world could make your business location seem to be an irrelevancy.  But the opposite is true.  Local marketing is now the fastest-growing part of online marketing specialisms.  And it matters.  Let me explain.

So here are 3 examples for you to use when considering international website domains. 

Feel local but act global

A client asked “We operate in Australia and New Zealand and not sure whether our NZ target market (women 25+) will find our Australian connection appealing or a turn off, given how very passionate and patriotic us Kiwis are! I’m getting mixed messages when I ask around.

We don’t want to hide our Australian connection, as it’s very important and where the business was born, with a fascinating story behind it, just not sure whether to include “Australia” and “New Zealand” optional buttons on the landing page to split off there, or if it should perhaps only appear as an option when you need to click on “events” or “locations” etc. that have information relevant only for each country?” 

What should she do?

My advice is to use a single web domain as the master site for both countries and then to have separate pages for the two locations. Here’s why.

Aussies versus Kiwis – Broadly they are correct, New Zealanders want to think they’re seeing local information (and importantly local currency and phone numbers) and of course small differences in language and rugby club orientation may also come through in brand communications over time.  Do Australians eat afghan biscuits?  Do Kiwis eat chiko rolls?

Your Website Strategy

Ultimately the solution you choose MUST be driven by the strategy for each country.  Is the website a place where people find out about you, get news on specials and what’s new, will they email you, will they phone you?  If yes, then the website must facilitate separate information for each site.

Set the strategy for the website first, then worry about the technical implementation.

Take a look at this case study of some work we did for a client who needed his visitors to quickly split up into pages best aligned with their needs. 

apartment specialists website redesign

Driving visitors to the right landing page focuses traffic

A strategic solution

The home page says what the business brand is all about – the owners, your values and passions.

Then you have a “What’s On NZ”  and a separate “What’s on AU” button that take visitors to what is effectively a home page for that location……

I would treat the NZ page effectively as your local domain and give it a really simple URL and so all links to the New Zealand business go there first.

An alternative to this location split is to have parallel websites which have slightly different domains e.g. nz.yourwebsite.com and au.yourwebsite.com   You often see this device used by international law firms and accountants.  This can be set up by your web hosts.

In practice this means few visitors go to the home page…. but that doesn’t really matter as long as local audiences are being served.

A poorly executed country strategyPerth-or-Thailand

By contrast, we got approached by a Perth business asking to do some content marketing with us.

They sounded like a good prospect and we fixed a phone call.  I rang, answerphone with an English man’s voice…. so I looked him up on LinkedIn and it turns out the business name is BusinessName (Thailand) Co.  Which rang a few alarm bells.

And his stated location was Manchester, UK.  Clearly a disconnect.

When we spoke he said although their phones were VOIP and used Australian numbers; he was actually based in Thailand and he couldn’t make outbound calls to international numbers like mine in New Zealand.  As any Aussie or Kiwi business will tell you, it’s extremely odd not to be able to phone the other country while doing business.

Now let’s look at a third scenario

Nimbus Portal Solutions are a client and they trade in five jurisdictions – Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand, USA and South Africa plus “Global” to pick up the rest of the world.  

Their chosen solution to the website location question is to locally identify the IP address of the visitor and to quietly re-set the website version to the domain best suited.  So my default goes to NZ.  You can check this top right in their website where a country name displays. 

The main goal for Nimbus is to ensure all the currencies are local and bank account / trading entities switch to match.  Which is important for their business as jurisdiction for secure document storage matters – borders and locations of server hosting are aligned to the local country to stay within data protection laws.

In summary – set the website goal first and the supporting strategy will then drive the solution which works best for your situation.

This article first appeared in Marketing Online Magazine