Content marketing strategy

What to include in your content marketing strategy

  • What a content marketing strategy is and why you need one
  • Tips and tricks to create the perfect content for your business

A content marketing strategy is essential for marketers - it defines who you’re creating content for, and why. 64% of marketers admit that they need to build a scalable content strategy – But what are the elements of a content strategy?

However, the truth is that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to creating your content strategy. It might be that what works for one company doesn’t work for you - the trick is creating a strategy that’s right for your business and your audience.

There is a huge variety of content you can include in your content strategy—all of which benefits your business in different ways. In this post, we explore every document that should go into your content strategy—from the content itself to supporting materials—to give your content the best chance at reaching your audience and turning them into leads.  Today we’re going to look at the content and supporting documents you’ll need to create your own strategy.

1. Defining your audience

‘Content’ has become the collective name for any kind of creative work in marketing. It takes on many different forms when educating and engaging with your audience. The flexibility of content allows businesses to generate content in different ways - but whether you post one blog a week or two eBooks a month, you need to make sure that your content is tailored towards your audience.

But how do you define that audience? How do you decide how and when to post? There are some important marketing decisions you’ll need to make that will help you make those decisions.

  • What are your goals?

Before you create content, you need to define your goals - otherwise, you’re writing with no purpose. When you create content, you need to consider that different types of content have different aims – social content should drive traffic to your site, where an eBook will attract phone or in-person meetings. You need to decide if you’re trying to increase organic traffic to your website, nurturing sales leads, or driving conversions.

This decision will help you create Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which set out a concrete aim for each goal. Deciding on metrics to track will help you see the value in different channels – track your downloads, shares, unique page visits - and you’ll find out exactly what your audience wants.

  • Who are your target audience?

Your existing audience are the best people to tell you what kind of content you should create. The goal of anything you make should be to provide value to your customers – anything that’s just promotional content without any consumer value will come across to them as simply white noise. Make sure your content always prioritizes consumer value before direct sales.

With a combination of audience insights, demographics and psychographics, you can identify opportunities to reach both your current audience and new audiences. Find what they’re searching for online, the problems they’re trying to solve, and how they want to improve their lives. If you can offer them a suitable solution, they’ll choose you and become loyal to your brand.

  • How will you target your audience?

Personas help you define your audience and what they’re looking for – a persona is a document that outlines a fictionalised version of your average customer, what they’re looking for and why you’re the best option for them. This creates a character that you can target your content at - details like income, age, education and personality can help you visualise your potential customers.

Once you understand their motivations, you’ll find it far easier to create content that your audience are searching for. You’ll also be able to identify the most effective channels to reach them through.

  • What kind of voice does your brand use?

Your business’s voice is defined by the way you write and your tone of voice. From the stylistic and grammar conventions you use to the terminology and tone of voice everything you publishes needs to be consistent.

A concrete guide to how to write for your brand ensures that anyone internally or externally can write in your company’s voice. This can be a very useful document for maintaining internal understanding of your brand as well as developing your brand’s personality. An easy way to establish a brand voice is by picking three adjectives you’d like your brand to embody. For instance; knowledgeable, friendly and helpful.

  • What’s your unique selling point (USP)?

To gain advantage over competitors, you need to define exactly what sets you apart. Your value proposition explains why you’re the best choice in your market and what benefits you can provide. A good value proposition will sit on your homepage and many other subpages, and it will communicate to your customers exactly why they should pick you.

One of the most important things about value propositions is that they must be written in simple language – no jargon. Write a simple statement outlining what your business does, who you’re doing it for, and how it’s the best on the market, in the language that your customers actually use. Your customers want to know how you’re going to make their lives easier - so tell them.

2. Creating content

Depending on your industry, you’ll need to create different types of content to attract your audience. Using your personas and market research will allow you to identify the channels and content that best suit your audience so you can target accordingly.

Here are some of the types of content your brand can use in your content strategy.

  • Short-form content

Short-form content often addresses topical or time-sensitive issues, as it’s easier to quickly generate. Blogs and videos are more likely to be shared through social media, gaining you organic traffic and improving your brand visibility.

Blogs – Blogs are bread and butter content. Most businesses underestimate the value of a regularly updated blog, but it improves your SERP rankings and positions you as a knowledge leader in your industry. You can use online tools to generate ideas for blogs based on your keywords.

Social media – Social media channels are a great way to publish original content, develop your brand and reach new audiences. Once you’ve decided which channels will reach your target audience, social media planning software will help you schedule and post content easily.

Infographics – Infographics typically summarise studies with statistics, and while more labour intensive than blogs, are very shareable. Linking an infographic back to your website is very effective for creating backlinks to your website. Try surveying your customers and creating an infographic with the results.

Videos – If your audience responds well to video, you can create a wealth of informational clips which are engaging and easy to share. Including a video in a post increases organic traffic from search results by 157%, so if you’re creating video content, is definitely worth it. How-to videos and tutorials can perform very well, so consider creating this type of content.

  • Long-form content

Long form content provides long-term value for your business. Therefore, it’s best to pick an ‘evergreen’ topic that isn’t time-sensitive. Long-form content is valuable for SEO, because it offers you a chance to use more long-tail keywords. It’s a good idea to publish a longer form piece once or twice a month.

eBooks – These are examples of long-form content that sit between a blog and a whitepaper – usually between 1200 and 1500 words. They’re more formal than a blog, but less academic than a Whitepaper. eBooks are great for in-depth looks at topics that’ll increase the average page visit length.

Case studies – In order to extoll the benefits of working with your business, a case study acts as a testimonial. You can ask customers to help you tell the story of how they succeeded with you. Look at Google’s case studies for inspiration.

Research studies – Research studies are shareable in the same way as infographics. By commissioning independent research, you’ll be able to generate useful statistics that entice publications and influencers to share your work, widening the reach of your content.

Whitepapers – Written in a more academic style, whitepapers are often used in B2B marketing as they can provide a platform for in-depth, technical and academic findings and discussion. They’re often around 2500 words, so make sure you’re an expert in your industry if you want to publish one.

3. Creating your content marketing strategy

When you’ve decided what kind of content you’ll create and when and where you’ll publish, you have the basis of your content strategy. This is the guide you’ll use to generate ideas, create new content, and manage your existing content.

Once your content is in place, the final step is distribution: getting your valuable work seen by the right people to make it stand out in the crowd.

  • Schedule with a content calendar

A detailed plan of what you’ll publish and when—including team members’ publishing responsibilities and notable events that you can plan content around—will keep your plan on track. Your strategy is important, but without a solid outline of how you’ll execute your strategy, it’s likely your content won’t be prioritized.

A calendar will arrange the frequency and time of day that you’ll post content – you can figure out optimal timings by checking engagement through your content management system and seeing when people engage most with your content. Depending on your preference, you can schedule content with your existing team calendar or use your content management system.

  • Metrics

Your content cycle doesn’t end at publication – measuring its success gives you insights about how your audience are interacting with your content and how you can improve your strategy.

Content marketing might seem difficult to measure but tracking the performance of your content will show you what you’re doing right and what you can improve. Tracking content ensures that you’re optimising your marketing ROI and making the best decisions about what kind of content you’ll produce in the future. Use metrics like downloads, page visits and shares to see how your audience are engaging with your content.

Planning for success

Content marketing is a method that incorporates any number of different creative outputs. Your creativity and your research are what makes your content strategy perfect for your business. To truly reap the benefits that good content brings, your strategy is just as important as the content itself.

By optimising the content you’re writing for your audience, and providing genuine value, you can increase organic traffic and conversions. And don’t forget make the most of the unique offerings your business has – they’re what make your business different. We’ll be posting a follow-up to this blog where we tell you how to create a content strategy.

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The secrets of psychological pricing tactics

  • What psychological pricing factors influence whether we buy a product or service?
  • How and why do these affect us?
  • How can today’s marketers take advantage to maximise revenue yields

We focus on the ways that companies can take advantage of psychological pricing tactics to get the maximum profits for the products or services they offer.

The goal of any business is to achieve the maximum possible profit for their products or services. And to do this, today’s businesses are constantly seeking to innovate how they work, to be more efficient and optimized, in the hope of providing better services to their customers.

Offering better services is fundamental to 21st century business success. But it’s not the only way that organizations can improve the yields they earn from their efforts. For example, there’s more room for variation in the pricing of products and services than many people think.

‘Psychological pricing’ is a pricing and marketing strategy based on the idea that certain prices can have a psychological influence on customers. It can influence how much people are willing to pay for products or services – and you’d be surprised at what some of the studies have found.

A study in psychological pricing

In 2009, the Economist published the results of a rather bizarre experiment. It involved them offering three separate subscription offers:

  • $59 – Web only
  • $125 – Print only
  • $125 – Web & print

Let’s discount the web only subscription for a moment. Which of the other two do you pick? You’d never choose the print only subscription. Why would you choose to sacrifice web access when you can get it for no extra cost? Even someone with no intention of reading the website would think, ‘Well, it’s the same price; I might as well.’

In the study, this proved to be the case – nobody opted to buy the print only subscription. Web & print was better value for the same money, so respondents selected that instead. The real choice here is between web only and web & print.

The study tried it again without the print subscription available and discovered a startling difference: more people opted for web & print when print only was listed as an option than when it wasn’t. The presence of the irrelevant print only subscription served a purpose; it made web & print look like better value by comparison. This is despite the fact that neither the price, nor the value of the subscriptions on offer changed between tests.

All companies, B2B and consumer alike, want to get as much profit from their business as they can. But there’s a broader moral here – that different people value different aspects from your services at different times.

Pricing tactics: It’s all relative

The Economist experiment discovered that pricing doesn’t happen in a vacuum: value is relative. Products can only be cheap or expensive in comparison to something else – and it’s the comparison that informs whether people purchase.

If you’ve ever been online during sales season, you’ll see the same effect in practice, when the retailer takes great care to inform you how much the items have been reduced by. £6 sounds like a lot less money when you know it was £10 the day before. How many times have we all bought something simply because it was on offer? Would we have bought at the same price if we thought that was the usual cost?

Selling by comparing a product to a less attractive option is a technique called ‘anchoring’. The logic follows that, like with the Economist subscription, the best way to sell something is by comparing it to an alternative that’s clearly worse value for money. It’s about making it clear what the value of your product is and bringing that to forefront of your marketing. If the selling point of your product is that it’s better value than the competition, then make that clear. If it’s the best quality product on the market, then your marketing material should reflect that.

Psychological pricing: Left to right

As English speakers, we read from left to right. This influences the way we process information; it means when we read a sentence, or a services page, the leftmost information on a page is processed first, and everything else modifies that.

By now, we’re all familiar with seeing prices ending in ‘.99’, and the psychology behind it. If people see ‘2.99’, they perceive the £2 first, with the remaining 99p simply ‘added’ on top. That fact that it’s virtually the same as £3 is irrelevant, the buyer has already perceived it as a ‘£2’ related price before they get to the 99p. This tactic isn’t new in contemporary psychological pricing methods. But this ‘left to right’ effect can be applied elsewhere.

A recent study by the CXL institute discovered an interesting phenomenon. Much like in the Economist example, they compared the popularity of different subscription packages and measured how long people spent processing them when they were presented in different orders on a webpage. Four separate plans were presented in columns from right to left; free, basic, pro and enterprise. The order was changed, and the results were measured.

In a similar way as with the 99p effect, people spent more time processing the plans on the left side than they did the right.

How you can use pricing tactics to your advantage

Combined with anchoring, this sets an interesting precedent. Everything else is judged by comparison to the left-most option. If your company sells a range of services, products, or subscriptions, it’s worth thinking carefully about how they’re presented on your website. It could have a significant impact on the type of plans your customers choose.

Your online pricing tactics often come down to the kind of website design you employ; layout, quality of content, and particularly structure can make a big difference. If there’s a particular plan you want to encourage, then placing it towards the left hand side of the page could help boost its popularity.

Psychological pricing: The luxury factor

How much would you pay for a can of beer at your local corner shop? £1? £1.50?

And how much would you pay for the same beer at a fancy hotel? This was the central question posed in a well-known 1985 study, which found that, even though the drink wouldn’t be consumed in either venue, there was a distinct difference in the price people were willing to pay. From the hotel, people were willing to spend $2.65 on average, compared with $1.50 at the grocery store. The beer is exactly the same, and it’s consumed in the same place (on a nearby beach), so why does its value change?

People’s perception of prices change depending on the place they’re buying the product from and the buying experience. It seems right that the hotel should charge more for the same beer, even though its value is determined by the same supply and demand factors as the beer in the grocery store.

We see this effect in play every day. This is why luxury department stores still make money charging more for products you can get much cheaper elsewhere. The luxury experience is part of the price tag; and people buy it.

How you can use pricing tactics to your advantage

How does this psychological pricing work in a digital marketplace? You might not be able to treat your customers to the luxury department store experience, but you can make your website the digital equivalent. Investing in a website design that looks classy and expensive will certainly pay off. Combine that with a user experience that sets your company apart as the Harrods of your industry, and you’ll be well on your way to generating more buyers and subscribers.

The takeaway

Businesses are aware of the dangers of overpricing or underpricing a product. Underprice your product, and you lose out on valuable profits. Overprice it, and you risk losing even more money as the price-tag drives customers away. But if there’s anything we can learn from these pricing tactics, it’s that there’s a lot more variation in how you charge for your products and services than you might think. Know your audience, know your market, and, most importantly, know your product – and the rest should fall into place.

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Google Speakable markup

How to implement Google Speakable in your SEO strategy

  • What is Google Speakable markup?
  • Search engine intelligence and the future of voice search
  • The benefits of optimising your SEO for Google Speakable markup
  • How you can use Google Speakable to improve your SEO

Voice search used to seem like something from a sci-fi film, but these days it’s becoming the norm. Using Google doesn’t require a screen anymore – in fact, Gartner predicts that in 4 years’ time 30% of searches will be screen-free. A lot of statistics are flying around about voice search right now because it’s on the brink of becoming the next big thing. The announcement of the beta for Google Speakable Markup is a small step into a future of voice search. But what do we really know about it?

The beta of the Google Speakable schema has just been launched. This means that Google Assistant will be able to read marked sections of news content aloud. The new schema.org specification is in beta in the US and it’s only a matter of time before it launches around the world. While Google Speakable markup isn’t going to change the world of SEO, it does provide some key insights about the ways SEO is going to change in the future.

In this post, we’re going to dive into Google Speakable and how we think you should be preparing to use it to improve your SEO strategy.

What is schema?

SiSchema.org was founded by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Yandex to create a universal data structuring vocabulary. Schema markup (in simple terms) is back-end code that helps search engines classify your content. While HTML tags help browsers understand how to display their content, they don’t give any indication of what that content means. To structure that information, schema provides context.

Schema structures the metadata on your website in a way that search engines can understand and index, so they can return richer results. Schema markup boosts your website’s chance of being featured for a rich snippet on Google, which is important for voice search results because of its short, digestible format. Rich snippets also earn your business the highly coveted spot of ‘position #0’ on Google’s SERP - this will rank your business above even the first result. That alone is a real incentive to use schema markup.

What is Speakable?

Speakable is a schema that lets you markup sections of content that would be suitable answers for voice searches. Speakable will use Google Text-to-Speech (TTS) to read out answers to voice queries. As Google have noted on the beta page for Speakable:

‘The Google Assistant uses Speakable structured data to answer topical news queries on smart speaker devices. When users ask for news about a specific topic, the Google Assistant returns up to three articles from around the web and supports audio playback using TTS for sections in the article with Speakable structured data. When the Google Assistant reads aloud a Speakable section, it attributes the source and sends the full article URL to the user's mobile device.’

While voice search capabilities are available around the world, Google Speakable Markup is currently limited to English language queries on Google Home devices in the US.

Speakable schema markup offers a new opportunity for marketers. They’ll be able to use schema markup to identify content that’s suitable for voice search. In July 2018, Google announced the schema, saying it would allow ‘eligible publishers to markup sections of a news article that are most relevant to be read aloud by the Google Assistant’. Google is the first company to announce implementation of this schema - it’s a significant step towards developing more intelligent search engine results.

A brief history of voice search

Since the launch of Google’s voice search app in 2008, talking to your devices has become totally normal. Amazon followed suit with Alexa, Apple with Siri, and Microsoft with Cortana. Ever since, voice search has become increasingly intelligent. Google have put a lot of work into improving voice search; Google Hummingbird saw the core algorithm of Google become substantially more intuitive. A key part of this was semantic search. This allows Google to predict user intent with context. For instance, after the implementation of Hummingbird, Google can recommend you the best restaurant near your location rather than the best restaurant in the world.

Another huge development was conversational speech. In 2013, Google revealed their improved search experience, saying ‘people communicate with each other by conversation, not by typing keywords’. Conversational speech was significant for voice search, because it allows for a more natural user experience. As Google said in their announcement blog:

‘Soon, you’ll be able to just say, hands-free, “OK Google, will it be sunny in Santa Cruz this weekend?” and get a spoken answer. Then, you’ll be able to continue the conversation and just follow up with “how far is it from here?” if you care about the drive or “how about Monterey?” if you want to check weather somewhere else.’

These developments haven’t just been good for voice search, they’ve revolutionised the way we search for information.

What’s the future of voice search?

It’s difficult to predict exactly how we’re going to adopt voice search. Human behaviour is tricky that way. What we do know though, is that the way we consume content has become more and more streamlined over time. Where we used to have to trawl multiple webpages for exactly what we needed, we can now ask one question that a search engine can accurately answer.

Google published its guidelines for how Google Assistant answers queries. This is a great insight into how not just voice searches, but all searches, are going to evolve. Natural language processing allows us to find what we need in our own terms, and conversational speech predicts what we might want next - we expect quick and simple results. Voice search is a natural progression of what we’ve seen from search engines in the past 10 years. At I/O 2018, Google demonstrated the unbelievable capabilities of Google Assistant – onstage, the AI assistant successfully made a phone call booking an appointment without being recognised as an AI. The technology powering the AI is Google Duplex, and it’s only going to become more powerful.

As marketers, we should be very excited and aware of the progression voice search has made and will surely make in the future.

What are the benefits of optimising your SEO for Speakable?

For businesses, structured data markup is essential. Search engine spiders being able to parse your website will improve your domain authority, which will help you rank higher than your competitors. We don’t know all the details on Speakable just yet, as it’s still in beta, but the schema itself indicates ways we can optimise our content, especially for mobile. Voice search is a format designed for quick and easy questions – you’re more likely to search for a recipe or a news article than you are a treatise on ethics.

In order to optimise your content for voice search, you won’t have to change your SEO strategy dramatically (at least, not yet!). Optimising content for voice search is a similar process to getting a featured snippet: your content should answer a specific question your user has. This format transfers well to voice search, so your SEO strategy won’t need overhauling, just updating.

Let’s look at some things you can do right now to get Google Speakable ready.

How to make sure your SEO strategy is ready for Speakable

Use schema for rich results

Make sure important information is tagged appropriately so that Google can recognise key information like your phone number or business address. Using schema increases your chances at rich results for your website. Google keep their algorithms to themselves, so we don’t know the exact correlation between the two but optimising for both can only improve your SERP presence. Position zero at the top of the page is prime position for your business, so it’s worth using all the relevant markup you can. You can find the full schema list here.

Update your Google business listing

Considering the nature of Google Hummingbird, users are going to be searching for businesses local to them. Keeping your information up to date will increase your chances of appearing as a search result when users search for businesses like yours. High quality images, CTAs, relevant information and good reviews will signal to Google and your leads that your business is trustworthy. Google My Business can also show you how leads are finding your business, giving you a data-based insight to which keywords you should be optimising on your website.

Understand your user’s intent

What voice search indicates about user intent is that there are different ways users will interact with your content. People behave differently when they’re speaking aloud than when they’re typing. Rather than typing the two or three keywords they need, people are more likely to use full sentences when speaking aloud. That means longtail keywords will become essential when you’re optimising for voice search.

If you’re using schema to markup content as voice searchable, it should be content that your users would verbally search for. Your user-intent models should take voice search into account because these users are looking for the simplest information you have to offer.

So, is Google Speakable markup going to revolutionise SEO?

Google Speakable markup is a small step, but it’s a small step in an exciting new direction. It gives us a lot to think about when it comes to the future of SEO strategizing. Between algorithm changes and finding the perfect keywords, marketers are always finding new ways to innovate. By embracing voice search early, we’ll be ahead of the curve.

At Fifty Five and Five we’re invested in staying at the forefront of digital marketing and creating effective SEO strategies. Find out how we can help your business get ready for the future here.

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We can help! Talk to us about your business and the specific barriers you come up against when trying to generate leads.

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AI in marketing for b2b

The year of big data and AI for B2B marketers

  • How will businesses of tomorrow use AI to store, control and protect data?
  • Big data offers the most detailed comparison of data points that businesses have ever compiled

It wasn’t too long ago when people were discussing chatbots as an exciting, futuristic technology coming to a company website near you. Today, however, customer-facing chatbots are commonplace – and a good example of AI in marketing. Chatbots can improve the customer experience, answering questions and guiding a customer from the beginning of the sales journey all the way to the register. Increasingly, the technology is being lapped up by companies across the globe.

Chatbots are one of the first major examples of an emerging technology (in this case AI), being adopted on a mass scale by the marketing industry. But it almost certainly won’t be the last. Big data and AI are just beginning their floor-to-ceiling transformation of the digital marketing industry.

To date, however, much of the innovation has come from the B2C sector, with B2B companies just beginning to see the value of the technologies. For that reason, 2019 will be the year that AI in B2B marketing will take centre stage.

Let’s explore how it might look.

Big data and AI in marketing

The phrase big data gets thrown around a lot, but it’s actually quite difficult to quantify. Does big data simply refer to large datasets, or specific ways of compiling, analysing and implementing data? Well, it’s a little of both.

The definition of big data lies partly in its sheer volume, but also in the speed by which it's updated and in the variety of data presented. Big data allows marketers to compile information on the entire population of website visitors, rather than a specified sample.

It’s all well and good knowing why someone landed on your website, but the real value is in comparing that with every other person who’s also landed. Big data allows the widest and most diverse comparison of these data points there is.

Once all that data has been assembled, marketers can use the most cutting-edge AI tools to match up potential consumers with the marketing materials that are most likely to convert them.

How does this work in B2B marketing?

Consumers are driven by emotion, trends, and impulses – a whole range of unquantifiable factors that big data attempts to track. You can’t assume that businesses will buy your product or service simply because it’s the best quality and/or value for money. This remains as true for business leads as it does for consumers.

Big data is not only useful for potential leads. For existing customers, big data and AI can optimise their experience to develop brand loyalty and increase future purchasing potential.

Compiling data allows you to identify what other interests the lead has, what alternative problems their business needs solving, and whether their immediate query is part of a larger problem that an alternative application, product or service could solve. And if there’s substantial interest in a problem that hasn’t been solved, then you may find yourself with the basis for a new product.

Get the right kind of data

Data about the kinds of consumers that visit your website has been available for years: just head over to Google Analytics. The real cutting edge of big data for marketing comes from those who can successfully work out why they’re visiting your site – and what else they might be looking for.

One of the particular benefits of big data is determining not only what a potential lead is looking for, but also their status as a lead. Are they ready to make a purchase when they visit your site or do they need some education before converting? The ability to tailor content to a reader’s knowledge base and progress as a lead is yet untapped potential that big data can unlock for many marketers.

As B2B marketers begin to compile more information on their clients in the coming years, they’ll increasingly find themselves developing more targeted, interactive content, and suggesting sales based on tangible purchasing evidence, rather than abstract guesswork. Now, this is the bit where AI really comes in handy.

How can AI in marketing help?

If big data is the mechanism by which companies compile detailed information databases, then artificial intelligence is the tool that helps them get the most from it.

As datasets become more expansive, big data becomes increasingly difficult for companies to process. This applies to multinationals just as it does SMEs. There comes a point at which the exponential spread of information and potential conclusions you can draw about individuals becomes simply too much to handle.

AI-enabled analytics platforms can automatically process data and from it draw conclusions about consumers and how to market to them. When combined with machine learning technology, it allows the system to create new rules based on observations.

What will this look like in practice?

The rise of Google Analytics and similar platforms have allowed business marketers to identify broad-brush trends among potential customers, and tailor content and products towards them.

The marketing campaigns of the future won’t be targeted towards broad-brush trends; they’ll be targeted towards your business; accounting for any contact you’ve ever made with them – and using that to inform content and suggestions.

The leading marketers of tomorrow already know how they’re going to deliver this. The question is: do you?

Fifty Five and Five are experts at using the power of contemporary data analytics to get the most out of Microsoft Partner’s digital marketing campaigns. Contact us to find out more about how you can identify your perfect audience and how to market to them today.

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conversion rate optimisation

The importance of conversion rate optimisation Part I

  • What is conversion rate optimisation?
  • What are the benefits for your business?

Every day, new ideas surface on the ‘secret trick’ to making websites more appealing. You might hear that “making every CTA red will increase click-throughs by 30%!” but the truth is that there’s no perfect method for improving your conversion rate. Savvy website owners create their own conversion rate optimisation plans – we’re going to help you get started.

Conversion rate optimisation explained

What is a conversion rate?

Simply put, your conversion rate defines how many of your customers are doing what you want them to do. This is calculated as the percentage of people who visit your website and become a customer or a lead. That might mean they buy your product, sign up to an email list or complete any other action that you want them to take.

Ultimately, your conversion rate indicates overall how well your value proposition or current marketing campaign is performing. A higher rate of conversion means more leads and more customers. While it’s too difficult to define a perfect conversion rate, industry specialists estimate that 12% is a successful figure.

The benefits of conversion rate optimisation

Increases your advertising budget

Conversion rate optimisation helps you get the maximum return on investment. Successful conversion rate optimisation means not only increased profits, but increased advertising spend. The two are closely connected, because for every visit you pay for that doesn’t result in a conversion, you lose money on advertising. Better quality traffic saves you money and helps your conversion rate keep growing. By increasing your conversion rate, you’re spending less on paid campaigns. That means more money left over to either reinvest in existing channels or branch out to new ones.

Helps you make better decisions

Conversion rate optimisation is a process that helps you identify and build strengths while minimising weaknesses in your website. Making website changes without a well-researched optimisation plan is throwing away valuable business. Your audience have wants and needs that you run the risk of ignoring if you don’t manage your conversion rate and continually try to improve it.

It’s important to remember that good conversion rate optimisation doesn’t just increase profits, it reduces risks. Instead of spending months developing a new feature only to see it fail, make decisions based on data. You can take the guesswork out of making changes. Reduce risks and you’re saving time and resources which you can spend productively elsewhere.

Discover customer insights

Conversion rates are a metric that tells you what’s working on your website. Regularly reviewing the best performing pages shows you where your customers are and what they want. Instead of focusing on increasing traffic, you should focus on the visitors you already have. Pay close attention to your lead funnel and where leads drop out. This is a map that shows you where you can improve your website.

These customer insights are already tailored to the audience you’re trying to attract. Using these insights means you can create a blueprint of exactly what your customers need and want. Customer personas can be built from your data, allowing you to easily visualise exactly who your customers are. Better optimised pages mean increased trust and a better user experience.

Conversion rate optimisation is free

Not only does this strategy help you save money on advertising, it won’t cost you a penny. The only thing a great conversion rate optimisation strategy requires is time and attention. You’ve done the hard work of building your website, so the key is perfecting the resources you already have. In terms of cost-effective strategies, conversion rate optimisation is your best option.

How can you get started?

While there’s no perfect strategy for conversion rate optimisation, this leaves your strategy open for experimentation. Best practice for netting conversions will also depend on the type of company you are. There are, however, some areas businesses of all shapes and sizes should consider. Creating your optimisation plan often includes some combination of:

  • Identifying where in your sales funnel you’re losing leads
  • Examining your CTAs and how prominent they are
  • A/B testing
  • Heatmaps
  • Creating surveys and sourcing customer reviews for important feedback
  • Creating a KPI framework with detailed optimisation goals

Check back for conversion rate optimisation part II, where we will focus more closely on what exactly you need to do to boost your CRO. With simple, practical steps and expert advice to get you well on your way to better lead generation.

At Fifty Five and Five we know the importance of bespoke solutions. Conversion rate optimisation is done best when it’s thoroughly researched and has the user in mind. Find out more on content generation and digital best practices here.

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5 google algorithm changes in 2019

5 points of emphasis in the new Google algorithm and what that means for your SEO

  • The main Google algorithm changes you should focus on in 2019
  • How you can adapt your SEO strategy to prepare

Google's search algorithm changes a lot. Since 2000, there have been hundreds of large and small updates (you can view the full list here) that affect whether your content climbs or falls down search engine results pages (SERPs). For marketers, this means a new Google algorithm is always on the horizon.

These frequent and tight-lipped algorithm changes lead to much speculation around how businesses can change their SEO strategy to stay at the top of the rankings. While we never know exactly how the algorithm changes, in this post, we’re going to look at five areas you should pay attention to, to help adapt your SEO strategy accordingly.

1. Mobile-first index

With 60% of searches now performed on mobile devices, mobile compatibility is increasingly important as Google shifts its focus from mobile-friendly to mobile-first. The search giant has already split its search index in two—one for mobile, one for desktop, and announced back in November 2016 that mobile would eventually take priority:

“Our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results.”

That time has now come. In 2019, Google will combine the two search indexes into one, which will prioritise mobile when crawling.

What should you do?  

Check how suited your website currently is to mobile browsing with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, which will tell you if your website is easy to use on a mobile device.

You must ensure your mobile site performs as well (if not better) than your desktop site. This means all your site elements must be functional and crawlable on mobile. It’s no longer enough to have a link to ‘view on desktop’ for webpages that don’t perform well on smartphones.

2. More focus on Featured Snippets

‘Featured Snippets’ appear above regular results on SERPs (referred to as position #0). So, if you can rank for them, they can provide a serious boost to your click-through rate and site traffic. Featured Snippets take many forms, from lists or reviews to event dates and answer boxes.

Google are going to continue to expand Featured Snippets in 2019, giving more importance to structured data. Structured data is a line of code that you can add to your site’s HTML that can provide Featured Snippets (also known as rich search results). By adding structured data, you can, for example, score an answer box for a common customer pain point in your industry or create a Knowledge Card for a more visually appealing overview of your company.

What should you do? Here’s what you need to do to add the structured data for Featured Snippets into your HTML:

  • Customize the code snippet
  • Create a Google Tag Manager tag
  • Paste the code into the “Custom HTML” text box and save the tag
  • Create a new trigger
  • Return to “Schema markup” and add the “Page view” as it’s trigger
  • Publish
  • Test using the Structured Data Testing Tool

Look out for an upcoming tutorial post on how-to create featured snippets to get your content up Google’s search rankings!

3. Telling it how it is

Voice search has been one of the biggest growers thanks to AI assistants like Cortana, Alexa and Google Assistant. In the past 10 years, voice searches on Google have grown 3,500%, and 40% of adults now use voice search once per day.

As we can expect this upward trend to continue, this puts further focus on mobile optimisation. But voice search also has the potential to change the structure of search terms. We can predict more ‘natural’ search phrases will come through voice search, as people tend towards asking more fully-formed questions.

It's worth noting that voice search will work hand-in-hand with Featured Snippets moving forward as AI like Google Assistant will read featured snippets aloud as the answer to querying search terms.

What should you do? Voice search will use longtail keywords - more conversational phrases should be used when optimizing for voice search. Your keyword strategy should match this. As they are more specific, long tail keywords generally have a lower search volume, but that also results in less competition and a higher conversion rate, i.e. the people searching for those longtail keywords know what they want.

Consider posing your voice search phrases as questions: “How to improve my SEO score?” for example. If you can combine this with Featured Snippet answers, you can make a considerable jump up Google’s SERP.

4. 'Linkless' mentions

In 2017, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes suggested that Google can now associate mentions without a physical link. These so-called ‘linkless mentions’ (i.e. positive reviews, testimonies, and other un-linked mentions of your company) will play a factor in SEO.

What to do: Try to gain as many positive mentions of your company, its products and people as possible. Whether it’s on your blog, website, or on external sites, Google will treat these testimonials favouringly, even if they are not hyperlinked. Don’t neglect real links, though, as these still give these mentions substance and evidence if people want to check what you’re saying is true. This isn’t an excuse to start embellishing your company!

5. Security-centric

Google admitted a while back that they prefer HTTPS sites in terms of security, and so rank them a little higher. In their recent roadmap, they revealed that in 2019 they will start punishing publishers who fail to add an SSL to their site.

What should you do? By enabling an SSL (secure socket layer) on your site, you can ensure any information going to and from your server is encrypted. This is what differentiates “https” from “http” (the ‘S’ stands for secure) and is a must if your site uses things like geolocation, online payments, or notifications that require the confidential transferral of information. Acquiring an SSL isn’t difficult—all you have to do is purchase a certificate and get your site host to activate and install it. The first free SSL certificates are being introduced, too.

Your new Google algorithm cheat sheet

Remember that the specifics of Google’s algorithm will always remain under wraps. But focusing on these five areas will stand you in great stead regarding best practice SEO for 2019. And make sure to keep up with the Fifty Five and Five blog—we’ll be blogging about any future updates to the new Google algorithm as and when they surface!


Do you need help getting your own content to the top of Google search ranking results? Fifty Five and Five are a full-service digital marketing agency. We combine great marketing with an innate understanding of the Microsoft Partner Network.

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importance of backlinks

The importance of backlinks: What they are, why you need them and where to get them

  • What are backlinks and why are they important?
  • How do you get them?
  • Looking at your competitors for help on getting traffic to your site

What is a backlink?

A backlink refers to any link from one website to another. There’s often a little a bit of confusion about the difference between outbound links and backlinks. In essence, they refer to either end of the same link; the definitions refer to the direction of traffic. If I link to your website, I create an outbound link from my website, and you receive a backlink to yours.

There are plenty of different reasons why people would choose to link from their website to someone else’s. Perhaps it backs up their point, provides valuable citation information, extra information, or could just be of general wider interest. One thing’s for sure though: getting backlinks is SEO gold.

So why are backlinks important? And how do you get the best out of them? Here’s more.

The importance of backlinks

The importance of backlinks lies in their value to Google search results. If there are two articles about the same topic – blog A with 10 backlinks and blog B with 5 – there’s a good chance Google will actively rank blog A higher.

But it actually goes one step further than this as well. Let’s say both blogs A and B link off to their own external sources; blog A to blog C, and blog B to blog D. Automatically, blog C gains more ‘vote’ value from their backlink than blog D did, since Blog A is considered more useful a source to start with than Blog B.

Google aggregates all of these scores into an overall ‘domain authority’ (DA) score. Though Google’s own scores are secret, you can get an approximation of your website’s DA score using Moz’s DA checker.

What about no follow links?

As it turns out, not every external link is inherently valuable – as Google themselves discovered back when they first rolled out the algorithm. As soon as the world of SEO first discovered this tool, it was like Christmas: all you needed to do was manually input links to your website in website comments sections and watch as those all-important SEO ‘votes’ pour in.

These links can all be classified broadly as ‘user generated’ – couldn’t be reliably trusted to determine whether a page had DA value. In 2004, Google changed the algorithms, so most links created by external users, rather than by the website admins, have ‘no follow’ tags in the URL – meaning search rankings basically ignores them.

How to get backlinks on to your website

So, you know that you can’t simply go onto another website and put your URL everywhere. Or, more accurately, it would be a waste of time and achieve little to no SEO value.

As it turns out, you need to earn your backlinks. The simplest, and most honest way is simply to write decent quality content that people find good enough to link to.

The problem with SEO, however, is bad rankings make it hard for people to find you, meaning they’re unlikely to link to you, which will further contribute to bad rankings - however good your content is. So occasionally, you need to give things a little boost.

The best way to ‘earn’ backlinks is by guest blogging. You agree to take the time to craft a (hopefully) interesting, engaging piece of content for someone else’s website, and in turn they’ll agree to provide you with a backlink. Everybody wins: they get a free blog, you get a backlink, and the reader gets directed to your platform if they liked your content. Easy.

But that’s not the only way you can go about earning your backlinks.

Your competitors can help

Let’s look at an example.

Anna and Helen both run similar websites and compete for traffic. Grace is an unrelated third party who found an interesting blog on Helen’s website and linked to it from her own.

Thus, a backlink is created to Helen’s website. Good for her. Here’s the catch though: one day Helen changes the page’s URL without setting up a redirect, meaning she loses all that SEO value and Grace’s readers get sent to a 404 error page. Bad for Helen, bad for Grace.

This is where Anna comes in. She’s pretty savvy at competitor analysis and decided to do a Screaming Frog test to find all the 404 errors on Helen’s website, then used Moz’s open site explorer to see which of those have backlinks. She comes across Grace’s link, who doesn’t know the link is directing her readers to a 404 page.

Anna writes a blog on the same topic as Helen’s original and publishes it on her own website. Then, Anna gets in touch with Grace, informs her of the broken link, and asks her to replace it with the one to her rewritten blog. Grace, knowing that broken links aren’t great for her user experience thinks ‘why not?’ and quickly changes the link anyway.

Grace wins because she gets a functional link and better user experience. Anna wins because she gains SEO value and traffic. Helen doesn’t notice the difference because the broken link wasn’t providing her with SEO value anyway.

This process can involve a lot of groundwork without any guarantee of result. There’s no guarantee you’ll find 404 pages with backlinks that you can reproduce, and there’s no guarantee your equivalent of Grace would agree to change the link to your page once you’re done. But if you’re struggling for SEO traffic, failing to get backlinks and losing out to your competitors, it could definitely be worth the search.

SEO marketing for Microsoft Partners

On the surface, SEO is a fairly simple concept; the process for improving your search rankings and getting more traffic to your website. In reality, it requires a knowledge of a wide range of techniques, of which backlinking is just one small part. In our experience, B2B technology companies often find their time and skills are better spent focusing on what they’re best at. However, the importance of backlinks shouldn’t be underestimated.

Get in touch with the experts here at Fifty Five and Five to find out more about specialised SEO marketing for the Microsoft Partner Network. Want to read more about SEO for B2B technology companies? Check out our content here.

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top Microsoft partner

What does a Top Microsoft partner company look like?

  • The top Microsoft partner companies in terms of marketing; where they are, how big they are and how old
  • Get our insights on the best Microsoft partners and improve your marketing

To find the top Microsoft partner companies in terms of marketing, Fifty Five and Five take an annual look at the digital marketing efforts of partners from around the world and rank them across three criteria: their website, their blog and their social media engagement.

What you’ll find is lots of valuable information and data about who is performing particularly good inbound marketing across the partner network. What you might find slightly less of, however, is specific data about the businesses that are doing particularly well – and how they compare to yours. Those looking to get differentiate themselves would do well to find out exactly who, where and how big their competition is. So that’s what we’re going to uncover in this post.

Where are they?

top Microsoft partner

If you take a look at the geographical distribution of our Top 50 partners, you’ll quickly discover a few things. The first, and perhaps most obvious of these is that most companies in the Top 50 are based in the United States. In fact, as much as 32 of the companies in the Top 50 are American (64%). Of these, nine are based in California, three in Texas and one in Washington state.

top Microsoft partner

The next largest concentration of Top 50 Microsoft Partners in the study came from the UK, with nine companies (18%) of the total included. The remaining nine companies are split in totals of one or two between Australia, South Africa, Canada, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands.

How old are they?

You might be tempted to think that the best performing Microsoft Partners are the oldest, most established companies – but that’s not always strictly the case. Sure, the top performers are hardly brand-new tech start-ups, as the highest-performing blogs and social channels are built on consistency over time. But there’s a fairly broad scope of companies here – showing that there’s plenty of potential for even the smaller and less defined organisations to achieve digital marketing excellence.

top Microsoft partner

The median age of companies in the Top 50 is 17, though there’s a huge range of different ages within this. The oldest on the list, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) was founded back in 1939, and the most recent, Bettercloud, arrived on the scene just seven years ago in 2011.

Bettercloud itself managed to beat plenty of competitors and landed itself a healthy spot as number 8 in the Top 50 – thanks in large part to its impressive social media score. So,  there’s no reason why younger companies can’t achieve digital marketing success.

How big are companies in the Top 50?

Just as with the average age of Top 50 Microsoft partner companies, there’s a varied range of sizes of companies all achieving success. The smallest companies, of which there are nine, consist of between 11 and 50 employees, while some others are much larger. In fact, two notable businesses even have over 10,000 employees.

top Microsoft partner

Those who read reports like ours on Microsoft’s most competent partners, may well conclude that the top contenders are simply operating in a different league to theirs. Barring the possibility of committing more employees to a marketing department, a larger organisation is not representative of marketing success. It’s companies that have the right marketers in their team—willing to commit the proper amount of time and dedication to digital marketing—that are seeing success.

If companies numbering as small as 11-50 employees can have better digital marketing strategies than their 38,500 competitors, it’s surely proof that it’s perfectly possible to make limited resources go a long way.

Who are the Top 250?

Though we write our annual report to celebrate the inbound marketing strategies of the Top 50 best performing Microsoft Partners, we actually produce a list of the Top 250.

The majority (73%) of our Top 250 Microsoft Partner Companies consisted of between 11 and 200 employees, versus the 50% in the Top 50.

top Microsoft partner

It’s difficult to draw any direct conclusions from this comparison – and it may simply be a result of the differing sample sizes. What is clear, however, is that smaller companies are well represented among the best performing Microsoft Partner Companies – by both metrics.

Get the details on the best Microsoft Partners and improve your marketing

The Fifty-Five and Five Inbound Marketing Excellence report gives insight and understanding into what it is that makes these top performing companies’ digital marketing campaigns so successful.

In the four years since the report was published, it’s quickly become a staple of the industry, delivering vital knowledge that helps companies improve their own inbound marketing strategies.

Did you make it to the Top 50?

Get your free report right here

Download


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Don't be just another boring tech company pumping out a bland monthly update. Make your B2B email marketing campaigns count with amazing design, scintillating copy and links your readers are compelled to click.

Our B2B email marketing service helps you connect with a wider audience than traditional media marketing, strengthening relationships for a fraction of the cost. We work with you across the breadth of your email marketing campaigns, from targeting the right audience through to A/B testing and audience segmentation to email design, copy, and distribution. We also use the most advanced analytical tools to bring precise metrics like open & click rates to draw insight on email performance and continuously improve the service.

Your B2B email marketing strategy ultimately needs to generate leads. We work with you to make that happen.

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Working with us, you’ll receive advice, guidance and support on how to create the perfect email campaign (recurring or one-off) for your company. From addressing the right points of emphasis to matching the design to your brand, we can work with you to generate memorable and actionable email campaigns.

We've helped leading B2B technology companies like The Information Lab and ProSymmetry create compelling B2B email marketing campaigns which nurture customers and generate new business - read our case studies to see how we provide digital marketing to B2B tech companies like yours.

Looking for B2B email marketing tips? Read our expert blogs!

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We'd love to help you create compelling email campaigns. Get in touch by filling out the form, or if you prefer, send an email direct to hello@fiftyfiveandfive.com and we'll get back to you.