How to rank in Google in 2020

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  • With each passing year the state of play for the SEO industry shifts
  • You can boost your SEO efforts by creating high-quality content
  • Excellent on-page optimisation and a secure website play a big part in SEO
  • Enhancing the user-experience and improving navigation is key
  • Building a website that works well on mobile will earn you points from Google

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The Google algorithm has undergone a series of tweaks since the early 2000s. To see for yourself, here’s our Google algorithm change timeline, which documents the most significant shifts:

google algorithm change timeline

Though the impacts of these changes vary in significance, the algorithm revisions reflect an overall shift in the direction SEO is travelling in. Whatever industry you’re in, you’ll need to pay attention if you want to continue achieving high rankings for your website as and when these changes occur.

Let’s take a look at some key tips for improving your SEO rankings in Google in 2020.

1. High quality content

Google have been tight-lipped about their algorithms since the search engine first launched. The SEO industry is a success story in educated guesswork. In fact, the only advice they’ve ever given is ‘write great content’. In their defence, most Google algorithm changes have been aimed towards making the search engine better at judging this – but it’s certainly been a work in progress.

With the rise of machine learning, however, Google can reliably claim to be having some success analysing the deeper, semantic value of a piece of content. Increasingly, the algorithms are geared towards analysing content based on its ability to fulfil ‘the semantic intent of a user’s journey’. To debunk the jargon, this means keyword targeting is going to become increasingly less important, in favour of content that genuinely solves problems and answers questions.

Increating high-quality content, you can drastically improve your website rankings. This is because high-quality content boosts the likelihood of users spending longer on your pages. It also tends to lower the bounce rate on your site and – most importantly – provides value for the user. In providing value for your audience, you will improve the chance of repeat visits to your site.

To create high quality content, you will need to look at:

  • Long-form in-depth articles
  • Search intent
  • Keyword research
  • Rich snippets
  • Long-form articles

Long-form articles

Google algorithms now favour long-form content over shorter counterparts – concluding that the extra length means that the piece is more likely to have more detailed, quality answers in there.

That doesn’t mean you should start writing extra paragraphs just to drive up the word count. If the content is worth the length, and the information is sufficiently complex, detailed and nuanced enough to justify the breadth – then readers will stay. If not, cut it out.

Search intent

Search intent refers to the ultimate goal of the person using a search engine. Over the years, Google has been getting better at determining the search intent of people on the web. Google ranks pages higher when they fit the search term as well as the search intent of a specific search query. For this reason, it’s important to make sure that the content on your page fits the search intent of your target audience.

Keyword research

Most classic SEO tactics are based around keyword placement; what keywords to use, which combinations, where to put them and with what frequency. In the past, however, this contributed to content that was stuffed with search terms that aren’t relevant to the content or the user. Nowadays, fulfilling the intent of the search term is as important, if not more so, than including the search term itself.

This doesn’t mean that all your keyword strategies are now redundant. But keywords for the sake of keywords won’t do much for your SEO strategy any more – particularly if they’ve got nothing in particular to do with the surrounding sentence or article. Generally, if keywords appear naturally in your text, you’ll find yourself ticking these boxes without really trying.

Rich snippets

A snippet is a result that Google shows to the user in search results. A rich snippet is the term used to describe a structured data mark-up that site operators can add to their existing HTML, in turn allowing search engines to better understand the information contained on each web page. This allows for better visibility in Google search results.

Rich snippets can also increase your click-through rate and lower your bounce rate, because they give users a better preview of your content before they click through.

2. Excellent on-page optimisation

Ensuring excellent on-page optimisation is a crucial part of improving your SEO rankings. To achieve this, you will need to consider:

  • Title tags and meta descriptions
  • Headings and subheadings
  • Internal and external link structure
  • Schema mark-up
  • Voice optimised SEO
  • Title tags and meta descriptions

Title tags and meta descriptions

A title tag is a HTML element that specifies the title of a webpage. Title tags are displayed on search engine results pages as the clickable headline. These are important for social sharing, usability and SEO. The title tag of your webpage must be an accurate description of the content found therein. Your title tag is important to SEO, because it determines your display title in search engines. It is also the first thing that a visitor sees.

A meta description is a snippet of up to around 155 characters, which summarises the content on a page. Search engines show the meta description in search results mostly when the searched for phrase is within the description, so it should match the content and include your focus keyword.

Headings and subheadings

Headings and subheadings are important to SEO, because they help users and search engines to understand and read text. They act as signposts for the readers and make it easier for visitors to grasp what a page is about. Ensure your headings and subheadings are clear and relevant to score well in Google’s rankings.

Internal and external link structure

Internal links are hyperlinks that direct the reader to the target page on your website. External links, on the other hand, are links to different sites. A good internal and external link structure helps users and search engines find your pages.

Internal links connect your content and give Google a better idea of the structure of your site, while external links to trustworthy and useful content helps you build an authoritative brand (and helps Google to figure out what your content is about).

Schema mark-up

Schema mark-up is code that you can put on your website to help search engines identify the essential information on each page. This is great for SEO rankings as it improves the user experience and makes your content easier to find.

Voice optimised SEO

Since the early days of Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana, the SEO world has paid quiet attention to the prospect of voice optimised SEO content. Until now, it’s been slow to get going. That all began to change in late 2018, with the advent of Google’s Speakable mark-up, and it’s only set to get more important over the coming years.

The Speakable mark-up lets you mark sections of your content that would be a relevant oral response to a voice search. Think of the voice response as an award, and the mark-up is the tool you use to nominate your own content. From there, Google’s algorithms will analyse the content and select the most relevant contender. Currently, the system only applies to news-specific content, and eligibility is judged against the same guidelines that govern Google News content. There’s every chance that as 2020 progresses, this will expand to more types of content; specifically, those that answer quick and easy questions in a digestible format.

As far as SEO is concerned, publishers can rest assured that things won’t change overnight. In fact, marking text up in your post for voice searches isn’t much different from marking it up for a featured snippet. But as the total ratio of voice to text searches continues to rise, there’s every chance that the focus of SEO will shift far more fundamentally than it already has. 2020 is the year this SEO steamroller really begins to roll.

3. Create a secure website

how to rank in Google in 2020

A simple step that you can take to improve your SEO rankings is by switching from HTTP to HTTPS. Since 2017, Google has flagged sites as ‘not secure’ if they aren’t under HTTPS. HTTPS provides users with 3 key layers of protection:

  • Authentication – which prevents ‘man in the middle’ attacks and provides a guarantee that a user is communicating with the exact website they intended.
  • Encryption – which provides privacy by encrypting the exchanged data, in turn ensuring that conversations will be kept private and information will be kept safe.
  • Data Integrity – which prevents data from being secretly modified or corrupted during a transfer.

If someone visits your site and is met with an alert from Google that the page is not secure, you can hedge a guess that they won’t stick around to check out your content. What’s more, Google has publicly stated that the security of sites is a ranking signal in the search algorithm, so having a HTTPS page will also help you feature higher on search engines.

Alongside winning favour with Google and improving your SEO rankings - creating a secure website will also help to reduce your bounce rate – as visitors are more likely to stay put if the site is declared secure. Bounce rate, for all intents and purposes, is the percentage of users who land on your website and leave without going onto a second page. A high bounce rate, then, indicates that your site failed to convince visitors to stay and explore your content or offerings. According to a RocketFuel study, a bounce rate between 26-40% is ideal.

Now, to increase the average amount of time spent on your site, it’s a good idea to monitor your content and see what works best. It’s possible that your headline or call to action isn’t working – which is why it’s important to A/B test. Try producing different landing pages, using different content forms and language, to see what works best with your audience. It’s worth noting that large images can really slow down the load time of your site – so you should watch out for this and remove any files from the server that are not being used. Ideally, your site should load within 1-3 seconds.

4. Build a website that works well on mobile

People now interact with Google on a wide range of platforms. The search giant can’t simply tailor all search results to those with keyboards and computer screens anymore.

Content written for desktop screens doesn’t look exactly the same on mobile or tablet devices. For logistical reasons, there’s often less ‘space’ on the mobile version of a webpage than the original desktop.

Much recent discourse on mobile SEO optimisation suggests that because more mobile searches are being made than ever before, publishers should optimise towards them. While this is true, it misses an important bit of nuance.

It was once the case that website-optimised content would rank better on all devices, regardless of how well-suited to mobiles it was. It is now the case that mobile-optimised content ranks better on all devices, regardless of how well suited to websites it is.

Why is this distinction important?

Without understanding this, organisations who receive proportionately less mobile traffic could happily convince themselves they didn’t need to worry about mobile optimisation. But the success of your mobile rankings influences your web rankings – even if you have barely any mobile views on your website.

B2B websites are among those that receive less mobile traffic, since people tend to access these websites at work, from desktops. It’s understandable that B2B websites may not have been as quick to the mobile optimisation trend as other websites. However, it’s no longer important how many visitors to your site are on mobile. Google has decreed that mobile optimisation is the way forward, and websites that want to stay ahead in the rankings will need to ensure they pay attention to the changes.

From now on, Google will base what it places in the index based on the mobile version of your site. You don’t need to have a mobile site to be mobile-first indexing, but you’ll find it hard to rank if your site isn’t mobile friendly. To find out how you score, you can take Google’s mobile-friendly test.

When designing or adapting your site, keep the phrase ‘mobile first’ in mind. Test your website on a mobile device to check that the design is responsive, clear and easy to navigate on a smaller screen. Be sure to keep an eye on load time too, as this will certainly impact your SEO rankings.

5. Improve user experience and site architecture

Google have always said that their first priority is the user, and content that best serves their needs will always perform the best. Despite their intentions, this hasn’t always been the case – and it’s taken many years to get to the point where the algorithms are intelligent enough to properly deduce the best content for a user’s search query.

Whether it’s optimising content to voice and mobile searches, or choosing detailed content that fulfils the deeper, semantic requirements of searches, the changes in Google algorithms are all aimed towards creating this heightened user experience.

A great way to improve the user experience and boost your SEO rankings is to help users find what they are looking for with ease. You can achieve this by ensuring that your website has good architecture and navigation. After all, the more appealing a site is to your users – the more appealing it is to search engines.

To improve site architecture, it’s important that the hierarchy of your site is logical. The navigation and structure should make it easy for visitors to access the information they are looking for. Information should be readily available and the design of the website itself should be simple. Complex structures and ambiguous signposting can put visitors off and cause them to click off your page.

Not only does strong site architecture keep people on your site for longer, but it also helps search engine crawlers to find more pages on a website. Ideally, a user should be able to find any page on your website within three or four clicks.

Keep it genuine

There are plenty of ways that SEO will change over 2020 – and much for businesses to pay attention to if they want to continue attracting attention to their websites. But in 2020, the most important thing to remember is that the content you create must first and foremost fulfil the user’s requirements on a number of levels. Content should answer genuine queries, with reliable, detailed and well-researched information.

The days of content for content’s sake are slowly beginning to pass. Throughout 2020, optimising for the user experience will become a far more valuable part of a successful digital marketing campaign than it has ever been before.

 

The SEO experts here at Fifty Five and Five keep are keeping constantly up to date with the latest trends and changes in the world of SEO to create the best possible campaigns and improve rankings for our clients. Get in touch with us to find out more.

Looking to improve your SEO?

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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The 10 best company websites of Microsoft Partners

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  • We ranked the top 10 company websites of Microsoft Partners
  • Inspiration for Microsoft Partners looking to rebuild their website
  • Learn what made the best websites do so well

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Your website is your most powerful marketing tool. It’s the place you can get your brand across, tell your customers how you can solve their problems and, ultimately, create leads for your business.

Being technology companies, it’s no surprise that many Microsoft Partners have excellent websites. If you are looking for inspiration to improve or upgrade yours, there are few better places to look than our list of the ten Microsoft Partners whose websites both look great and host some top-quality content too.

How we ranked the websites of Microsoft Partners

Every year we carry out an annual review of the digital marketing efforts of the Microsoft Partner Network. We review the blogs, social media activity and websites of 39,000 Microsoft Partners worldwide who work in the enterprise IT space (download the full Digital Marketing Excellence report here).

We built a tool which evaluates several website metrics, such as accessibility, content and speed to rank partners.

*Below are the top 10 best websites of Microsoft Partners according to our report (n.b. in the final Top 50 report, we aggregate blog, social media and website scores, so the top 10 in the report is very different to the list below).

Where companies achieved the same website score, we judged their position here based on where they finished in the full Digital Marketing Excellence report.

10 best company websites of Microsoft Partners

1. SSi Consulting

Score: 71

SSi Consulting create flexible accounting software based in the cloud, with an ambition to help companies increase productivity and efficiency in their daily accounting tasks.

SSi Consulting’s website made the top of the list because:

SSi want to "laser focus" on their customer needs and their website is a pure representation of that messaging. Simple and efficient without the bells and whistles, SSi tell their customers exactly what they can do for them.

What can you learn from SSi Consulting’s website?

Simplify, simplify, simplify. SSi waste no space, content or pages on anything but the essentials. Their website is so effective because it is so simple. Sure, not every website can be as simple and straightforward as this, but it should be the goal.

2. ShareGate

Score: 67

With headquarters in Canada, ShareGate is a leading provider of cloud-managed and migration services and are used by thousands of organisations worldwide.

ShareGate’s website made the list because:

Sharegate’s secured the coveted number 1 spot in the overall Top 50 report and their website played a big role in this achievement. ShareGate’s sleek website design grabs the attention and features the most effective structure of any website we surveyed, with the most direct and impactful information.

What can you learn from ShareGate’s website?

ShareGate’s website is a huge source of inspiration for Microsoft Partners selling specific products. We’re particularly impressed by their product pages that make good use of screenshots to demonstrate how their solutions work. Their inclusion of great customer quotes, FAQs and witty language combine to highlight their expertise and approachability.

3. Axon IT

Score: 67

Based in the North of England, Axon provide IT outsourcing services to clients and established themselves as the first company in their region to achieve Microsoft Gold Cloud Competency.

Axon’s website made the list because:

The first thing you notice when you arrive on Axon’s website is the phrase ‘Is your technology working hard enough?’ A direct question like this can provoke the right audience to consider their current situation and how Axon might have the answer they are looking for. This is all framed through a well-structured website design that neatly splits their services into ‘cloud’ and ‘managed’.

What can you learn from Axon’s website?

Axon showcase a great fusion of messaging and design to illustrate their bold and direct approach to helping their customers. From a succinct and informative home page, they’ve opted for longer form subpages where possible, meaning the website navigation avoids breaking down into reams of hard-to-find information.

4. Silverware

Score: 67

Silverware specialise in designing, implementing and supporting custom enterprise software for business management and enterprise resource planning sectors.

Silverware’s website made the list because:

Silverware have opted for a unique approach to their website. It stands outs due to their light-hearted but descriptive approach to their capabilities – matched with splashes of vibrant colours and creative images.

What can you learn from Silverware’s website?

For partners that want to inject a bit of personality into their website, look no further than Silverware. Adopting a bright colour palette and "fun" conversational copy sends a positive, warm message to customers and prospects alike.

5. CloudBerry Lab

Score: 66

Cloudberry Lab—founded in 2011—provide software, expertise and services that secure and protect the IT environments of small and medium-sized businesses.

CloudBerry Lab’s website made the list because:

CloudBerry Labs website features informative content that empowers the reader to discover more and educate themselves on the technology that’s best for them.

What can you learn from CloudBerry Lab’s website?

CloudBerry is a fantastic example of how an education-first approach to inbound marketing can really pay off. Their resource section breaks down into blogs for IT pros, blogs for MSPs, whitepapers and more visual educational content – showing how cementing your position as a thought leader can push you to the top.

6. Modality Systems

Score: 65

Communications consultancy and two-time Microsoft partner of the year, Modality Systems, helps clients realise the maximum benefit of their Microsoft investment.

Modality System’s website made the list because:

Modality System’s website is modern, sleek and easily navigable with a content-first approach that effectively draws the reader towards the educational material they need. The strength of their brand and the quality of their information contributes greatly to their exceptional score in this year’s report.

What can you learn from Modality System’s website?

Modality’s website concentrates on putting their customer’s needs first, rather than talking at length about the technology they offer. They show that when you focus on specific problems that technology can solve, you can frame the entire customer journey through a clear understanding of the ways in which their services create real value for the client.

7. SADA

Score: 65

As a global enterprise, SADA is an expert IT provider and consultant, specialising in enterprise consulting, cloud platform migration and custom application development.

SADA’s website made the list because:

SADA has done a fantastic job with their website. A simple design and great colour scheme combine with neat infographics and clear content that drills down into exactly what they can do and how their expertise can help their customers.

What can you learn from SADA’s website?

Aim for simplicity. This can be harder than it sounds – SADA provides a wide range of services which can be difficult to translate into clean-cut and precise copy. So, narrowing that down to the essential messages is a challenge.

8. Ledgeview Partners

Score: 63

Ledgeview Partners is a business and technology consultancy that specialise in a wide range of services dedicated to helping businesses provide a phenomenal customer experience.

Ledgeview Partners website made the list because:

The phrase ‘we’re savvy and personable’ appears on the Ledgeview Partners website, which encapsulates the two pillars of what makes their brand so attractive. There’s a wealth of interesting and useful information on the website, which combines their services with broader tips, guides and explainers.

What can you learn from Ledgeview Partner’s website?

Personality and brand play a big role in presenting your company to the world. Ledgeview’s friendly tone permeates through the entire website and it screams “we can help solve your problem”. A genuinely effective combination of friendly and professional makes it clear that the business is staffed by approachable people that mean business.

9. Ntiva

Score: 63

With a presence across North America, Ntiva specialises in cloud services, managed services and cybersecurity to ensure their clients always have access to the most responsive and efficient technology possible.

Ntiva’s website made the list because:

Design certainly played a major role in Ntiva’s website doing so well in our rankings. The clean, modern and simple layout is the first thing a user sees when they land on the homepage, which makes it easy for visitors to find what they're looking for.

What can you learn from Ntiva’s website?

Ntiva’s slick, simple and engaging website digs right down to the roots of what they do and why people “love” their products and solutions. Their great use of customer testimonials oozes credibility to show they’re an experienced business that deserves trust.

10. MCA Connect

Score: 63

MCA Connect’s goal is to align people, processes and technology to create award-winning Dynamics 365 and ERP environments.

MCA Connect’s website made the list because:

What makes MCA connect stand out is the way they are so consistent in the fundamentals of website best practice. Being rigorous and consistent when updating your site, being mobile-friendly, connecting with social media profiles and using strong page titles all help. Create a checklist of everything you can do to tweak and improve your website on a regular basis.

What can you learn from MCA Connect’s website?

MCA Connect has an incredibly well-designed website – it’s clear that a lot of thought and planning has been put into the design and user experience. Every box has been ticked here in terms of design, content, SEO and navigation. Pages are elegant, content is concise and navigation is easy.

Ready to take your website to the next level?

Great website design involves a close mixture of technology, design and content. If you don’t have the time or resources,  speak to us today about our website design capabilities.

Need a lead-generating landing page?

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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What we learned from Satya Nadella at the Inspire corenote 2019

What we learned from Satya Nadella at the Inspire corenote 2019

  • Our top takeaways from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s corenote speech at Microsoft Inspire 2019
  • Power Apps and AI-powered presentations
  • Digital marketing for Microsoft Partners

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s corenote speech is the most widely anticipated event of the annual Microsoft Inspire and Ready conferences. 2019 was no different. After packing out the 20,000-seat T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas, as well as a ram-packed overflow theatre across the road, Nadella spoke for 90 minutes about the successes of Microsoft technology and the future direction of travel for the company.

In this blog, we discuss some of the most important takeaways from Nadella’s corenote – together with some fascinating case studies into the success of their existing technology.

An integrated tech stack

In the last four to five years, the way Microsoft sells its technology has fundamentally changed. By now, everyone knows how important the cloud revolution has been to Microsoft – transforming it from a company that sells one-time software licenses (largely Windows and the Office Suite) to selling cloud subscription – with a specific focus on enterprise technology. The transformation is so profound that the company briefly became the world’s most valuable company last year, which in turn inspired a recent feature from Bloomberg, detailing this ‘Nadellaissance’ in further detail.

To partners however, this is all largely old news. What has been far less widely discussed is the extent to which the cloud transformation has allowed different types of Microsoft technology to work seamlessly together in ways they never had before. While never directly mentioned, this interoperability between different technologies in the Microsoft stack formed a vital theme throughout Satya Nadella’s speech.

The ability of Microsoft apps to pass information seamlessly between each other has long since powered the success of Office 365. But in Satya’s opening speech, it became clear that there was plenty of further potential for developers to provide leading customer experiences by applying the same logic elsewhere to Microsoft technology.

Today, Office 365 has been widely deployed, and its benefits are well known. But perhaps the most important takeaway from Satya’s corenote was how the future of technology development would be influenced by these current platforms: GitHub, Azure, Power Platform, Dynamics 365, Mixed Reality, and Microsoft 365.

Throughout the corenote, the best case studies demonstrated how combining these platforms could allow exponential business results.

Democratising digital transformation

Microsoft have always been desperate to emphasise a higher vision than simply selling products, licenses and software. That goes as far back as 1980, when Bill Gates stated his mission statement; ‘to put a computer on every desk and in every home’.

Today, the phrase, ‘democratising digital transformation’ lies at the heart of what Microsoft are trying to achieve. So, what does that mean in practice? Satya’s opening contribution set out this vision through a set of interesting, and at times surprising, metrics. Perhaps the most important of this was that, by 2030, 10% of global GDP will come from tech companies.

This is a 100% rise from the 5% of global GDP that technology provides today. But Nadella was clear; it’s not the 10% that matters – it’s the 90%. Because in today’s world – every company is a tech company. He stated:

"Every business is going to be a software business."

In today’s business market, non-tech companies increasingly require technology to succeed. Whether this is a website, an app, or a custom data management platform, technology has become inevitable. This was emphasized by the fact that, over the next year, 500 million apps will be created.

Democratising digital transformation involves giving the 90% of non-tech companies the tools to power their own technology; creating software that non-developers can easily customise to their own requirements. The days when the keys to digital transformation were held by developers, IT companies and software experts are fast coming to an end. By combining the potential of different platforms, Microsoft are powering this transformation.

The potential of the power platform

Later in his talk, Satya unveiled another set of eye-catching statistics:

  • 90% of all data in the world today was created in the last two years.
  • Of this, 73% cannot be analysed, because it’s siloed in different applications and databases.

This creates two challenges. Today, the world processes exponentially more data than ever before. But, increasingly, we’re struggling to find the resources and capabilities to effectively analyse it. It’s this conundrum that inspired the development of ‘the power platform’ and Dynamics 365 - as the world’s connected business cloud.

The Power Platform includes three Microsoft applications:

PowerBI

Data analytics and visualisation

PowerApps

A dedicated custom app builder

MS Flow

Business workflow automation

Anyone who knows these applications will know they all have one thing in common: to empower non-developers to achieve more with their technology. In his speech, Satya referred to these people as ‘Citizen developers’, explaining the reason that the power platform exists, giving individual users and businesses the ability to power their own digital transformation. Satya made it clear that driving forward the potential of these applications was a vital part of Microsoft’s future strategy.

AI Builder

A new addition to the Power Platform is the AI builder. In the same way as the other platforms bring data analytics, app creation, and automation to non-developers, AI builder aims to do the same with artificial intelligence.

 When released, the AI builder will feed into other platforms like PowerApps; allowing businesses to feed AI into a range of business functions. Harnessing the data fed through from PowerBI will allow the AI and machine learning algorithms to make predictions on common business scenarios, such as:

  • Will a customer convert?
  • Will we get paid on time?
  • Will we have the resources to process this customer/client request?

This is just yet another example of how Microsoft are working towards seamlessly passing information between different platforms. With the addition of the AppBuilder, this interoperability is further increased.

Julia White demoing a hologram of herself delivering a keynote in Japanese

Technology in action

Satya’s talk wasn’t just about discussing the future of Microsoft cloud technology. In fact, at various points, we were also treated to fascinating demonstrations of technology in action. While there’s not enough space to discuss every inspirational story in detail, there’s certainly room to discuss two of the most memorable. In both cases, the focus on different platforms working together lay front and centre of these success stories.

1. Holographic corenote

One of the most eye-catching moments of Inspire 2019 came when we saw a virtual reality hologram of speaker Julia White delivering a corenote speech in Japanese – a language she doesn’t speak. She stated:

"What you're about to see is an exact hologram of me wearing the same outfit that we recently captured at a Mixed Reality Studio. Using Azure AI technology, I can translate my English into Japanese and train it to sound exactly like me. The same voice tones, the same inflections"

This might seem like a wildly futuristic concept, but in fact it just uses a synthesis of different Azure powered technologies, many of which businesses already use today:

  • Mixed Reality Technology to create the hologram and render it live
  • Azure Speech-to-Text capability and English transcription to record the English speech
  • Azure Translate to create the Japanese translation
  • Neural Text-to-Speech technology that recreates the Japanese translation with her own voice and inflections

Individually, these technologies are well-known and widely available in Microsoft Azure. But when combined, they have the potential to redefine the landscape of what businesses can achieve.

2. AI powered presentations

Let’s consider another example of AI in practice that’s perhaps a little closer to home. Almost all knowledge workers or first line workers will be familiar with the experience of hosting a presentation or sitting in a meeting – perhaps remotely. With AI, both these experiences can be enhanced, as Raanah Amjadi demonstrated during the corenote speech.

In one particular example, an AI assistant, plugged into Microsoft Teams, was on hand to assist the process of preparing for a presentation. The bot provided a range of real time information as Raanah rehearsed her presentation live, including feedback on:

  • Language choice
  • Using fillers
  • Pacing
  • When speech was too dependent on slide information

In one instance, the AI assistant even managed to identify when Raanah could have used more gender inclusive language.

AI powered presentations at Microsoft Inspire corenote

Once the performance was over, the assistant provided a detailed list of performance metrics to summarise this advice.

AI powered presentations at Microsoft Inspire corenote

Anybody who’s ever had to prepare for a stressful presentation or meeting will certainly appreciate the insights that this AI software can provide.

But this wasn’t the only way that AI could improve the presentation. It also helped enhance the meeting experience for those dialling in remotely. If for example the presenter of the meeting got up to brainstorm or write on a whiteboard, it could be difficult for remote viewers to feel included.

Raanah also demonstrated how AI technology in Microsoft Teams could find and focus on the whiteboard image, as well as make anyone standing in front of it transparent, to make it easier for remote viewers to appreciate what’s being shown.

AI powered presentations at Microsoft Inspire corenote

By combining the power of AI with the remote meeting potential of Microsoft Teams, Raanah demonstrated how technology can continue to enhance the everyday operations of knowledge workers everywhere. Though a small isolated instance, this is a classic example of Microsoft’s guiding vision in practice. With technology, everyday workers in everyday companies can be empowered to work better, smarter, and achieve more.

A step forward for the Microsoft Partner Network

Microsoft Inspire is a vital opportunity for partners to gather, collaborate, share and network each year. It’s an opportunity to gain leads, share ideas, collaborate with other partners, and establish a cornerstone from which progress can evolve over.

But most importantly – and the clue really is in the name – it’s an opportunity to inspire each other and discover what the potential is for us to achieve more with technology. With inspirational case studies, eye-catching technology, and fascinating statistics, this is exactly what Satya Nadella’s corenote speech of 2019 achieved.

At Inspire, we experienced this inspiration in action: chatting with clients, partners, and Microsoft themselves about the direction the network is heading. All that remains now is to look forward to Microsoft Inspire 2020.

Each year at Inspire, we discover more about the partner network and empower companies to achieve more through their digital marketing strategies. If you want to improve your marketing get in touch with the team at Fifty Five and Five today.

Where do you rank in 2019?

Download the Top 50 Microsoft Partner 2019/2020 report now, to find out where you ranked.

Get the free report


Four focuses from Gavriella Schuster’s 2019 Inspire Corenote speech

Four focuses from Gavriella Schuster’s 2019 Inspire Corenote speech

  • Our four highlights from Gavriella Schuster's 2019 Inspire Corenote speech
  • Microsoft's transformation, Machine Learning, IoT, and more

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2019 marks the fourth consecutive year that the Fifty Five and Five team have attended the Microsoft Inspire conference. And just like every year previously, we’ve had plenty of exciting and insightful conversations about the future of Microsoft technology and digital marketing.

Over the years, the two corenote speeches by Gavriella Schuster (Corporate VP, One Commercial Partner Organization) and Satya Nadella (CEO) have become the bedrock around which the rest of the conference revolves. 2019 was no different. In the first of these, Gavriella Schuster set out the direction the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) is travelling in and took stock of the successes it would experience over the coming twelve months.

If you missed the speech, don’t worry. We’ve pulled together four main focuses of the corenote in summary right here. Read on to find out more.

1. Focus on: Being a partner

In what has since become a hard-learned lesson in timing, Microsoft announced controversial changes to their internal user rights (IUR) program, just two weeks before this year’s conference kicked off. The program, among other things, guaranteed that members of the Microsoft Partner Network (MNP) had free access to Office 365 licenses for their employees. The changes would have rolled back on these benefits, since the growth of the Partner Network was fast making the costs unsustainable for Microsoft. Or, as Gavriella Schuster herself said: ‘We just can’t afford this’.

In the days before the conference kicked off, however, predictable controversy abounded from partners who weren’t enthusiastic about the heavy costs associated with purchasing these licenses.

With such an overwhelmingly negative response to the changes, Microsoft had no choice but to roll back on the rollback. On Friday 12th, just days before Inspire 2019 kicked off, they announced that they were indefinitely reinstating the IUR benefits. Naturally, the controversy and discussions from the weeks that led up to this formed an important part of Gavriella’s speech. In fact, it was almost the first thing she discussed:

“In my mind there was no choice for us but to walk back on that change. We’re going to keep the IURs just as they are. You have my commitment that I will continue to listen and learn – and though we may stumble, we will learn and grow together.”

Regardless of the controversy and the timing of the decision, this theme of reconciliation and partnership continued through much of the rest of the corenote.

2. Focus on: Microsoft’s transformation

These days, you’ll have to travel quite far in the Microsoft Partner Network before you hear a bad word said about Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Since the start of his tenure in 2014, the company’s fortunes have drastically changed – to the point where they overtook Apple to become the world’s most valuable company for a period towards the end of last year. At the start of this decade, the thought would have been unthinkable.

Nobody directly mentioned that particular fact in either of this year’s Inspire corenotes, but it reflects an important theme that did come up: Microsoft’s transformation. Since 2014, Nadella has ushered in a new era, in which the company turned its focus towards its strengths; business IT and software. After a decade of trying to chase the innovations of more fashionable tech companies like Google and Apple, Microsoft decided to go its own way.

Since 2014, Microsoft has almost exclusively turned its attention to cloud-focused products like Office 365 and Azure – updating their popular Office and Windows products for the modern, cloud-based age. Today, Office 365 has more subscribers than Spotify and Amazon Prime combined. In what Bloomberg recently described as a ‘Nadellaissance’, Microsoft’s fortunes have improved year on year since he took the reins.

This news won’t come as much surprise for most Microsoft Partners. But during the corenote, various speakers came back to this theme on many occasions, making it clear that it was only with the help of the vast Partner Network that this spectacular transformation was possible.

This was particularly prevalent during a contribution by Judson Althoff, the Executive Vice President of the Microsoft’s Worldwide Commercial Business. In focusing on just the contracts won by Microsoft over the last two quarters, he demonstrated the success of this transformation. These include:

  • Adobe
  • Canadian Government
  • Coca Cola
  • Ford
  • Danish Government
  • Barclays
  • Unilever

The fact that all of these organizations have moved to the Microsoft cloud in the last six months just goes to show the remarkable impact that the company is now having on the wider cloud market.

Althoff explained that there were five important pillars that have allowed Microsoft to experience such clear success over the years:

  • Becoming industry focused
  • Focusing on technical solutions
  • Investing in customer success
  • Creating a tangible digital impact
  • The success of the One Commercial Partner model (OCP)

The final point was arguably the most vital. With over 95% of Microsoft’s revenues coming through its partners, there’s no question that the MPN is a vital part of Microsoft’s transformation.

3. Focus on: Digital transformation in practice

Unilever was one of the companies that have recently turned to Microsoft technology to power their digital transformation. To demonstrate the success they’d experienced, a significant part of Judson Althoff’s speech was dedicated to exploring this case study in further detail. During this demo, he was joined by Unilever Chief Engineer Dave Penrith to explore the success the company has experienced with Microsoft technology.

As a large consumer goods company, Unilever are responsible for over 400 everyday household brands. In their talk, Althoff and Penrith focused on the production of Dove soap, to prove exactly how technology could deliver real benefits to businesses.

Using IoT and Machine Learning from Microsoft Azure, Unilever created a ‘digital twin’ of the machines in their factory, which collected and analysed data about the performance of these technologies. This is a popular model of leveraging data and analytics, in a way that Microsoft describes as a ‘next generation digital model of a physical environment’. Using analytics, they identified trends that allowed them to improve the productivity of these machines and identify any faults in advance. Through this technology, they’ve boosted productivity by 3%, and saved €2.5 million, with energy and material savings.

As well as this, Penrith and Althoff focused on how Microsoft Teams and PowerBI had allowed them to work towards their target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. Using data extracted from IoT technology, and routed through PowerBI, they managed to create a database that compared the energy usage of major Unilever factories around the world, over time. That database was then shared universally among all of them in a simple interface using Microsoft Teams.

Four focuses from Gavriella Schuster’s 2019 Inspire Corenote speech

Sharing information in this way allowed the different factories to easily compare where positive workplace practices were being demonstrated across all their factories. From there, engineers in each factory could be encouraged to share best practices and improve processes right across the board.

But these weren’t the only improvements they made. Unilever managed to largely automate the quality control stage of their soap production process. In a live demo, they showed how they’d trained machine learning algorithms to assess the quality of the products, including perfume quality, colour, texture, shape, and logo stamp quality. In providing us with these case studies, Unilever gave us the opportunity to see the reality of how digital transformation can transform an organisation’s success.

4. Focus on: The Future

Of course, there’s only so much time we can spend congratulating ourselves on the success the MPN has had over the last few years. Inspire is also about setting out a roadmap for the future. On this point, both Judson Althoff and Gavriella Schuster were clear; the future is bright and ambitious – though with clear opportunities and challenges ahead.

To help focus efforts forward over the coming twelve months, Gavriella’s closing statement outlined three main things that Microsoft will focus on over the year ahead. These three themes were:

1. Technical intensity

This is all about raising the level of the conversation Microsoft and their partners have with customers to match the technical intensity of their working lives. ‘Every company is a tech company’, Gavriella said, and the resellers themselves need to raise the bar on the conversations they’re having with people to match the expectations and expertise of the 21st century customer.

2. Customer centricity

Customer centricity involves understanding the needs of the customer. To achieve this, partners need build a trusted network around each and every customer. To achieve this, partners should aim to offer a service that provides, integrates, manages, deports and supports the development of Microsoft technology at every stage of the customer lifecycle.

3. Simplicity

Simplicity involves making it clear to all customers and partners where Microsoft products are heading in the future and honing down on the customer-centric nature of their mindset.

A step forward for the MPN

Controversy about IURs aside, this year’s Inspire event was a useful and motivating look into the state of the Microsoft Partner Network as it moves forward into the future. With inspiring successes over the past year, and plenty to drive more motivation in the future, there’s certainly plenty to keep partners busy for the rest of 2019.

With technology improving each year and customer expectations higher than ever, competition has never been more important within the Partner Network. To continue generating leads, partners are employing ever more complex marketing strategies to stand out from the crowd. In our work compiling this year’s Top 50 Digital Marketing Excellence Report, as well as speaking to partners on stands at this year’s conference, we’ve been lucky to experience this excellence first hand.

If you want to find out more about how to succeed in digital marketing as a Microsoft Partner against this competitive backdrop, get in touch with the team here at Fifty Five and Five to start discussing your strategy.

Where do you rank in 2019?

Download the Top 50 Microsoft Partner 2019/2020 report now, to find out where you ranked.

Get the free report


Microsoft Partner network

The Microsoft Partner Network’s Guide to Marketing

  • Building a successful inbound marketing strategy
  • How to stand out in the Microsoft Partner Network
  • Content types that can boost your inbound marketing efforts

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Picture the Microsoft Partner Network as a physical marketplace. Every day you carry your wares in a suitcase, stroll into the marketplace, and set up your table. You’re ready to sell your amazing product, or service, to the thousands of people looking to buy exactly what you’re selling.

You look right and a guy unfolds his table. You glance left and a lady unfolds her table. People start setting up tables all around you, so you jump up onto yours and look around. An endless sea of seller’s hustle and bustle stretches out in front of you. The strange thing is that their tables seem to be filled with similar products to yours.

How are people going to find you through the mass of other sellers? You can’t shout; nobody will hear you. So, how can you differentiate yourself from everybody else?

Break through the noise

Engaging customers is the best way to stand out from the crowd. That’s exactly what a good inbound marketing strategy can do.

How to build a successful inbound marketing strategy

Inbound strategies are all about people finding your business organically. Which person do you think is more likely to buy a car? The person who receives an email that says “buy this car” or the person who looked around for a car and found it on their own? That’s the basis of inbound marketing.

Rather than impose marketing on people, which nobody wants, you leverage buying behaviour and drive results with engaging content. This appeals to visitors and converts them once they land on your website.

Let’s touch on the framework you need to build a successful inbound marketing strategy. Because you can’t just write a blog and throw it into the ether—just hoping that somebody reads it.

You need to understand who you’re producing content for, what problems they have, and show how you are the solution.

Paint a picture with personas

A fundamental part to formulating a marketing strategy is the creation of your customer personas. These are semi-fictional characters that match the traits and desires of the people you wish to target with your content. This way, you understand the customers you have, those you want to bring onboard and how you can tailor your approach to capture them as customers. Let’s have a look at how you can start building your own personas.

Build a bio

Open up with a paragraph describing what company your target works for, where they’re based, how many staff they employ and what their aspirations are. Then, move onto the role they play at the company:

  • Job title
  • What are their business goals?
  • Break down their day-to-day tasks

What’s their current situation

Once you’ve built a well-rounded picture of the person you want to target, you need to design a scenario and describe that person’s current workplace situation.

Here are some points to consider, but it depends on the persona you’re creating, so there are certainly other questions you could add. The more precise the better:

  • What’s their existing IT set-up?
  • Is the business growing?
  • How regulated is the industry and does growth create new problems?
  • Does the business use legacy applications?
  • What’s the remote/office employee balance?

What are their pain points?

We find that the real fruit in the labour of persona building lies in pain point development. This gives you a firm grasp on the problems that potential and current customers face every day. You can then analyse the situations that cause them the most problems and design your inbound marketing strategy to match your technology to the solution.

Here are some common pain points that our clients find among their customer base:

Cost: Small company with a tight budget or unrestricted budget? Big company with a reduced budget?

Reliability: How reliable is their current IT environment? Do they have problems with on-premises software?

Scalability: Most businesses plan to grow. Does their current IT environment enable this or hold them back?

Compliance: How regulated is their industry?

Adoption: Do employees resist the adoption of new technologies?

Why would they resist?

So, you know what your customer gets for their investment and you know why your technology helps to solve their problems. You also need to figure out what reasons this person would give to reject your product or service—despite your technology satisfying their need.

People tend to hesitate when making decisions that require them to invest money from their budgets. It’s likely that you’ll have to grab their hand and walk them over the purchasing line.

Here are a few points of resistance that our clients come up against:

  • They’re interested in looking outside the Microsoft ecosystem.
  • There are more tried and tested products on the market.
  • They’ve been on-premises for so long. The cloud seems risky in their highly regulated industry.
  • They prefer to take care of IT in-house?

Once you’ve gathered this information and built the ultimate persona, you can come up with effective sales and marketing messages, and target ‘real’ customers with your content.

What are Microsoft’s key selling points?

The Microsoft Partner Network is a crowded place, but you can stand out by understanding and using Microsoft’s key selling points in your content marketing.

Grab yourself a free copy of our “A fool-proof guide to content marketing” eBook!

Microsoft 365 & Office 365

Familiarity: Knowledge workers already know about the core applications that Office 365 offers. You have Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive and Outlook. This familiarity gives a sense of comfort and boosts employees’ productivity.  

Includes SharePoint: Large organisations often adopt SharePoint as their primary intranet. SharePoint facilitates the growing importance of internal comms. 

Subscription-based: Office 365 is paid through a monthly subscription fee and you can choose from several different plans. This trims costly fat and saves money.

Storage is included: The cloud provides you with off-premises storage and each company employee receives at least a terabyte—and more if desired. Off-premises storage eliminates infrastructure such as servers and protects your data from the devastating effects of floods, fires, and other natural (and unnatural) disasters.

Install Office 365 on personal devices: Each employee is provided with five installation device options, either multiple PCs, tablets or smartphones. 

Maintenance and upgrades happen naturally: Before Office 365, businesses only received updates when the IT department decided to set aside the time and resources. Office 365 upgrades and maintenance releases are provided automatically without service disruptions or additional costs.

Scalability: Office 365 allows you to add and remove as many accounts as you like. As a cloud-service you can engage and support remote workers and customise services for each user.

Microsoft Azure

Azure matches your global reach: Most modern businesses need their data to have a global reach. Centralised datacentres can sometimes inhibit global expansion, but Azure’s features and capabilities aren’t restricted by location.

Safe & Secure: The idea of the cloud can put businesses off because of misconceptions about its security capabilities. Azure Security Centre gives members access to 24/7 unified security management across hybrid cloud networks.

Scalability: When a business scales it requires systems to adapt to the fluctuations in workload or traffic for its applications. A huge benefit of Azure is its flexibility to scale and that it removes the need to build physical infrastructure.

Reduces cost: Azure offers businesses the chance to achieve cost savings of up to 72% when choosing Azure Reservations over the pay-as-you-go model. Organisations can also choose to take the hybrid route and maintain their on-premise data centres to enjoy the benefits of Azure cloud’s backup security.

Stay compliant: Businesses have grappled with the data conundrum for years now. With the emphasis on compliance brought about by increased regulations, the importance of tightening compliance and mitigating risk and cost has never been bigger. Microsoft holds the most comprehensive compliance portfolio of any cloud service provider; including GDPR.

Disaster recovery: Many businesses have a global footprint, which translates into offices all over the world. This can include areas likely to get hit with natural disasters. Azure offers regional and global fail-over options, hot and cold standby models and rolling reboot capabilities.

Content marketing

Content, in general, focuses on educating and possibly entertaining your prospects - but it’s not just about the product or service you sell. It could be an SEO optimised website, a visually engaging infographic or a blog post designed to target a specific audience. Here are some written content types you can use to boost your marketing:

  • Cast studies
  • White papers
  • eBooks
  • Email
  • Webinars
  • Research

So, we now know how to build personas, that Microsoft is highly sellable, and the basic written types of content you should introduce into your marketing strategy.

Now, let’s take a look at another content type that can really boost your inbound efforts.

Visual content

So, we now know how to build personas, and that Microsoft is highly sellable. Let’s take look at the content type that can really boost your inbound marketing efforts.

Surprisingly, goldfish outdo humans when it comes to attention spans. With an average of eight seconds, one second behind our wet friends, you need to meaningfully impact your reader fast.

Marketers echoed this sentiment. One-third said that visual images are the most important form of content for their business.

Let’s look at some types of visual content you can introduce into your marketing strategy:

Infographics

Eye-catching and informative infographics give readers knowledge that highlights your expertise.

The combination of graphic design, content, and data breaks down complex ideas and transforms something potentially boring into something interesting. This then creates an understandable and compelling image.

They offer something a bit more fun than plain old text.

“Explainer” videos

When you’re selling technology, and more specifically, Microsoft products and services, it can be difficult to explain how simple to use it really is. Especially when you consider that some people researching your product may not be the most “tech savvy”.

A short explainer video lets you introduce yourself, explain what you do, and tell them how to solve their problem. It’s a memorable way to make an impact on your audience and gain credibility.

One step further… animation

Bring your concept to life with animated video. We have our own animation department here at Fifty-Five and Five and more and more of our clients are making use of this format in their marketing.

Some concepts are just straight out difficult to explain, and audiences have a penchant for clicking off a page if they feel they’re not getting what they want fast enough.

Animated videos are a perfect combination of entertainment, insight and simplicity – and they work. You can tell your story in the most engaging manner and present your brand in the most compelling and memorable way. Which helps you stand out from the crowd.

Don’t believe us?

If you’re still hesitant about video marketing, then take a minute to absorb these statistics:

  • 83% of businesses said that video provides a good return on investment.
  • 74% of respondents said that they have been convinced to buy a product or service after watching a brand’s video.
  • 98% of users say they’ve watched explainer videos to learn more about a product or service.
  • 45% of businesses who use video marketing said that they have an explainer video on their home page.
  • Of those businesses, 83% said their homepage explainer video was effective. 

Should I invest in inbound marketing?

Yes! The simple reason to concentrate your efforts on inbound marketing campaigns is that they achieve far higher ROI than their outbound counterparts. They cost less and give you higher lead generation, increased traffic, and increased sales revenue.

Download our B2B Content Marketing eBook here.

Prospective customers are likely seeking a solution to a precise issue, and this is where you can set your business apart. Especially in the Microsoft Partner Network, inbound marketing lets you showcase your expertise and gives you credibility in a saturated market.

They’re (in)bound to buy your product

We believe that you can truly harness the power of inbound marketing and create engaging and informative content, targeted at the businesses who need it.

The key to differentiating your business from other Microsoft Partners is to offer people something your competition isn’t.

When you figure out exactly who your audience is and the problems they face on a daily basis, you can tailor your content marketing to suit their needs and answer their questions.

Where do you rank in 2019?

Download the Top 50 Microsoft Partner 2019/2020 report now, to find out where you ranked.

Get the free report


Top 50 Microsoft Partners 2019/2020 report

Top 50 Microsoft Partners 2019/2020 – Report released today

  • The 2019/2020 Top 50 Microsoft Partners have been announced!
  • Come by stand #616 at Inspire in Las Vegas for your free copy or keep reading to download it now

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The highly anticipated date is upon us. The fifth edition of the Microsoft Partner Digital Marketing Excellence Top 50 Report is here! Would you like to know how your company fared? Are you interested in discovering who has come out on top of this year’s highly competitive rankings?

If the resounding answer is yes, then you’ll need to get a copy of the report!

Now, there are two ways to do this. You can either download a free copy of the report here, or you can pick up a hard copy at the Microsoft Inspire event in Las Vegas, NV.

If you are attending Microsoft Inspire this year, why not swing by stand #616 and say hello? The Fifty Five and Five team will be there, handing out the report and letting you know the latest marketing insights from across the Microsoft Partner Network.

We’re more than happy to chat with you about our key findings, the method behind our rankings and why we believe digital marketing is so key for today’s business success.

Find out where your company ranked!

Download the report

What is the Top 50 Digital Marketing Excellence Report – and who won it this year?

Each year we rank the digital marketing efforts of Microsoft Partners and publish an extensive report that celebrates the best marketing in the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN).

As the only report of its kind, the Top 50 Microsoft Partners 2019/2020 analyses and ranks thousands of Microsoft Partners based on their blogging output, website quality and social media engagement.

Here at Fifty Five and Five, we’ve been super busy crunching the data of 24,000 partners. The content team have been profiling the Top 50 partners, outlining how certain companies achieved their spot and noting new entries in the report. Meanwhile, the design team have been working hard on a brand-new look for the report, and the SEO team have been ensuring that content (just like this post!) is being found by readers like you.

For the third year running, Gavriella Schuster (Corporate Vice-President of the One Commercial Partner Organization at Microsoft) has written the foreword to the report. Gavriella cites it as a great resource for partners looking for examples, case studies and marketing best practices from their peers:

“By comparing websites, blogs and social media practices, partners can see how their marketing efforts compare to benchmarks set by the best in the Microsoft Partner Network; how companies like theirs are succeeding and making the most of inbound marketing practices.”

The Top 50 Digital Marketing Excellence Report is much more than a simple ranking list. We encourage Microsoft Partners to use the report as a benchmarking guide; the websites, blogs and social channels of the Top 50 being great examples to follow.

Even better: the report is positively brimming with insights, analysis and interviews to give a full picture of exactly what is required to achieve marketing excellence.

The winner this year?

It’s none other than Sharegate!

Sharegate is a leading provider of cloud managed and migration services. Their place on our list is largely down to their impressive blog score, which was the single highest of any partner surveyed.

“Hitting the top spot in the Top 50 report isn’t new for Sharegate; in fact, they’ve been here before. But after an impressive rebrand and an entirely new website, launched just a few months ago – their return to the top spot will no doubt be even more satisfying.”

Pick up the Top 50 at Microsoft Inspire

Microsoft Inspire takes place from the 14th-18th July in Las Vegas. We’ll be there all week at stand #616. Feel free to swing by to say hello to our team and discuss the latest announcements from Microsoft, alongside the latest in digital marketing and – of course – the Top 50 Report.

We highly recommend attending the panel discussion in which our founder Chris Wright will be discussing the secrets to content marketing for Microsoft partners, alongside Jennifer Tomlinson (Sr Manager at Channel Marketing Microsoft), Marc-Andre Fontaine (VP Sales and Marketing at SherWeb) and Paul Hsu (Marketing Director at Nintex).

We are also going to be providing masterclasses at our stand this year. We’ll cover a range of interesting topics, including tips for building landing pages for sign ups and methods for improving your ranking in Google in 2019.

I’m not in the report, what gives?

For the first time, we have used a single platform (the Partner Benchmarking Tool) for testing digital channels. The Digital Marketing Excellence Report lists the top 250 Microsoft Partners based on their website, social, and blogging – which are each weighted to create an overall score. The top 50 get a special mention in the report, as it’s undoubtedly a remarkable achievement.

It’s worth noting, however, that we ranked 24,000 partners this year. This means that any company in the top 250 positions can consider themselves in the top 1% of the Microsoft Partner Network when it comes to marketing!

It also means that if you didn’t feature in the report this year (or even if you dropped out) then you shouldn’t be disheartened. There are only so many places available, and it’s been a hugely competitive year.

If you’d like to see your company appear in next year’s Top 50, now is the time to put in place a great marketing strategy. This year’s report has lots of tips and ideas that you can start using today. Chris Wright, Founder of Fifty Five and Five, says:

“Microsoft partners are improving their digital marketing efforts year on year – to be among the best, you need to take it to the next level. If you’re not in this edition of the Top 50, hopefully we’ll see you in next year’s.”

Where do you rank in 2019?

Download the Top 50 Microsoft Partner 2019/2020 report now, to find out where you ranked.

Get the free report


digital marketing at microsoft inspire

Master the art of Digital Marketing at Microsoft Inspire 2019

  • Come and join our team's masterclasses at Microsoft Inspire.
  • The team will be sharing their expertise on SEO, great marketing tools, building successful landing pages, and more.

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There’s no sector quite as competitive as the IT industry is today. That’s why as a Microsoft Partner you need to find ways to differentiate yourself from the crowd. This is where we believe cutting-edge digital marketing is essential.

With Microsoft Inspire 2019 fast approaching, the team here at Fifty Five and Five have been hard at work preparing research, building presentations and gathering data from the front lines of the marketing world to knock your socks off. And we can’t wait to show you.

Our masterclasses cover a series of subjects that will give your teams the inspiration and know how to up your marketing game.

Over the course of the week, we will be presenting on a series of essential marketing subjects that are very much in line with themes explored within our Top 50 Report (which you can download for free!

Our masterclasses will take place at our stand (#616) multiple times throughout the week of Inspire—drop by to find out the schedule. Topics include:

Masterclass one: How to rank in Google in 2019

Towards the end of 2018, Google rolled out an important change to their core algorithm. Whilst this update did not impact all websites or content creators, the algorithm changes certainly reflected a shift in the direction that SEO is heading. Whatever your industry, it is now vital that you pay attention if you want to enjoy high website rankings when such changes occur.

With each passing year, the state of play for the SEO industry shifts. In 2019, these changes have become more fundamental than ever, which is why this masterclass will cover the top-ranking factors to consider at present.

Throughout the presentation, our Digital Marketing Executive Enrika will share (and elaborate on!) her 6 best tips for improving your ranking on Google:

  • Creating high quality content
  • Excellent on-page optimisation
  • Creating a secure website
  • Improving user experience
  • Improving website speed
  • Earning high-quality backlinks

Masterclass two: Top marketing tools and why you should use them

Very much in line with our Top 50 Microsoft Partners Digital Marketing Excellence Report, this masterclass will delve into top marketing tools and why you should be using them for your business.

The session will also be delivered by the super knowledgeable Enrika, who will take you through the very tools that we use at Fifty Five and Five to improve our:

  • Social media management
  • Paid media
  • SEO
  • Emails
  • Reporting

Enrika will cover 1 or 2 tools for each element of our digital marketing strategy – highlighting key features along the way.

Masterclass three: The importance of backlinks

A backlink refers to any link from one website to another. There’s often a little confusion around the exact function of backlinks, alongside the distinction between outbound links and backlinks. For this reason, our Account Manager, Mischa, has crafted a masterclass designed to provide clarity and get you up to speed with:

  • What backlinks are
  • Why you need backlinks
  • Where to get backlinks

This masterclass will guide you through actionable steps for improving your backlink usage and show you exactly why their importance should not be underestimated within your digital marketing efforts!

Masterclass four: How to build a landing page for sign-ups

You’re probably already aware that free software trials are a great way of converting leads into customers. In order to maximise sign-ups for a free trial of your product, you will need a killer landing page that engages visitors. Your landing page – in a nutshell – is a form-enabled webpage where prospective customers can sign up for your product or services.

This masterclass will show you exactly how to create a landing page that will encourage visitors to sign up. The session will also take you through what to include on your page and how it should look overall.

Throughout this class, you will learn:

  • Why you need a landing page
  • Why landing pages are tricky to get right
  • What you should include
  • What your landing page should look like
  • How to get started with building your page

Getting your landing page right requires time and effort. In this masterclass, Mischa will endeavour to show you the ropes and help you to create a landing page that converts!

Where do you rank in 2019?

Download the free Top 50 Microsoft Partner 2019/2020 report now, to find out where you ranked.

Get the free report


Gavriella Schuster provides foreword for our Digital Marketing Excellence 2019/20 Report

Gavriella Schuster provides foreword for our Digital Marketing Excellence 2019/20 Report

  • The 2019/20 Digital Marketing Excellence Report will be released at Microsoft Inspire
  • Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice-President of the One Commercial Partner Channel at Microsoft, shares her insights in the foreword
  • Find us at booth #616 at the conference

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As Corporate Vice-President of the One Commercial Partner Channel at Microsoft, it goes without saying that Gavriella Schuster lends great value to our Digital Marketing Excellence Report with her foreword.

With over 20 years of leadership experience in digital and cloud transformation roles, Gavriella brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table. In fact, we would struggle to think of anyone more qualified to introduce our findings!

In her foreword, Gavriella cites staying ahead of change and demonstrating a unique value for customers as the biggest challenge for Microsoft Partners:

“The most successful partner marketing strategies cut through the noise by clearly showing the unique value of their solution or services, and how they can support their customers’ business goals.”

Gavriella’s insights are explored further in an exclusive interview – also featured within the Digital Marketing Excellence Report. Incidentally, the report is now recognised by Microsoft as a vehicle for celebrating the importance of high-quality digital marketing.

“The report is a great resource for partners looking for examples, case studies and best practices from their peers.”

So, what exactly is the Digital Marketing Excellence Report?

The first edition of the report was created back in 2015 as a means of understanding the state of digital marketing within the Microsoft Partner Network. This year’s edition continues to analyse and assess the blogging output, social media engagement and website quality of partners from across the globe; using increasingly sophisticated testing methods, improved scoring processes and numerous data points.

Since 2015, we’ve ranked the digital marketing efforts of Microsoft Partners and presented the results in our now much-anticipated, industry-leading publication. Each year we see significant improvements in digital marketing performance across the entire Microsoft Partner Network, and 2019/2020 is no different. It’s clear that partners are taking the role of digital marketing more seriously than ever before and it shows in this year’s results.

Our Digital Marketing Excellence Report aims to celebrate the achievement and hard work of partners around the world, whilst also providing you with an in-depth insight into the important trends and strategies that are behind these successes. The report will be launched at Microsoft Inspire 2019, in Las Vegas, NV.

Microsoft Inspire 2019, Las Vegas

Alongside providing the foreword to our report, Gavriella will be speaking at the Microsoft Inspire event in Las Vegas this July. Inspire 2019 is Microsoft’s premier event for partners and a valuable experience for anyone interested in strengthening their Microsoft partnership and growing their business.

The event brings together thousands of attendees from 130 countries for a week of networking and learning. The overall aim of Inspire is to increase partner profitability and accelerate business growth. Together with Gavriella, Corenote speakers will include Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO), Brad Smith (President) and Judson Althoff (Executive Vice President).

We will also be attending the event – you’ll be able to find us at booth #616 – so be sure to drop by and grab your long-awaited copy of the Digital Marketing Excellence Report 2019/20!

Can’t make it to the event in Las Vegas? Feel free to register for a digital copy!

Where do you rank in 2019?

Download the free Top 50 Microsoft Partner 2019/2020 report now, to find out where you ranked.

Get the free report


Get the most from your Microsoft Inspire experience with our team’s top tips

  • The Fifty Five and Five team share their Microsoft Inspire experiences and expertise
  • How to prepare for the conference and what to pack
  • Tips for first time attendees and what to look out for

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The long wait for Microsoft Inspire 2019 is almost over. You’ve probably turned your attention to people you want to see, what to cram in your suitcase and figuring out whether you can squeeze a Boyz II Men show into your jam-packed schedule.

Like many of you, this is my first time flying to Microsoft Inspire and I’m diving headfirst into making sure that I’m prepared to make the most out of the experience.

I sat down with some of the ‘Inspire experienced’ members of the Fifty Five and Five team to bring you (and me) some much-needed advice. Read on to hear their favourite bits and top tips to get the most value from this year’s Microsoft Inspire.

Microsoft Inspire is just around the corner. You’ve all been before, so you have an idea of what to expect. But what’s really getting you excited about this year?

Laura: It’s tough to narrow it down to just one thing! I can’t wait to see what new technologies Microsoft and the partners unveil this year. Last year they demonstrated how VR is set to change the way businesses interact with one another and it blew me away. I can’t wait to see what tricks they have hidden up their sleeves this year.

Chris: This year is especially exciting for Fifty Five and Five. We’ve released the highly anticipated fifth edition of our Microsoft Partner Digital Marketing Excellence report. It’s been a busy year and the hard work has paid off. It’s filled with the latest marketing analysis and insights across the entire Microsoft Partner Network, and I’m looking forward to meeting the companies that made it into top 250.

People reading this blog may not have been before. What can they expect?

Paulina: If you can keep your eyes open and don’t have an aching jaw by the end of Microsoft Inspire then you probably haven’t done it right. You get to meet so many people from all over the world and you gain a real holistic view of the Microsoft community.

Laura: Meeting so many people from the community really gives you a chance to feel involved and to make the most out of it you have to really immerse yourself in the experience. 

Chris: On a literal level, be prepared for blistering heat, the welcoming but sometimes overwhelming blast of air con, and the copious amounts of coffee you’ll be drinking. The days are long but incredibly fulfilling.

Stephen and Danny talking about Inspire 2019
Me talking to our Head of Content, Stephen, who will be attending Microsoft Inspire in a few weeks.

Pretend this is your first time attending Microsoft Inspire. What advice would you give yourself?

Stephen: Stock up on sleep before you get there. As much as you can. You’ll be spending so much time networking, checking out conferences and just hanging out on your feet. Forgetting to sleep is a real possibility.

Paulina: Bring a notepad to take notes about the people you meet, it helps to remember who you talked to and what was interesting about that person. And don’t forget to wear comfy shoes since you’ll most likely be on your feet all day. Save the heels for the evenings. 

Chris: I’m doubling down on both of your suggestions. Get plenty of sleep and wear comfy shoes. Stephen and I will save the heels for the evenings.

What should people remember to take with them to Microsoft Inspire?

Laura: Don’t forget to plan ahead with a to-do list. Set reminders for the sessions you think are most relevant to you. So much is going on that it can be easy to lose yourself and miss out. I’ve planned for this year, but I’ve left some time for surprises! There really is so much to do.

Chris: Comfy shoes. I cannot stress how much hard work it is

Stephen: Get your hands on a schedule and a map of the expo hall and read up on the partners and people you’re interested in seeing. Make sure to organise a meeting with them or if they’re exhibiting, find out where their stand is so you can introduce yourself.

We know every year is a massive learning experience. What lessons did you take away from last year’s Microsoft Inspire?

Chris: The biggest thing I learn every year is how massive Microsoft Inspire really is… spatially. It always surprises me just how easy it is to wander around endlessly and getting lost is an absolute certainty. But I’ll agree with everything you’ve all said. Preparation is key. So, plan the sessions you want to visit in advance, figure out which clients you want to meet, and arrange the work you need to get done. Once you arrive, you blink, and it’s over.

Paulina: I’d say turn your introductions into an elevator pitch. Learn how to introduce yourself in 10-20 seconds. It’s really useful to have a concise answer for when you get asked what you do or where you’re from. You can guarantee you’ll repeat your name so much that you’ll get bored of hearing it.

Laura: On a personal level, I really learned to get out of my comfort zone and to get more involved and familiar with Microsoft and the partners. As a marketing expert, my job is to master the best possible ways of marketing our clients' services. That’s not possible without an in-depth knowledge of the technology. Microsoft Inspire is 100% the best place to do that. It’s why I’ve crammed more technical sessions into my plan.

Finally, what are the absolute packing essentials?

Laura: I consider myself a coffee addict, so I’ll be taking coffee, and lots of it. They had great coffee last year but I’m risking nothing and taking my favourite brand. Come and find me at stand #616 if you need a top-quality cup of joe!

Paulina: Take comfortable shoes, a notepad and pen and a copy of the Microsoft Top 50 report!

Stephen: Take a nice big water bottle and some lip balm. Your lips crack like dry sand in all that air conditioning combined with the talking you’re going to do!

Chris: I think you all know what I’m going to say. Comfy shoes!

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The fifth edition of our Microsoft Partners Digital Excellence Top 50 Report will be released at Microsoft Inspire on July 14th. Register here to get your free copy as soon as it's made available online, or come and say hello and pick up your hard copy at Microsoft Inspire. You can find us at stand #616. We’d love to meet you.

At Fifty Five and Five, we’re experts in creating professional-level marketing materials for your B2B technology business, including video marketing, animations, blogs and much more. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help your business.

Where do you rank in 2019?

Download the free Top 50 Microsoft Partner 2019/2020 report now, to find out where you ranked.

Get the free report