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Digital marketing digital pr marketing online pr SEO

“Social media is vital say top SEO firms”. But the bosses aren’t very social…

One of the most frequent comments from search agency bosses in the recent NMA league table of the UK’s top search firms was the importance of social media to search.

The following is a representative quote: “the biggest growth opportunities are in increasing the effectiveness of search by integrating it with areas such as display and social media.”

So are the bosses of these search firms walking the walk, as well as talking the talk when it comes to social media?

On the whole, it would appear the answer is no.

To try and work out just how social the bosses of the UK’s top search firms are, I created a PeerIndex list of the MDs of the top 45 firms as per the NMA league table.

As the observant among you will notice, there aren’t 45 names in this list. This was because I wasn’t able to find a Twitter handle for all of them. This suggests they haven’t got one or they aren’t making it easy to find their Twitter profile (*).

As can be seen by the PeerIndex list, the bosses of the UK’s top search firms don’t appear to be that active in social media.

Of course, I’m fully aware of the argument that bosses shouldn’t be wasting their time Tweeting and Facebooking 24/7 – they have far more important things to do like running their businesses. However, given that the top search firms seem to have a consensus about the importance of social media to their clients, you might think that there might be more of an effort to “lead from the front”.

On another point, I will spare the blushes of the search agency MD who “protects” his Tweets.

As I said earlier, I don’t think anyone is disputing that search and social media need to work hand in hand. And from the PR perspective, if the PR sector wants to “own” social media, perhaps it could lend a hand in helping the bosses of search firms get more immersed in the environment. And perhaps creating powerful intergrated offerings that will deliver more effective, high value and more profitable services for clients?

Agree? Disagree? Have your say below.

(*) I’ll happily add in any search agency boss I’ve missed off if they want to supply their Twitter handle to me

My profile on Google+

Categories
Digital marketing digital pr online pr SEO

Winners and losers in NMA’s SEO/SEM agency league table 2011 + PR implications

Once again, it is time to look at NMA’s annual search agency league table to see what the data tells us about the state of search in the UK – as well as the implications for PR.

As ever, I’m very grateful to NMA for providing the baseline data to look at. As I’ve done in the previous four years, I thought I’d dig behind the figures to see if there are any significant trends to be discovered – and to compare the search sector with the PR sector.

The NMA league table ranks agencies based on gross profit rather than turnover (or top line fee revenue in the case of PR Week’s Top 150). I use the phrase “revenue” in this piece as a synonym for gross profit.

Some initial headline findings:

The number agency one agency again – for the third year running – is Bigmouthmedia.

They held on to their number one slot with a gross profit of £12.61m – a very modest rise of 0.42pc (in terms of PR sector comparisons, bear in mind that this is larger than most top 150 PR Week firms achieve in terms of top line fee income).  Revenue per head came in at just under £74K – a drop of 38pc from £120K last year.

The firm with the highest percentage growth was The Webmarketing Group who returned an astonishing 1600pc increase in gross profit over 2009 to £3.1m (I thought this might be a typo – it has happened before – but the figures seem to match with the previous table). Revenue per head was a more modest £54K.

Other high percentage rises were from iVantage (273pc, albeit from a low start point of £30K) and Smart Traffic (169pc – an increase of £2.2m on the previous year).

And who were the losers?

Surprisingly, the highest percentage fall came from Propellernet – a drop of 32pc. They were one of the top performers in 2009. Back then, they recorded a 64pc rise in revenue and a £113K revenue per earner ratio. Last year, they saw revenue fall by £748K to £1.5m and revenue per head fall to £58K. SiteVisibility also fell by 26pc year on year, coming in with a revenue per head figure of £46K.

The largest absolute fall came from Latitude, which saw gross profit tumble by 22pc (or £1.1m).

Of the 35 firms who were in last year’s table (ie where comparisons can be made), 25 of them saw increases in revenue. And ironically, as we’ve seen, some of the biggest fallers this time round were some of the biggest gainers in the previous year.

So what does all this tell us?

On the one hand, you could argue that the sector overall continues to exhibit decent growth. Average revenue per head in the NMA table in 2009 stood at £49.7K. This has risen to £52K in 2010. But this year’s results also show that creating consistent, sustained, multi-year growth is as difficult in SEO and SEM as it is in any other business sector. As we’ve seen, some of last year’s big gainers have seen falls this year. Conversely, some of last year’s fallers have seen revenues rebound this year.

In comparison to the PR sector, the difference in profit per head is beginning to look less marked. There are still a few SEO firms with stellar profit per employee figures – but the lesson from the previous year is to see how many of these agencies are able to sustain such eye popping revenue per head figures over time. Generally, the SEO sector appears to remain more profitable than PR – but not by the same margin of previous years.

Service-wise, the trend towards natural search vs paid search continues – although it should be noted that a number of firms with more PPC work than natural search seemed to exhibit a higher revenue per employee figure.

From a PR perspective, it is worth noting that a recurring comment from many SEO agency heads was the fact that social media was having an ever increasing impact on search (mobile was another common theme). Many SEO firms are already staffing up around social media related services (as well as continuing the trend of hiring their own PR  people)

If the PR sector believes it ought to “own social”, it can’t ignore the role it plays in relation to search. Savvy PR firms are going to cosy up with search agencies or start rapidly developing their own SEO and SEM capabilities. Those that don’t are in danger of being condemned to a race to the bottom of a commodity media relations market.

In summary, this is just a first pass look at the figures (any errors of analysis are all mine – so if you spot any, please point them out). I’ll pore over the data in more detail and report back in further findings. In the meantime, as ever, all comments and feedback welcome.

Categories
Digital marketing digital pr Humour SEO Technology PR Web/Tech

Free 46-page Internet Marketing Strategy briefing whitepaper from @E-Consultancy! Download here now!

First things first : E-Consultancy has produced a most excellent 46-page Internet Marketing Strategy briefing dcoument – free to download by clicking on the link (as I’ve said before, E-Consultancy briefing papers are always high value – easily justifies the annual subscription many times over).

I’m blogging about this because E-Consultancy CEO Ashley Friedlein asked me to (along with 30,000 others)  – see below for his original e-mail. As you can see, this is part of an E-Consultancy experiment into content marketing and SEO – and a very clever one too.  We all get something from it for taking part.

So – if you wouldn’t mind – feel free to click on the link above and download the document.  And if you are so inclined, do as I have done and blog/link to the briefing paper with the anchor text: “internet marketing strategy”.

___________________________________________________________________

We’ve just published a 46-page Internet Marketing Strategy briefing which is free to download. It analyses five key current trends: customer centricity, channel diversification, data, social media and content strategy.

It’s a bit unusual for us to make something like this free. It’s an experiment in ‘content marketing’ – a hot topic in digital marketing and something we examine in the briefing itself.

Of course we’re interested to see how many visits and downloads we get, the tweets and social mentions, but we’re most interested in getting links to this page (ideally with the link anchor text Internet Marketing Strategy) to see how this impacts our natural search rankings for the phrase ‘internet marketing strategy’.

Currently we’re nowhere near the first page of Google, or other search engines, for this competitive search phrase. But could we be with a bit of ‘content marketing’? And what value might that drive to us?

We plan to publish a mini case study with the results of this experiment which hopefully you’ll find interesting and which might help put more concrete value to the effectiveness (or otherwise) of ‘content marketing’.

You can help with our experiment…

Of course we encourage you to download and read the briefing itself (we think it’s very good) but, ideally, you would send a link to this page (not the file itself – little SEO value there…) to relevant contacts or, even better, you’d link to the page from your blog, via social media etc.

In an ideal world you’d even use the anchor text Internet Marketing Strategy to the link to the page.

I’m sending this email to around 30,000 of Econsultancy’s members globally so, if you do your collective bit, then we should stand a good chance of building some great, and relevant, links…?

Will we shoot up the rankings as a result? Or get punished for the suspiciously quick build-up of links with the same anchor text? Who knows… watch this space.

Obviously we’re not incentivising you to do this in any way because that would be “paid links”. 😉

All the best and thanks for any help.

Ashley

Ashley Friedlein
CEO
Econsultancy

Categories
Digital marketing

PeerIndex, influence algorithms and the future of PR (PeerIndex guest blog)

My guest blog post at PeerIndex.

Categories
Digital marketing digital pr General PR online pr SaaS Technology PR Web/Tech

Using Zendesk as a Press Office help desk for journalists

If you think about, a press office is basically a help desk for journalists.

The terminology may differ, but many of the processes are similar. An IT support desk will talk about support tickets – a press office will describe it as a journalist enquiry. Either way, both need to be dealt with and resolved (answered) as quickly and efficiently as possible.

With this in mind, it occurred to me that Zendesk(*) could be a very cost effective way for both PR firms and and in-house departments to manage press enquiries and press information generally.

Set up takes 5 minutes – you have a complete audit trail of how enquiries are dealt with. You can upload lots of standard PR information such as press releases, backgrounders, images, etc. Customisation is straightforward. Twitter integration slick. Plus lots of useful analytics.

And because it is a SaaS based service, you can start small and scale up depending on your needs (it’s ability to scale is amply demonstrated by the fact that companies like Twitter, Groupon and SAP use Zendesk as their help desk software). Cost wise, entry level begins at around £5 per user per month. It’s early days in our use of it, but the potential is obvious.

What do you think?

*Declaration of interest: we are helping Zendesk with PR support around the launch of the new European HQ. But we are also a paying customer – and would happily be using it even if didn’t have Zendesk as a client.

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Digital marketing digital pr Facebook Fashion General PR Humour information risk management IT security marketing Media Men's footwear Music online pr Pocket Video Politics SaaS Science SEO SF sharepoint tech pr Technology PR Television Travel Video Weblogs

Recycled Friday: Is £2.5 billion really spent on press releases in the UK?

I was inspired by the following comment from @adcontrarian in his latest blog post:

Because I am a lazy bastard and the thought of writing five posts a week is a constant source of terror, I have decided to introduce a new policy around here. From now on, on Fridays,  I’m going to recycle old posts that I like and that are still relevant. Today is our first Recycled Friday.

What a great idea. Having nearly 600 posts over 7 years gives me a good back catalogue to plunder.

Without further ado, here is a post I wrote five years ago – has much changed? You be the judge.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

New survey conducted by Benchmark Research on behalf of Glide Technologies has thrown up some interesting, if not entirely unsurprising, results about the PR industry in the UK today.

The full report is here:

Glide PR survey

However, the one item that caught my eye was the calculation that  £2.5bn is spent on press releases in the UK. This based on the survey finding that 39pc of PR professionals time is spent on creating, distributing, and following up on press releases – and the estimated total size of the UK PR industry at £6.5bn. Couple that with only 32% of releases received by the media being of genuine interest, then I calculate that means £1.7bn is being wasted on irrelevant press releases.

Although I’d take this calculation with a pinch of salt, it would be fair to say that an awful lot of money is still being spent (and wasted) on the humble press release.

The survey also highlighted a clear discrepancy between journalists desire to be contacted by email and PRs who still overwhelmingly use the phone.

I know the reasons for both sides views. Journalists have been jaundiced by too many wasteful phone calls along the lines of “did you get my press release”, or are you attending exhibition X (see Phil Muncaster of IT Week vent his spleen re: the pre-InfoSec deluge of calls asking him whether he was going – Muncaster InfoSec rant )

On the other side, PRs often feel that they will get more “attention” by actually talking to the journalist. Though of course that still means you need a good enough story to give them.

My take on the survey as a whole is that is shows the same old values still apply to PR in terms of media relations – journalists will give the time of day to a trusted source – but even that doesn’t guarantee they will use a story. Perhaps some of that wasted £1.7bn could be spent on training PR professionals to get better at becoming trusted information sources.

Other findings below:

81% of Journalists on a desert island opt for laptop over a phone

Email remains the most popular delivery format for journalists. Fax, post, newswire, PDA and SMS all decline. RSS and IM emerge.

76% of journalists more likely to use press communication with photos etc.

89% of journalists will visit an organisation’s website most of the time when writing about them

Journalist Complaints

Poor use of email (e.g. sending large attachments) accounts for the two greatest online deterrents to journalists

Only 32% of releases received by the media are of genuine interest

73% of journalists think an organisation is ‘not media friendly’ if its online press information is poor. 60% think they’re ‘lazy’, 50% that they’re ‘incompetent’.

Research conducted by Benchmark Research.

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Digital marketing digital pr General PR online pr tech pr Technology PR

What has Google ever done for PR?

The CIPR’s Social Summer season kicks off next Thursday, May 26th, at Russell Square with a session presented by yours truly on the subject of What Has Google Ever Done for PR?

This is an updated reprise of the presentation I gave (twice) last year. The main thrust of my argument remains the same – that the PR sector has a lot to thank Google for, not just in terms of the technology it provides for free, but how we can learn and be inspired by its business approach and culture. I hope you can make it along.

On other matters, one of my recommended books this week is Douglas Hubbard’s Pulse: The New Science of Harnessing Internet Buzz to Track Threats and Opportunities.

I’ve waxed lyrical in the past about Hubbard’s earlier book, How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business. In this latest, he explores the opportunity offered by massive and publically available Internet data sources to help better understand customer sentiment and opinion – or as he calls it, The Pulse.

As Hubbard says: “The Pulse actually is a far faster and cheaper predictor of economic activity and public opinion than traditional methods in many respects and it is also often a better one.”

Given that one of the aims of PR is to shape public opinion, we ought to devote more attention to the biggest and best source of sentiment ever available.

Hubbard also makes the salient point that most of the big Web properties such as Google, eBay and Amazon provide APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that allow anyone with a modest amount of development skills to access immense amounts of valuable data for free. Why should PR people be interested in this? He cites the example of being able to analyse sales data on Amazon as a predictor of economic trends – it is this kind of data driven approach that PR needs to get its head around.

However, let’s not get too carried away. A more cautionary view is taken by Douglas Rushkoff in his latest book, Program or Be Programmed. He argues that that we are in danger of sleep walking into a world where we are programmed by the technology we use rather than the other way round. He makes a passionate plea that we need to better educate ourselves about how these technologies are really being built or programmed – or else we will be programmed by them.

As he puts it: “We are intimidated by the whole notion of programming, seeing it as a chore for mathematically inclined menials than a language through which we can re-create the world on our own terms. In a digital age, we must learn how to make the software, or risk becoming the software.”
You have been warned.

Categories
Digital marketing digital pr online pr SEO

A question for Social Media Experts (and SEO experts). Do Tweets improve SERP rank?

Does Tweeting having an impact on SERP results? Google has certainly indicated that “social signals” have an increasing role to play. However, hats off to Fresh Egg for actually conducting some tests to see whether this really was the case.

You can read a full account of their experiments here.

However, here is a thumbnail sketch.

The term they were looking to rank on was “social media experts”. In their first test, they noted that the SERP position for their target article rose from 395 to number 3 within 24 hours. The key factor appeared to be the number of Tweets containing links to the page (which went from 5 in 5 minutes to 100+ by the end of the first day).

As Fresh Egg pointed out, there were other factors that almost certainly contributed to this such as the good Page Rank of the article itself, the post being fed into Google News, etc.

So the second test was therefore very intriguing. For this one, they put the content in a place that would make it very difficult for Google to index (ie poor Page Rank, no Google News feed, unrelated content context, etc).  The term they were trying to rank on this time would be “SEO vs Social Media”.

Four days after posting this piece, it still hadn’t been indexed by Google. Then they Tweeted a link to the article. It took only 2 hours and 30 mins to get the page indexed. By 12.30pm on the Monday, the page still had no back links. What we can conclude from this, says Fresh Egg, is that “Tweets had played an almost singular role in getting the page indexed. Whilst it is still not entirely clear that tweets alone can get a page indexed or help climb rankings, what is clear is that tweeting out a page on relatively powerful twitter accounts DOES help SEO.”

As Fresh Egg say at the end of their post, “The final test is to rank better for a page which is already indexed and placing well on a competitive term where the content on the page doesn’t or hasn’t changed and this is where you guys come in 🙂 Give it a go and let us know how you get on.”

I’m in. I’ll report back to Fresh Egg and everyone else on what findings I come up with.

In the meantime, I’m going to Tweet about this post and see what impact this has on the ranking for this page around the terms Social Media Experts and SEO experts. How very meta.

Categories
Digital marketing digital pr General PR online pr tech pr Technology PR

MarCom Professional is dead. Long live the CIPR Conversation.

Since July 2009, I’ve been a regular contributor to the popular Marcom Professional site. Indeed, every fortnight, subscribers have been regaled with my peculiar thoughts on all things PR and marcom related via the Friday Round Up e-mail newsletter (every other week, the inimitable Mr Philip Sheldrake has done the honours).

As of next Monday (April 11th), Marcom Professional will be no more. But shed no tears. It is transmogrifying into the CIPR Conversation. This is good news. It brings a hugely expanded potential audience for contributor content. I also hope that it will provide CIPR members and the wider PR community with an excellent platform for learning and debate about the issues that really do matter to our profession.

I ‘d like to  end by saying a big thank you to all of our existing Marcom Pro visitors and Friday Round Up readers. Our e-mail newsletters have a satisfyingly high open and click through rate – I hope you’ll continue to enjoy the content (and the conversation) – as well as benefitting from the expanded community that the new site will deliver.

Enough gushing – see below for the official announcement from the CIPR. Let The Conversation commence.

________________________________________________

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is launching ‘The Conversation’ at its social media conference, 11 April. The Conversation is your one-stop shop for great blog posts by practitioners, consultancies, academia and students, from the UK and further afield. Syndicating your personal or company blog couldn’t be easier, allowing the wider PR community to find your content, find your personal, business and consultancy profiles, and respond to your news and points of view. Everyone is welcome to register themselves and their organisation.
In the spirit of The Conversation, the CIPR has invited some of the UK’s keenest PR bloggers to break this news.

There will be no need to ‘make friends’ all over again on The Conversation. Simply give your existing social networks permission to allow us to take a look at your network, your social graph as some call it, and we’ll make sure those relationships are established immediately on The Conversation (ie you won’t need to share your passwords with us). Hey presto, instant social glue.

The Conversation promises to be an exciting addition to the CIPR’s website, at least it will be with your input. It won’t match Facebook for functionality or LinkedIn for seeing who’s connected to whom, but it will be the first such attempt by a professional body to our knowledge. We hope you’ll jump in, and work with us as we iron out the inevitable glitch or two.

Following the successes of the CIPR social media panel – CIPR TV, ‘Social Summer’ events in 2010 and 2011, social media measurement guidance and input to ASA regulation – it’s apt that The Conversation will be launched at the CIPR social media conference. We hope to see you there.

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Digital marketing digital pr General PR marketing online pr tech pr Technology PR

Top 5 reasons PR firms should ask clients/prospects for access to Google Analytics data

In March 2010, I gave a presentation on PR and SEO at the CIPR HQ in Russell Square, London, to around 75 senior in-house communications directors and managers. I asked how many of them used Google Analytics data from their own corporate sites to inform their PR and communications strategies. Not a single hand went up.

In the intervening months, I’ve been boring for Britain to anyone who’ll listen that asking clients for access to Google Analytics should be one of the key questions any PR should be asking.  In fact, it should be a great question to ask prospects.(*)

Either way, Google Analytics (GA) can provide a whole host of insight that can have a big impact on the communications strategies and tactics you advise clients on.

Here are my top 5 immediate reasons for asking for GA data:
1. Bounce rate (or as Avinash Kaushik so memorably described it – they came, they saw, they puked). If a client website has a high bounce rate ie 75pc or higher (and isn’t a blog) then they have some issues – there is no point driving traffic to a site if it doesn’t engage the visitor. There may be many reasons why a site has a high bounce rate. But I’m willing to bet that 9 times out of 10, that content is a key part of the the problem. If the client or prospects existing content isn’t working then it needs fixing – it also flags that using existing messages and content to fuel PR probably isn;t going to work – enter the PR firm….

2. Segmenting web site visitors based on where they come from and the intention behind their visit should provide a gold mine of insight for a PR. Take search. If there are certain key phrases that are driving people to a site, then using Google’s free Doubleclick Ad Planner tool can help determine where PR content should be pitched (hint: it won’t always be media properties that may be the most fruitful places to pitch PR content – or it may disprove assumptions about which media outlets really do matter to your audiences – based on what they actually do rather than what the media owners media pack tells you).

3. Set up goals. So often, even if a client has set up GA, they won’t have set up any goals. And they don’t necessarily have to be transactional. What about setting goals for time on site or depth of visit and putting a financial value on these more engaged visitors? Wouldn’t it be great if the PR firm could show a causal connection between PR activity and more engagement? Well, the tools are freely available…

4. Using GA Tagging Parameters. PRs can and should get a lot smarter about using tag parameters in the links they use in news releases and other PR related content. A bit of effort to work out a logical tagging strategy allows GA to give you far more accurate insight into how different tactics have performed. Hell, Google even provides a free tool to build your parameterised link for you.

5. Create multiple GA profiles. Again, very often, clients have only got a single profile view of their GA data. You’ll get kudos for advising them to at least set up a second one where they can test tweaks to the system without compromising the existing data. But setting up a specific profile for use by the PR firm should be a must-have in any case. Imagine being able to use the annotation function in GA to highlight where PR activity (both on and off-line) may have had an impact on visitors and commercial activity.

Here’s a real example. A piece of PR generated broadcast TV coverage at 11am on a Sunday morning resulted in a spike of visits to the site at that  time. Analysing those visitors showed exactly how many requested further information and/or requested a trial of the product. In other words, a clear line-of-sight causal chain between PR output and commercial outcome.

I could go on. But I’ll say it again. If you aren’t asking your clients and prospects for access to their GA data, do it now.  If only for the solitary reason that being able to show the start to finish causal impact of PR content on real business outcomes is hugely powerful – and the fact is, there is nothing to stop PR firms adopting these approaches today. If they don’t, somebody else might do it for them. And get the glory.

*What about confidentiality say some people? Sign an NDA if you have to. But if a prospect or client still refuses to share GA data with you, I’d treat that as a warning sign.