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Google beefs up mobile app insights with new AdMob API

There are now a range of enhanced metrics, such as active users, ad exposures per session, session duration, ARPU and user retention.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

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Google can crawl AJAX just fine

No special action necessary for webmasters.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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Organic search responsible for 53% of all site traffic, paid 15% [Study]

According to BrightEdge, paid and organic search drive more than 70% of revenues for B2B and the other verticals.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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These Influencers Are Computer-Generated: The Future of Marketing, or Untrustworthy Advertising?

More likely than not, you see influencer posts on your Instagram feed daily. In many ways, they become part of your life — influencing everything from exercise classes you take, to clothes you buy.

It’s undeniable that influencer marketing is powerful. In fact, over the past five years the tactic has quickly grown into a multi-billion dollar industry.

Plenty of businesses, both large and small, use influencers across their social platforms to reach new audiences, build brand awareness, and increase sales. Examples of successful influencer marketing strategies range from Stride Gum’s partnership with DJ Khaled to Glossier’s partnership with micro-influencers and “regular women”.

And, as influencer marketing grows, it’s no longer just limited to humans — as we’ve seen with Jiff Pom, a Pomeranian with over nine million Instagram followers.

But if any human (or pet) can become an influencer, it begs the question — do influencers even need to exist in real life?

In 2019, computer-generated influencers like Miquela Sousa might argue, “No.”

For instance, let’s take a look at this post by Miquela Sousa (@lilmiquela), an influencer with 1.6 million followers:

By all accounts, the post looks real. Miquela, a 19-year-old Brazilian American model, influencer, and singer, is posting a #sponsored post for Calvin Klein and posing with fellow model Bella Hadid.

But Miquela is a computer-generated character, introduced by Los Angeles company Brud in 2016. Each month, almost 260,000 people listen to her music on Spotify. Miquela works with major brands ranging from Prada to Samsung, and she’s even given interviews at Coachella.

All of which raises the question — why should companies pay real human influencers to promote their products, when they can create their own personal influencer from scratch?

Lil Miquela, a Chinese News Anchor, and Colonel Sanders — Are Virtual Influencers The Future of Marketing?

Before we consider the pros and cons of virtual influencers, let’s explore some examples.

First, as previously mentioned, there’s Lil Miquela. When you scan through her Instagram posts, you quickly realize her captions make her sound like a regular teenager.

In fact, in the following post, she even sounds like she has real emotions, writing, “[One of angel boi’s friends] blew up at me at lunch and stormed out as I ugly cried in front of about 50 strangers … and now he won’t respond to any of my texts”:


While her caption is fake, her followers’ comments are real — many of Lil Miquela’s followers respond with empathy or shared experiences, comments like “This same thing happened to me once, you’ll get through it”.

And then, there are Miquela’s “friends” — Bermuda (@bermudaisbae), with 170K followers and a bio that reads “Robot/Unbothered mogul with daddy’s PIN and a flawless highlight”, and Blawko (@blawko22) a self-described “Young Robot Sex Symbol” with 141K followers.

As Miquela writes on the following post: “Me and my mains! Always getting me through the roughest, there for all the highs, ride or dies … ILU guys!”


While these three are the only robots currently engineered by Brud, there are other “virtual humans” out there.

For instance, Xinhua News, a Chinese media outlet, unveiled an AI news presenter in 2018 who can work 24-hours a day without breaks, reducing news production costs. As the artificial news presenter stated in his introductory video, “I’ll work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted.”

Image Source

In another example, Balmain, a fashion label, commissioned photographer Cameron-James Wilson to create a diverse “virtual army” of models for Olivier Rousteing’s 2018 collection:

In a statement on the campaign, Balmain writes: “Anyone and everyone is always welcome to join Balmain Army’s growing ranks — they need only share our bold spirit of adventure as our new virtual icons, Margot, Shudu and Zhi who mirror the beauty, the rock style and the confident power.”

Of course, the campaign was met with mixed reviews — one follower wrote, “This is disgusting! I do not understand why they think these models are attractive”, and another commented, “As if Photoshop wasn’t enough, what’s wrong with this world?! #realpeople #realmodels please”.

And, last but certainly not least, there’s KFC’s Colonel Sanders, mocking the very trend of virtual influencers while taking part in it:

All of which is to say — are virtual influencers untrustworthy, or the future of marketing?

What Virtual Influencers Can Offer — and What’s Missing

There are some undeniable benefits to creating or hiring a virtual influencer.

For one, a virtual influencer isn’t human, meaning he or she won’t need breaks. Xinhua News, mentioned above, clearly saw the benefits of this — by using a virtual news anchor to cover breaking news 24-7, they lowered the cost of hiring real people to cover news throughout the night.

If you’re trying to work around-the-clock publishing and promoting content to raise brand awareness, then, it makes sense you’d consider using a virtual influencer, who can post and promote content without sacrificing human needs like … well, sleep.

Additionally, your virtual influencer isn’t as much of a PR liability as a real influencer is. For instance, Debra Davis, founder of NKLS — a company that researches, advises on, and invests in virtual and augmented reality — told WWD, “With a virtual influencer, so much more thought has to be put into the message. It’s not just someone with a Twitter stream. It’s more carefully constructed and thought through, and therefore can be controlled.”

Real influencers and celebrities make mistakes that could influence the public’s perception of your brand. With a virtual influencer, you don’t risk associating your brand with any negative press.

Additionally, it might cost less to hire a virtual influencer compared to a celebrity or supermodel. 

However, if your brand is considering hiring micro-influencers, you’ll more likely find a real micro-influencer for cheaper.

It’s also worth noting that much of what we see on Instagram is edited, filtered, and posed — so, really, is a real person’s highly filtered version of “real life” much different from virtual reality, anyway?

Lastly, a virtual influencer is incredibly rare and unusual, so it draws immediate attention to your brand. If your brand is trying to reach Gen-Z or a younger audience, a virtual influencer might be something that appeals to your intended demographic.


On the flip side, there’s still something uniquely powerful and engaging about real influencers connecting with their audience through social platforms. Virtual influencers like Lil Miquela can pretend they have human emotions, but that can just as easily backfire if her audience doesn’t trust the emotion behind it.

Ultimately, influencer marketing is about engaging in authentic, meaningful connections. How is an audience ever supposed to trust a promoted post when there isn’t a real human advocating for it?

Additionally, influencer marketing is often most successful when it’s seen as real and genuine. For instance, direct-to-consumer beauty brand Glossier has become insanely successful due, in large part, to its authentic marketing strategy.

As Emily Weiss, founder and CEO, said during a live interview with Kara Swisher for the Recode Decode podcast, “At Glossier, something we’ve always stayed very true to, since pre-launch, day one, is that every single person is an influencer.”

You’ll notice Glossier adheres to this strategy on its Instagram page, which exhibits real women using Glossier products:

At the end of the day, there’s something to be said for brands that find real people to promote their products or services to other real people. Sure, there’s risk involved — but that risk is the same component that enables audiences to trust, listen to, and connect with those influencers in the first place.

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Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat: Which Stories Are People Actually Watching?

While Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat seem like incredibly different platforms, there’s one thriving feature that all three have in common: Stories.

By now, many of us have used or viewed a Story on a social media platform. This content serves as a way to chronicle our daily lives, vacations, and interesting outings. Stories also allow us to tap into our creative or highly visual side. As video platforms continue to expand, this type of feature won’t be losing steam any time soon.

Marketers have also become quite Story-savvy. On any given platform with this feature, you can find a number of brands using Stories to publish educational content related to their industry, show how-tos related to their products, or display customer testimonials.

As brands experiment with linking Stories to online content, they’re finding that the strategy can actually generate significant traffic.

Stories provide a number of solid marketing opportunities across platforms. And, right now, the question marketers are asking isn’t, “Should I publish Stories?” Instead, they might be wondering, “Which social platform should I publish Stories on?”

When you think of platforms with Story features, Instagram and Snapchat might be on the top of your mind. We’ve seen that Gen-Z and millennials are flocking to apps like Instagram and Snapchat, while multiple generations continue to use Facebook.

We also know that Snapchat launched the first Story format before Instagram followed suit by launching its own highly-successful Stories feature. Lastly, Facebook got on the bandwagon by launching a Stories feature that looked just like Instagram’s after purchasing the social media company.

Yes, Instagram and Snapchat were the earliest Story pioneers. And the Stories feature has been integral to Instagram’s growth and Snapchat’s primary feature. But, don’t write Facebook off just yet.

When we surveyed 275 consumers from across the U.S., I was surprised to find that a whopping 70% said they prefer to watch Facebook Stories.

Survey Conducted with Lucid

Diving Into This Result

This overwhelming Facebook preference might seem pretty surprising — especially to those who watch Stories regularly on Facebook or Snapchat. But, it actually makes a bit of sense. Facebook Stories surpassed the 500 million daily active user mark in 2018, just a few months after Instagram hit the same milestone.

Although research shows that Gen-Z favors Instagram, Facebook Stories could be growing due to Facebook’s massive audience. Right now, Facebook is still the most used social network with more than 1.59 billion daily active users, while Instagram has just over 500 million.

Because we surveyed a general pool of consumers from all age groups, broad demographics might have also played a role in this result. Had we surveyed just Gen-Z, the results might have swayed toward Instagram, which has a user base that’s booming with young adults.

Does this really impact brands?

Before you start a whole new marketing strategy around Facebook Stories, pause for a minute. Since this was a small survey, you shouldn’t drastically pivot your social media tactics just yet.

However, we’re still discussing this poll, and Facebook’s Story growth, because these factors make you think about how important this marketing tool could be in the near future.

Even though Facebook’s feature was late to the game, it still won this vote — and hundreds of millions of daily users.

Depending on who you want to reach with your branded content, it could be worth experimenting with Facebook Stories. While we don’t encourage you to abandon your current strategy just because of a general poll, these results, combined with data about Facebook’s huge audience, suggest that Facebook Stories could provide solid opportunities to marketers.

To give you some further guidance, here’s a quick comparison of where branded content stands on each major Story platform. At the end of this post, I’ve also included a list of tips for Stories that can be helpful on any platform.

Facebook Stories vs. Instagram Stories

Facebook has the most daily active users of the major social platforms, but it seems to be losing its teen audience year to year. Meanwhile, Instagram is gaining young adults but has half the user base.

Because Facebook has such a broad audience, a variety of brands — from B2B to lifestyle to entertainment — have succeeded on the overall platform. Because Facebook users are regularly following brands and local businesses on the platform, content from businesses might similarly feel natural to these users.

Since the social network already provides strong marketing opportunities for local businesses, it might also be a great place for smaller businesses to post Stories.

With Stories, local businesses can show off their location, products, or testimonials of local customers that benefited from their product or service. These types of content could add more depth, beyond what the average feed post or Facebook Page can offer.

Because Stories pop up above News Feeds on Facebook’s mobile, this also could give the business some additional visibility on the platform. This could be a great way to get your content at the top of a prospect or regular customer’s feed as you update them with a photo or video that gives valuable information related to your brand.

One local business that leverages Facebook Stories for marketing purposes is the Dublin-based Newpark Clinic.

In this example, the Invisalign company has a customer film herself discussing how she successfully straightened her teeth with help from the clinic:

Newpark Clinic Facebook Story

These types of stories allow people to see real, local people that have been positively impacted by a local business. If a prospective customer had liked this business page while researching Invisalign companies, they might see this post and trust the company because it presented a real-world example of its service. If a customer likes the page after working with Newpark Clinic, they might see this Story, get pleasantly reminded of the company, and look into them for another dental service.

Instagram-Specific Stories

Instagram also provides strong local business marketing options similarly to Facebook. Its highly visual platform makes an especially a great home for lifestyle or creative content.

For example, Instagram’s most-followed brand and influencer accounts fall into creative or highly-visual industries like beauty, fashion, wellness, cooking, travel, and other lifestyle topics.

We’ve seen that successful Instagram Stories are often targeted to the younger demographic, relate to the platform’s most popular topics, and usually contain interactive stickers, such as polls or questions.

Branded content can also be highly engaging to Instagrammers. In fact, one-third of the most viewed Stories were posted by brands.

Here’s a quick example of a story that Starbucks made to highlight the return of their s’mores latte. It’s filled with bright colors, interactives, and images of Brent Rivera, a YouTuber who Gen-Z or millennial users might watch or recognize.

Starbucks Instagram Story

If you want more inspiration from other brands that have succeeded on Instagram Stories, check out this list of examples.

Aside from branded Stories, Instagram also hosts plenty of content that’s produced by influencers through partnerships or sponsorships. While you might see an influencer post a brand-related Story on Facebook, this strategy is still much more abundant on Instagram.

Here’s a screenshot from a Story where influencer Lexi Mars tries on outfits from a clothing company called Revolve.

Rather than posting this Story on Facebook, Lexi published it on Instagram which hosts an audience of young adults and fashion lovers.

This benefits her because she may gain some audiences from Revolve fans who tune into the story. But, Revolve can also gain brand awareness from her without having to create their own Story content.

What Facebook and Instagram Have in Common

Aside from differences in audience interests and demographics, Facebook Stories and Instagram Stories are pretty similar. Because Facebook owns Instagram, the interfaces are almost identical. They both also allow you to add similar filters, text overlays, interactive polls, and other features to your content.

Instagram and Facebook also let you link your Stories to web content once you reach a certain number of followers or get your account verified.

While both platforms present Stories on feeds for 24 hours, Instagrammers can save, preserve, and highlight Stories on their profile.

Which do marketers choose?

When it’s time for marketers to weigh these differences and choose a Story platform, many actually post the same exact content on both.

If your team is already using Facebook and Instagram, trying out both could be an easy experiment. Because Facebook owns Instagram, the Story interfaces are very similar and are very interconnected. This makes it pretty easy to post the same Story on both platforms at once.

To share a story on both platforms, upload it to Instagram first. Then, as you share the story on Instagram, tap the “Share to Facebook” CTA.

Here are two examples of big brands that have done this.

Recently, MIT Tech Review uploaded and posted the same story about aging on Facebook and Instagram. (Facebook is to the left and Instagram is on the right.)

On the same day, Martha Stewart Living also did it. Here’s the first page of Facebook and Instagram Stories:

While it might be easy, harmless, and cheaper to place the same content on both platforms, we still encourage you to try customizing content for each social network’s audience to see if it results in more engaging Stories.

For example, if you’re marketing a health and wellness blog and find that your audiences on both platforms are in similar age groups or have similar interests, you could limit the production of Story content by making the same content for both platforms.

If you find that your Facebook audiences are middle-aged and your Instagram audiences are mostly within Gen-Z, you could still probably get away with posting the same health news, recipes, and workout tips on both platforms. But, if you have time and resources, you could test health tip content for middle-aged people on Facebook or a Story about diet tips for young adults on Instagram.

What about Snapchat Stories?

Snapchat has a much smaller user base than Facebook and Instagram, which could be one reason why only 13% of consumers we surveyed prefer to watch Story content there.

There are two ways you can post Snapchat Stories on the app. One is through an individual account and the other is by becoming a publisher on Snapchat Discover. Both are pretty tricky, especially if you’re part of a small organization.

With a free individual account, users would have to look you up via Snapcode or search for you just like other people on Snapchat. This means that you’d need to share your username or Snapcode on other channels so people even know you’re on the app.

When you post a story, it will show up within the user’s friend list, along with Stories from those contacts. Because of this, your content might be buried if someone has a huge friend list.

There are a number of brands with individual accounts on Snapchat, like NASA, Bustle, Forbes, and Sour Patch Kids, but they’ve either left Snapchat or haven’t posted in a while.

When these brands did post content on Snapchat, Stories were pretty similar to what you’d see on Instagram. Usually, they’d included behind-the-scenes material, how-to advice, or short narratives related to the brand’s industry or product. Here’s an example of a story from NASA:

And here’s another from Bustle:

For small to medium-sized companies, there doesn’t seem to be much of a benefit to posting Snapchat stories this way. Even when we asked our own marketers about whether they preferred Snapchat or Instagram Stories, most said that Instagram saw more engagement than Snapchat.

The Discover route is also pretty challenging because you’d need to work with Snapchat directly to become a publisher. Additionally, because most publishers create high-quality original content that features animations, graphics, and other high-quality elements, you’d also likely need a lot of design and editorial resources.

This seems like a costly process that might not pay off or even be accessible to smaller brands.

However, watching Snapchat Discover Stories from publishers could inspire a smaller-scale Instagram or Facebook Story.

Although a chunk of the consumers we polled preferred to watch stories on Snapchat, we don’t encourage you to focus your branded strategy on this platform right now.

Tips for Producing Social Media Stories

Regardless of whether you go with Instagram, Facebook, or any other popular Story platform, here are a few tips that can amp up your content:

  • Cut to the chase: Most likely, your viewers will find your Story after aimlessly stumbling through a social platform looking for entertainment. If your content doesn’t appeal to them quickly, they’ll drop out of it and move on to the next thing. Come up with ways to grab attention, like a newsy headline, interesting animation, or an interactive element.
  • Use interactive features: On Facebook and Instagram, you have access to the exact same interactive tools. Use them! They can make Stories more engaging, might enable users to think deeply about the topic, or they could even give you data about your audience that leads to more ideas.
  • Understand your audiences: If you post Stories on multiple platforms, you should know each network’s audience and adjust your content to fit them. For example, if you find that your audience is middle-aged on Facebook and primarily Gen Z on Instagram, post content that speaks to each group. If you use both platforms but are low on time or resources, consider a strategy where you’re crafting broad content that you know will engage both rather than forcing “older” or “younger” content to both audiences.

If you’re looking for inspiration specifically for Instagram, check out this detailed list of branded Story examples. You can also check out our Ultimate Guide to Instagram for Business to learn about boosting brand awareness with the platform.

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5 FAQs For Marketing on Facebook

Last week, we asked a panel of paid social pros to answer your Facebook questions. For those who missed the webinar, we are sharing the highlights.


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Index Match: The Better Alternative to Vlookup

VLOOKUP is one of those functions that makes Excel great. VLOOKUP has its issues though. Don’t worry there is an alternative, INDEX MATCH. Not only does it replicate the functionality but has its own perks and bonuses. By the end of this article you’ll be able to put it into practice and reap the rewards.


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Which local citation sources matter now?

An informal poll of local SEOs yields some answers — and disagreements — about spending time on citations.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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You can’t advertise that: The big list of prohibited ads across social and search platforms

To get ads approved in a timely manner, brands need to know what content is allowed, what’s restricted and what’s prohibited. we put together this cheat sheet to help.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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10 Takeaways from the state of SEO survey

Here at Zazzle Media, we love surveys – we run them every year to help us better understand the challenges facing both SEO Managers and Agencies alike. Each year we look to prune the questions down and build others out as trends and future opportunities dictate (for example in 2018 we asked more questions around mobile-first preparation).

This year we looked to gain insight into more recent smaller topics such as the impact of Medic or the ease of protecting branded search terms.

In this article we explore the top 10 takeaways from the survey data – think of it as a TLDR version of data collection from hundreds and hundreds of interested parties. See some topline stats or explore the full survey results by clicking below and downloading them.

On-page content creation remains the most effective activity

Any digital marketing professional with a few years of experience in the game has likely dabbled in the disciplines below. While certain practices take far more technical expertise (think, IA and CTR Optimisation) it’s reassuring to know that the marketers still find content creation to be the best approach in acquiring traffic and hitting KPIs.


Likewise, it’s easy to focus on moving forward, many content strategies do just that, and that alone. However, auditing existing content and making tweaks or tests where needed is almost as important, that’s why it shows up as the second most voted for discipline.

A few years ago I would have expected the “creation of new content” and “link building” to have utterly dominated this chart. It’s fantastic to see professionals finding more and more value in other avenues with “Brand mentions” and “CTR optimization” gaining a not insignificant seat at the marketing table.

I’ve long advocated a need for SEO professionals to blur at the edges, merging with other teams and marketing/web-development disciplines. This wider and more holistic view of digital marketing is fast-becoming the rule instead of the exception. A big part of this is how news and knowledge sharing sites have diversified and so helped inform both agencies and managers alike.

Link-building may be losing its appeal

…and I for one, couldn’t be happier with that! Link building by quantity has always been a bugbear of mine. The demand for the service has created sites that sell links by DA as casually as if they were sweets. These companies are still inexplicably in business despite the wider community knowing full well that many of the sites used have been “blacklisted” by Google. Oh yeah, they do that…

Imagine spending hundreds, maybe even thousands of such links without ever really knowing if they’ve made any kind of impact. It’s no wonder that marketers are more unsure about the value in link building over anything else in an SEO agency’s arsenal.

As happy as I might be with the headline the lack of confidence in Non-branded PPC vs Technical SEO is somewhat worrying. I’ve dabbled in paid (largely on social) and found that it provided me with exact costs for cost per acquisition, cost per conversion – all the stats I could digest. It’s also concerning that UX is still so much of a mystery, in the next few years I hope my CRO/UX brethren can educate marketers to close this gap. Platforms and CMS’ have never been easier to split test, and while I appreciate truly putting the user’s experience first is something of a rarity in sites, the benefits of doing so are well documented.

Sites still waiting for the move to mobile-first

It seems like years ago that we were talking about the mobile-first index… probably because it was ( Despite all the time to prepare, it seems Google hasn’t completed the full rollout quite yet, or perhaps have yet to inform webmasters, I’m not sure which would be worse come to think of it.

Whether you have a notification or not, there are a slim non-zero number of sites that can afford to ignore mobile users entirely – possibly sites still optimizing for IE6? It’s great to see over 43% have been positively impacted by the shift to mobile-first. For the slim two percent that has been hit hard by the changes, I imagine they’re seeing their market share eaten into, or have dropped due to a legacy CMS that could do with a shakeup. In any case, there are hundreds of articles around that help you optimize for mobile – not least of all, Google themselves (

Fixing technical issues within the blink of an eye

Each year we run our surveys we find that the implementation of technical fixes gets faster and faster. Whether this is due to development teams taking sprint-led approaches, businesses feeling under pressure to squeeze as much value from their sites as possible or just a growing understanding for the need to have a site that is “technically fit for purpose” we don’t much care – 75% of marketers are getting technical fixes implemented within a month. Get in.

If you’re still having to put together business cases for changing H1s or adding alt text to images – I feel for you son, I’ve got 99 problems but a technical glitch ain’t one. You may want to read this great article from Rory Truesdale on building a business case your boss can’t say no to.

Users still clamoring for best practice advice from Google

We make a lot of demands from Google, if you’re like me then more often than not is the adherence to its own policies and not rewarding bad practice… or longer battery life on my phone. However, I’ll keep those grudges inside for now.

Interestingly, aside from the standard request that rolls out on these questions (that of more keyword-specific user/click data), there are a significant number of marketers who aren’t clear on all of Google’s guidelines.

I feel much of these are perhaps just managers and executives just not having the resource or time to give Google’s webmasters forum and help center a good readthrough. You can find the basic guidelines here, the article has links to more information content, quality, and snippets too.

It’s clear that the overhaul of the search console is relatively positive (if a little segmented) and I’m sure we all welcome new innovation and insights within WMT/GSC. Something I expect will come soon is the visibility around voice searches – data suggests nearly 50% of searches will be made by voice in the next few years, but right now strategies to capitalize on this are focusing almost exclusively on featured snippets as they are the only thing we can really measure with a modicum of accuracy.

Many professionals still without access to rich media

Here’s the catch, Google and users reward content that is unique or content that utilizes the most appropriate format for the message/information. Trouble is, the production of certain formats are costly, the main reason for all the “no” responses was just that – the cost, the second was people finding a reliable artist/animator/SFX professional.

There are a number of sites around where you can find appropriately priced artists that can provide such services but it’s perhaps easier to ask any agencies you work with for their recommendations. After all, we cross paths with a huge number of digital professionals that might suit your needs. For something more affordable and entry-level you can often find amateur or startups willing to work for realistic rates within Facebook or LinkedIn groups.

It’s important to be realistic with your desire for rich media, it takes far longer than you might expect to become truly proficient with many of the tools and software platforms required for a quality result. Don’t be afraid to give it a shot. But make sure you aren’t producing video or podcasts just for the sake of it, if you miss the mark with a blog post you lose a few hours, do that with a video and it’s far harder to explain it away in your next appraisal.

Markets are at saturation point, few innovators blazing trails

In a recent training session, I ran on Content Strategy at BrightonSEO, this was one of the biggest problems felt by both in-house and agency professionals. The skyscraper approach works best when you are “one-upping” the competition. However, many markets are just seeing content duplication over and over – backed up by basic link building to gain the edge.

My advice to those of you looking for an answer will be the same as those at the training session.

Be magnetic

Aside from the habitual checking of Facebook and Instagram stories, what sites are you drawn back to? Can you figure out why they have such an attractive appeal to their content? Is it the tone? Is it imagery? Can you work out what would make your audience feel the same way about your site?

You don’t need a funky brand or hip product to be magnetic, you just need to service the most critical needs of your audience better than your competitors. Do everything right, from UX in the checkout process to follow-up emails and nurture campaigns. It might sound like a big ask and if you’re struggling with the scale of it all, try to do less, but do it better.

50% of marketers still don’t understand their competition

This for me is unforgivable. A sailor is nothing if they don’t keep one eye on the waves around them.

It’s critical to innovate and try to lead the way but the chances of you always being at the front of your market are zero. Instead, you need to be mindful of what the competition is doing and utilize third-party tools to monitor them effectively.

If you’re reading this with a sinking feeling of guilt, it’s not too late. Competitor research is a well-documented discipline in both organic and paid search. The vital point is to learn from both the victories and the mistakes made by the competition. If you spot a campaign that flopped but clearly had significant investment, it’s important you tear it apart and work out how you could have done it better.

If you’re working with an agency and feel that your level of competitor insight isn’t great then consider it as a research project that you can undertake collaboratively in the next quarter. Remember, that you have lots of different types of competition:

  • Our perceived brand competitors
  • Your actual organic competitors
  • Your actual paid competitors
  • Competitors for audience attention
  • Competitors for audience income
  • Similar product competitors

These groups aren’t mutually exclusive and you might find two contrasting competitors that crossover due to your position in a market (an averaged priced womenswear brand would crossover with both Primark and ZARA, despite the two having minimal product/price overlap).

Brand terms are becoming a battleground

There was a time when brands felt confident that with an “about us” page they were relatively well protected in the SERPs, perhaps a few subdomains thrown in for good measure. However, it’s clear that there is no honor among marketers anymore. Bidding on other brand terms has never been more popular. Organically we’ve responded to the clear user demand for “brand vs brand” terms, creating fresh content to target both competitor brand traffic and users in the consideration stage of a purchase journey.

SEO survey 2019 stats on brand term searches


Let’s be honest though, this is just good business sense in most cases. I recommended the production and optimization of a comparison page for RAC to target AA terms and the results generated both traffic and revenue despite the clear user intent for “aa breakdown cover”. The RAC site still ranks in third position for the head term with 600+ other keyword rankings and estimated the traffic of over 10k accordingly to Ahrefs.

Example of Google serp for aa breakdown


Of course, that’s an extreme case, in an industry where there are only 2 ½significant players (sorry GreenFlag) with substantial branded traffic and searches. If you want to find out more about how to protect your brand from this sort of activity, you can check out a tool I created here, to help organize your branded traffic results and make sure they are tip top shape.

People are spending less than ever on SEO

Always end on a negative? Our survey suggested that more and more marketers are spending their budget elsewhere, the results felt a little too open-ended so we followed up the question to dig into why they’re spending five percent less on SEO than last year.

Interestingly, 60% of marketers state that resources and a shortage of budget are the main reasons they don’t spend more on organic. However, just over 30% still find proving the value of SEO to be a critical factor in securing funds or resources, further pushing the need for agencies, freelancers and in-house professionals to be aware of attribution models, brand value and purpose when it comes to spending more on SEO.

SEO survey 2019 stats on SEO spends


As an industry, we’ve needed to educate, educate, educate – at almost every level of client infrastructure. That challenge still remains, in fact, it probably changes monthly. But now with more noise than ever (think CRO, Social, and EDM).

It doesn’t make you a poor search professional if you’ve struggled to educate your manager, in my experience they can be quite resilient to tutelage.


These are just 10 of what I felt were the most interesting results from a survey containing over 40 digital marketed questions asked hundreds of digital marketing professionals. If you’d like to end your day with a little more insight, the results are all available to download.

Stuart Shaw is Head of Search & Strategy here at Zazzle Media.

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