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23

February

2015

Should a Brand Outsource its Content Marketing? :

#outsourceorinhouse

According to a recent finding, senior executives from over 50 global brands, including Coca-Cola, Nestle, GE, and Adobe, said they wanted to create their content marketing in-house. In fact, 100 percent of these brands said as much.

But when asked what agency the brand would select when they did outsource content marketing, the overwhelming answer was “NOT a social media agency,” as they were “too trendy.”

“To be a relevant, successful PR agency today one’s company has to be universal and universally creative,” says SEM Media Group President, Phil Thow. “It’s not enough to be really good at one or two types of creative content. Brands are looking to hire a few different ‘boutique’ agencies to cover all their bases. Just like SEM Media Group, a competitive agency has to understand all forms of content creation and delivery.”

When a brand is looking to outsource its content creation, there are some important criteria it should consider.

“The first is for the brand to know exactly why they want to hire an outside agency like SEM Media Group,” says Phil Thow. “Is it because they lack the right talent in-house? Or do they need help with strategy development?”

By knowing why the brand needs the expertise of a PR agency, it will help them identify the best shortlist of candidates.

“Strategy comes before all else,” says Phil Thow of the second criteria. “Strategy and tactics are two different things entirely. At SEM Media Group, we always insist a brand or company have a strategy in place before we start discussing the tactics we’ll use to follow the strategy. For instance, saying a company needs a social media presence is not a strategy. It’s a tactic.”

Equally important to agencies like SEM Media Group is knowing where to end, not just where to begin. “Any good strategy should include success criteria and key performance indicators,” says Phil Thow. “Knowing how success will be measured and marked is considered. That doesn’t meaning getting X number of new fans on Facebook, but increasing sales leads, or generating a shorter sales cycle. It’s not always about the metrics.”

If a business is ready to outsource content marketing, it must spend some in-house time to know exactly what it’s looking to gain from outside expertise. A brand shouldn’t turn to an agency to tell them what they need. They should have that in mind already and then ask the agency how they can help them achieve their content marketing goals.

12

February

2015

Google’s PLA Drives Most of Adwords Click in Q4 :

#PLAtoplay#semmediagroup

Google’s PLA (product listing ads), which was launched in 2012, is continuing to drive more and more traffic to e-retailers, and SEM Media Group is taking note. In 2014-Q4, PLAs drove 56 percent of non-brand click and 30 percent of overall Google search advertising clicks, according to RKG.

“Google has shown a greater preference and placement for PLAs in 2014,” says SEM Media Group President, Phil Thow, “even to the point of placing PLAs above organic listings instead of putting them off to the right-hand side of Google’s search result, the “typical” home for paid search ads. PLAs, therefore, are here to stay and are dictating the pay-to-play strategy of digital marketing.”

Click-through rates are also on the rise. In Q4, the rates on Google’s PLAs were 130 percent higher, and conversation rates were 30 percent higher too, than non-brand text ads.

PLAs are only relevant for websites that have physical products to sell. In SEM Media Group’s case, the agency specializes in representing automotive parts dealers. Of course, different industries have different expectations and outcomes for securing search traffic with PLAs. For instance, apparel-related websites generate the lowest percentage of their non-brand Google click from PLAs, but electronics, healthy and beauty, and home and garden retailers get the majority of their non-brand Google clicks via PLAs.

The other search engine now hosting a similar PLA format is Bing Ad’s nascent product ads. It, too, realized a strong growth in 2014-Q4. Product ads drove seven percent of non-brand clicks in that quarter, doubling from the previous quarter. Now, product ads on the Yahoo Bing Network account for 14 percent of clicks.

“In this visual online world we are becoming accustomed to,” explains Phil Thow, “especially with social networks and photo-centric sites like Pinterest and Tumblr, it makes sense that more people shop with their eyes, and to a lesser degree, with any specific store loyalty. To be relevant in today’s e-commerce landscape, as we tell our clients at SEM Media Group, one has to go where the business is, and right now the business seems to be in PLAs and enhanced digital marketing campaigns.”

Businesses that have physical products to market should strongly consider the value of PLAs, and SEM Media Group can field questions from retailers interested in learning how to utilize this growing trend.

3

February

2015

More Money Being Spent on Paid Search :

#digitalmarketingsoars #semmediagroup

The top-spending 500 web merchants in the U.S. with the largest paid search budgets sank even more money into paid search digital marketing. In fact, the average increase in spending for all 500 merchants was an 18 percent growth in 2014 over the previous year, with Amazon coming in with the largest overall increase.

“Search engine marketing is still the digital advertising form that soars above the rest,” says Phil Thow, President of SEM Media Group. “And it doesn’t seem to be budging off its perch.”

Just considering Amazon, which itself bids on 3 million keywords, the company increased its spending on paid search by 56 percent in 2014.

SEM Media group has been tracking these reports on digital marketing and paid search to be able to adjust their online advertising strategies for their clients. “We pore over reports like these to not only know what successful companies are doing, but why,” says Phil Thow. “I consider these reports as the proverbial canary in the mineshaft.”

The results have shown substantial increases in e-commerce and web traffic. SEM Media Group noted that by honing paid search advertising, from bidding on keywords to developing a stronger landing page, conversion rates on some high-dollar products more than doubled for some of the top e-retailers.

The equation is proving to show that spending more on paid search is also yielding more business. One of the newer Google search campaigns that retailers are using is Google’s product listing ads (PLAs), which was introduced in 2012. Many searches for specific products are now yielding a horizontal row of product images above the first page of query results. With these “hyper results,” Google ads can show more dynamic pay-per-click ads with more specific keywords and descriptions.

“When retailers use PLAs to their fullest advantage,” says SEM Media Group President, Phil Thow, “they are finding that their customers are much more motivated to make a purchase from these highly visual ads.”

There is a lot of insightful information SEM Media Group pulls from Internet Retailer researchers who pull together all aspects of spending, marketing, and budgeting from the most successful, and often largest, retailers on the web.

“Any business that does business online should take a long, serious look at their digital marketing budget,” says Phil Thow. “The dollars spent on paid search can literally make or break any e-commerce website.”

18

June

2014

Responsive Web Design is a Needed Mobile SEO Strategy :

Nearly 94% of the world’s population has mobile subscriptions, with one in four of those having smart phones. In the United States, according to mobiThinking, more smart phone users use browsers on their phones than apps to interact with a business, website, or brand. In fact, when it comes to shopping, up to 81% of users polled say they prefer to research products, prices, reviews, and make purchases through a browser than a native app.

What if your website isn’t ready?

Mobile sales have overtaken desktop sales, and by the end of this year more people are expected to access the Internet through a mobile device than a desktop.

Responsive web design (RWD) will make sure your website is mobile-friendly and ready for business. Moreover, responsive web design will help with your site’s SEO. At SEM Media, we build websites with responsive web design to bring our clients to the top of the search results.

Here is why our clients need responsive web design:

Responsive web design is recommended by Google for mobile configuration (even labeling it as the “Industry Best Practice”) because RWD websites have a single URL (using the same HTML), as opposed to one desktop-compatible website and a separate mobile website (i.e. www.mobile.website.com). This makes it simpler and quicker for Google to crawl and index the website, and it is easier for users to link to and share content from a single site, which creates a fertile ground for “going viral.”

But why listen to Google? Probably because Google owns 67 percent of the search market share, with over 13 billion searches a month, so if they say websites need responsive web design, we at SEM Media listen.

Responsive web design brings all the devices together. Imagine, for instance, the scenario where a business has a mobile version of its website and a traditional version. One user shares a link to a mobile website (your website!) from his smart phone, and his friend opens the link on his laptop computer, but all the friend sees is a stripped down mobile version because the site was NOT built with responsive web design. This creates a poor user-experience, and Google is now placing a premium on user-experience as a ranking factor.

In short, a better website is better for users, and what’s better for users is better for SEO.

Since people are accessing the Internet via laptops, desktops, smart phones, and a variety of tablets and readers, it would be entirely impractical to build custom sites for each screen size. With responsive web design, the site automatically conforms to the user’s device, so no information gets lost in the shuffle.

Responsive web design streamlines your business and your budget. If your business operates a separate mobile website from its desktop website, you are essentially creating competition between your two sites, and you are paying double for your SEO! With responsive web design, your business only needs to manage a single site with a single SEO campaign. This can be the most money-saving advantage of having SEM Media create a responsive web design site for your business.

When planning and running an effective SEO campaign, keywords are key! When your campaign can be tailored to both mobile searches and desktop searches, and yet drive traffic to the same URL, your business is casting the widest net to attract the biggest audience.

It should be clear why SEM Media Group chooses to be a leader in responsive web design. It marks the future of the Internet.

Responsive web design has no limitations; therefore SEM Media Group has no limitations. Let us show you the power of an adaptive website!

5

March

2014

9 Marketing Tips for 2014 :

Marketing your business is a year-in-year-out task – there are no days off. And in order to drive in new business for 2014 there are some marketing tactics that need to be part of your plan. Marketing needs to add value to your business. It isn’t always about moving products. It is about building relationships with your customers. So here are nine marketing tips that will help you engage with your audience this year.

1. Have a Consistent Message

You probably have many platforms representing your business – in-store signage, a website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google Plus, etc. When your customers see your message across many different channels and platforms it becomes more believable. Imagine the frustration a customer would have seeing an email about a promotion but not finding it on your website or on your social media. Consistency counts.

2. Email Marketing

It’s not all about your website. Email marketing can be a very fruitful tool for your business. With today’s online marketing tools, the worry about being blacklisted by sending too many emails is greatly lessened. In fact, did you know that recipients of email marketing campaigns buy 28 percent more often than those who do not receive emails, and when they buy they purchase 44 percent more in product (via Small Business Yahoo!)?

3. SEO

You must get your SEO right, and that is done by creating valuable content on a regular basis so you rank for keyword searches. Focus on good link-building to get a good Google rank. SEO is also improved by keeping an updated blog, refreshing your online listings on directory websites, using data from Google Analytics, and writing quality content on your website.

4. Social Media Channels

One of the most direct ways to engage your customers is by being where they are – on social media. Think of it as community work in the online sphere, and the more effort you put in here the more you will get out of it. Provide content that truly connects with people, starts a conversation, or provides useful information they can share with others on your behalf. Explore the various social media options and make sure you’re at least on a couple of them, if not all of them.

5. Get Referrals

Sometimes you can get referrals just by asking for them often enough. Imagine if you asked 10 of your customers for a referral, half of them said yes, and one of those referrals becomes a new customer. You just increased your business by 10 percent by asking a small, targeted group. You won’t know what will happen if you don’t ask.

6. Be Mobile

Mobile devices are everywhere and nearly doing everything. If your business doesn’t look good on a mobile device you can lose or frustrate your customers. People are surfing the web and checking their email while on-the-go. Ensure your site is optimized for mobile devices.

7. Use Video

Create and release videos to engage with your customers. You can post them online via YouTube, Vimeo, or other sites. Post them on your social media channels and embed them on your site. YouTube accounts for 28 percent of all Google searches, 90 percent of online traffic views videos, and millions of videos are watched online every day. However, only 24 percent of major brands use online videos to market to their audience. 

8. Perform Competitor Analysis

Sometimes you need to take a step back and see what your competitors are up to. Make notes about the opportunities and the threats that come from them, and build them into your own business strategy. This will keep you from having tunnel vision about your own products.

9. Niche Websites Have an Impact

If you are a little fish in a big pond, sometimes it can be hard to be found. With all the pay-to-play tactics out there for search and social traffic, it can be difficult for some websites to be found. However, if you have a niche site that targets people with a specific interest, it can be easier to get in front of your customer. These sites are often more affordable to advertise than a broad site.

If you have questions about employing any of these nine marketing tactics, let us know.

12

January

2014

Use Twitter for Glittering Up Your Content :

Using Twitter for your business can be very beneficial for brand building. It connects businesses and their owners to their audience in unique and timely ways. It helps generate leads, and it provides another avenue for online advertising through Twitter Ads. But Twitter can also provide a little “glam” to your business content, attracting positive attention and aligning you among experts in your niche. Here are some of the ways that happens.

# is where it’s at. This unassuming yet powerful symbol instantly connects people on Twitter on the same topic. One of its most enlightening uses is for Twitter chats. You don’t need to go out and host your own chat immediately. Just participate in a few popular ones in your industry and connect with others you may have never heard from before. It’s an opportunity to learn and to speak up with your ideas.

Twitter is the ultimate crowd-sourcing tool. From directly asking your followers what they think about X, Y, or Z, or more creatively using polling services, you can use responses to generate useful blog posts and Facebook status updates that resonate with your target audience.

Twitter makes nearly everyone accessible. Celebrities connect to their legions of fans, and industry leaders connect to their devotees. Following the right people can get you inside quotes to use for research material and speaking points. Twitter is information; people say what they think in 140 characters or less and share it publicly.

Your customers are there for you, literally and figuratively, via Twitter. You can use them for content by interviewing your top customers, or giving them public praise for their support. This gives you social proof that makes you a credible business. And people who get praised on Twitter like to share that content with lots of other people.

You can be “that guy” on Twitter. This unique social platform really caters to those who have a personality worth sharing. Don’t get bogged down in the laziness of re-tweeting every good idea someone else has. Instead, add your own commentary to what others are saying and generate your own fresh content. Your followers will appreciate it and start turning to you first just to find out what you’re saying and thinking.

Know what’s trending? You should (and can). Twitter makes it easy to identify what’s popular that day and that hour, especially with the # symbol we talked about already. Other tools are out there that help us search for content on social networks so we can join in on already-hot topics that pertain to our industry or interest. This is also one of the best ways to identify popular keywords for SEO purposes.

One of the easiest ways to organize Twitter into bite-size pieces is to create lists of people you follow. You can aggregate content into topics that pertain to you and your business. Want to know more about SEO? Create a list of SEO experts that you can read through when you need ideas. Have a business that deals with online sales? Make a list of Twitter accounts that just cover E-commerce.

Want a little more help setting up or managing your Twitter account? Give us a shout, here or on Twitter (@semmedia1).

6

December

2013

An Agency Can Change Without Losing Its Culture :

If there is one constant in life it’s change. In life, and in business, change comes whether we plan for it or not, whether we want it to or not, or whether we profit from it or not. Ad agencies, if they are to stay relevant in these times of change, must be ready, willing, and able to adapt. But adapting does not mean sacrificing, nor does it mean changing the culture you have created. Change, if done correctly, can mean “to make better.”

In the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, change at an ad agency could be done in a number of ways. As TV became a budding conduit for advertising, an agency could simply replace staff, change tactics, and offer new services to their existing clients in the form of commercials. They could merge with one another to create a larger agency, one capable of attracting larger clients. In short, they could just change something and be done with it.

Today, it’s different. The major difference in the playing field of advertising is clearly the ever-evolving Internet and social media. Television is still here and important, and, yes, so are radio, print, and outdoor advertising. But simply deciding to merge with another agency, bring on new talent, or start solely focusing on one medium (i.e. TV, online, etc.) isn’t as easy to do in today’s economy.

Today, communication is key. Clients, co-workers, potential clients – everyone wants to be knowledgeable, not only about the end results, but about the process too. Communication may seem like a more difficult task these days, with the “break neck” pace of change itself (again, credit the Internet / social media), but communication is still the most important product that your agency can ever produce. In fact, it should also be free and easy for clients to get. If it isn’t, something is wrong.

One aspect of change, it seems, that nearly every agency desires but is also one of the hardest to adjust to is growth. No matter your staff size, if your client list grows by 25 percent, or you land the largest client to-date, you don’t want your staff to suddenly feel overwhelmed and jump ship. The best way to handle growth is to prepare your agency so growth isn’t even felt (in terms of added stress).

But how is that done? It’s done by networking. If the “burden” of this fast-paced Internet era has a plus side, it’s the ability to connect with current and future team members nearly at a moment’s notice. So even though your agency might be strumming along on a nice path, but hoping new business comes in, it should also be out there pounding the cyber pavement meeting and networking with people you might want to call on when new client calls start coming in.

Another important way to handle change is to understand that if your agency experiences change, so do all your clients. You can’t hide that from them. Of course (and again), this is where communication comes in. But more importantly, change is an opportunity to connect more deeply with clients, figuratively hold their hands, and ride the change together.

Change allows you to use tools that you have already been using in your agency – tracking. You never complete a project and then wipe your hands of it. You’re there tracking its progression, making small changes as needed to boost performance. It’s the same with internal changes; keep track of what’s working and what’s not, talk about what you find with your staff, your fellow leaders, and continue working with what works. Don’t waste your time fixing something you actually broke on purpose.

Tell us, what changes has your agency experienced and what helped you get through them?