Blog

google_hummingbird

Google has recently made some pretty significant changes to its algorithm – the system that it uses to order its search results.

Known as ‘Hummingbird’, this update is a game-changer for content marketers. Martin Harrison, co-founder of online copywriting service Copify discusses these changes and what you need to do in order to stay ahead of the curve.

 

A change in search behaviour

The way that people are using Google has changed dramatically over the past few years. Historically, most users have entered very generic terms, known as ‘keywords’ to find what they were looking for.

Today, however, users are increasingly entering very detailed and specific queries. For example, a year ago, someone looking for somewhere for an all-you-can eat Chinese restaurant in London might have searched for:

“Chinese restaurants in London”

Or maybe:

“All-you-can eat Chinese London”

Today, they might be much more specific

“Where are the best all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurants with good reviews in London?”

Answer questions

Hummingbird is about understanding user queries and searcher intent. Marketers will be rewarded for understanding the common search queries their customers might have about their products and services, and structuring content around these queries.

A really easy way to do this, for those with Google Analytics set up on their sites, is to search for all queries that have driven traffic with one or more of the following words:

 

  • Why
  • How
  • What

 

More diverse content

 The types of links that were easy to attain in order to propel your site to the top of Google no longer work, which means that marketers must now box clever in terms of the content they produce.

 Updating the company blog once a fortnight with some mundane news about your brand is not going to cut it any more. Those daring enough to be humorous or controversial will be rewarded with the all-important likes and shares that will lead not only to increased brand exposure, but also the type of links that will make a tangible difference to your sites position in the search results.

Invest in visually striking multimedia content that can be enjoyed on a variety of devices, including infographics and video.

good-infographic

 

 

 

Apparently Sprite is being scientifically lauded as the new hangover cure.  A study published in the September issue of Food and Function found that imbibing the lemony-limey pop can effectively reduce all of the main hangover symptoms.

Now for the science-y bit…

Your typical hangover symptoms such as nausea, exhaustion and an exploding-skull-stylee  headache aren’t caused by alcohol as such, but rather by acetaldehyde, an enzyme the body produces as it struggles to process all the toxic booze you recklessly consumed.

So lots of the traditional hangover cures such as strong coffee, greasy fry-ups, McDonalds, Coca-cola, green tea and salt and vinegar crisps (no? Just me then?) actually slow down the digestion process, thereby eeking out the acetaldehyde’s impact.

Sprite (and soda water, but I’m tempted to ignore that on the grounds of it being not v appetising at the best of times, let alone when you’re feeling like death warmed up) speed(s) up the conversion process and actually helps to reduce your hangover.  Yippee.

Obviously I’m not encouraging you to go and get hideously drunk to test this theory as that would be incredibly irresponsible…which I’m not.  So I’ll defer to a favourite author of mine who has much to say on the subject.  Take it away Ernest:

“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” 

“I drink to make other people more interesting.”           Ernest Hemingway

What’s occurring with the weather these days?  One minute it’s cold and wet, the next blisteringly hot.  Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce… SWINTER – a freak seasonal hybrid that’s throwing up a whole host of challenges – sartorial, culinary and even domestic.

I’m no Michael Fish/John Kettley/Ian McKaskill (no? #showingmyageagain) but something strange is afoot meteorologically speaking. Autumn is no more – it’s been bullied out of town by this brazen, insensitive upstart.

As you would expect a Google search on climate change spews up a plethora of sites – educational, political and charitable.  The effects of climate change are profound (as far reaching as ‘far reaching’ can ever be) and impactful and not to be trivialised in a ‘poor me, I don’t know what to wear/eat’ kind of way.

That said, I’m afraid that’s exactly how I’m rolling with this one.  The weather has always been a hot topic of conversation for us Brits.  Historically I’m not really sure why.  I guess it must be something to do with British restraint and needing safe fodder for polite chit-chat.  It certainly didn’t used to be the unpredictable atmospheric carnival it seems to have morphed into of late.

So, presumably, as a nation we’re talking about it even more now.  If the RumbleChat office is anything to go by, that is definitely the case. Every day starts with a dissection of our local climate and the impact it has on our daily meanderings.  We are human barometers who obsess about the weather with a farmer-like intensity.

What to wear?  Just yesterday I set off for an early doors meeting in the Big Smoke, sporting a thermal socks/ankle boot combo and clutching an umbrella. Leaving my meeting late morning, I was greeted by the sun, with his hat on, mockingly beating down on my winter-clad self. By the time I got back to the office I was very sweaty, a tad grumpy and in dire need of an outfit change.  It brings a whole new angle to the trans-seasonal wardrobe conundrum.

I am also finding it is playing havoc with my appetite, or more specifically, what I fancy to eat at any given time.  A hearty stew is just the ticket when you’re cold and bedraggled, whereas a super-food salad is much more befitting for a balmy Mediterranean eve.

Don’t even get me started on the ‘is it too early to put the heating on?’ debate.  As I work from home a lot, I threw caution to the wind a fortnight ago and took the thermostatic plunge…only to return home the next day to an uncomfortably furnace-like house and the kids running around topless in the pleasantly warm garden.  I just can’t seem to get it right on any front.

And my phone’s no use.  I constantly refer to it for weather hints and tips but Apple are clearly using someone even less in-the-know than I to inform their weather app. Check it in the morning and it says one thing, then two hours later (once you’ve set about starting your day) it’s completely contradicting itself… presumably after looking out of the window and realising how wrong its initial finger in the air prediction really was. Utter shambles springs to mind.

So, what about you RumbleChatters?  Are you struggling like me or can you give me some tips on climate management for beginners?

Blog

noun

  • a personal website or web page on which an individual records opinions, links to other sites, etc. on a regular basis.

verb (blogs, blogging, blogged)

  • add new material to or regularly update a blog:it’s about a week since I last blogged
    • ·   [with object] write about (an event, situation, topic, etc.) in a blog:he blogged the Democratic and Republican national conventions as an independent

 

To Blog or not to blog?  That is the question.  You think you should, but you’re not entirely sure why, or how to go about doing it successfully.  Sound familiar? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Lots of our clients start off this way… and end up with fabulous, engaging blogs that deliver competitive advantage to their brands.

So for those of you who want to, but need a bit of guidance, here’s my quick and tasty recipe for a perfect blog (peppered with the obligatory food puns):

Key Ingredients:

Content is King. It goes without saying that great content is imperative. In fact, I’d go as far as to say. Good content is well researched, well written and pertinent to the target audience.  If you have something original at your fingertips then you’re at a distinct advantage, but if not, don’t fret.  Just make sure that your take on what may well be a tried and tested topic exudes brand personality and adopts a perspective that resonates with your target audience.

The Perfect Title. The title should seduce your reader but also aid your SEO and therefore, your audience’s ability to find you.  So whilst tongue-in-cheek, witty and hilarious titles are good in one sense (the reader seduction angle), unless you’re very clever, they might be counter-productive on the SEO front. If you can achieve both, that’s brilliant (and you can probably stop reading now as you’re clearly a blogger extraordinaire)

The Ronseal approach to an Introduction. I.e. It does exactly what it says on the tin. The internet reader is notoriously fickle, with an attention span only slightly longer than that of the proverbial goldfish.  Your clear, yet simultaneously compelling title therefore needs to be followed by a concise, revelatory introductory paragraph.

Make the Format Accessible. Meander-y, verbose streams of consciousness may have earned Virginia Woolf literary adulation, but it doesn’t cut the mustard  for the modern day blog. Language should be simple, easy-to-read and to the point.

Size isn’t Everything.  Or length I should say.  Between 500 and 800 words is perfect – long enough to concisely present your content, but not too waffle-y and snooze-inducing.

Invest in Aesthetic Appeal. It’s not shallow.  Looking nice is important…in blogging terms at least.  It’s an integral part of the user experience and another factor in the ‘you-versus-all- the- other -bloggers –out- there’ contest. Make your headers bold and enlarged, your key points stylistically pertinent and stay on-topic and on-brand. Add images to break up your text and illustrate your point.  You can even throw in a video or two to really spice things up.

Let Your Brand Personality Shine Through. Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing this.  Whilst your blog can (and should) be on a wide range of relevant topics that interest your target audience, remember your aim is to increase engagement with your brand.  You want to create a brand voice that people want to listen to and want to hear more from.

Little and Often. Once you’ve started blogging, you need to make sure you keep at it.  From an SEO perspective, the need for regular updates is obvious. From an engagement perspective it’s just as crucial to keep on keeping on. Once you’ve attracted people to your blog, you want to keep them coming back.  Regular updates are the best way of doing this.  I always find it disappointing when I check out a new website and their latest blog was months (or even years) ago.

Preparation time

With a bit of practice you should be able to knock up a simple, commentary-lead blog in an hour whilst a research-based blog might take you a morning.  Given the resultant increase in engagement levels you can surely spare the time?  If not, why not outsource it to professionals.  Our blog-writing service is extremely competitive, costing from just £25/blog.

Here’s one I prepared earlier…

Well, I didn’t actually prepare them myself, and there’s more than one, but I’m sure you get my drift.  Here are a few of my favourites to get your creative juices flowing:

http://www.theskintfoodie.com

http://www.cocoandme.com

http://eatlikeagirl.com

http://www.goop.com (controversial I know but I have to confess I do quite like it)

 

Content-Marketing-Image-Credit-ADMA-Blog

Step 1

Write your content (or get someone to write it for you if you’re short on time or writing just isn’t your thing).  Make sure it’s written well, as poor copy can seriously damage your prospective customer’s perception of your brand. Which leads me seamlessly into a little plug.  If writing isn’t your forte, do think about outsourcing it.  Our team of experienced marketers can write killer copy for your brand for a lot less than you imagine.

 

Step 2

Make it great – your content that is.  By this I mean take care to ensure it is well written, engaging, informative and up-to-the-minute. The internet is awash with mediocre content and in order to win the attention and engagement of your target audience you need to do better. When it comes to content marketing, you need to bear in mind that you’re competing not just with brands with a similar offering to  yours but with everyone who is creating content that appeals to your target market.  I realise this can be make it  extremely daunting. Your content needs to be first rate….which leads me back to that plug!

 

Step 3

Vary the format of your content. A picture speaks a thousand words.  As does an infographic or a video. A well-chosen visual can enrich your content offering no-end. The key to success is to offer a well-rounded mix of different content themes and formats. Test these different content types and themes to see which work best for you.

 

Step 4

Create something new.  Or if that feels a bit too impossible in your field, at least make sure that your spin on the topic is fresh and adds value.

 

Step 5

Create a likeable and engaging voice for your brand. To be honest, getting this step right can often help you simultaneously conquer Step 4. It’s often not what you say, but how you say it that attracts followers, fans and other types of loyalty.

 

Step 6

Be consistent in providing frequent updates.  Once you commit to content marketing there’s no looking back.

 

Step 7

Create a content calendar.  No successful content marketing strategy is complete without an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar formalises your plan to regularly output quality content. This consistency is the key to SEO-friendly, effective content marketing. You want Google and your readers to anticipate your content – creating an editorial calendar, and adhering to it, means you never disappoint.

 

Step 8

Create viral-friendly content. Although I’m not convinced there is a bona-fide formula for creating viral content, there are definitely ways to improve your chances.

 

Step 9

Last but not least…Promote your content.  There is absolutely no point whatsoever in following all the previous steps to creating great content, if you don’t tell anyone about it. Social media is a great forum for this.  Social media and high quality content work hand in hand to increase engagement and drive traffic to your website, where you can then start to convert it into customers.

 

Step 10

Marvel at the increased engagement levels and sales that are the natural result of a successful content marketing strategy.  Not technically a step this one, but a ten-step guide feels much more aesthetically pleasing than a nine-step version…don’t you think?!

 

scandinavian-interior-design-showroom-in-stockholm-2012-2

The broad brush definition of Content Marketing is any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers. So the formats that immediately spring to mind are blog posts, website updates and email newsletters, right?

In my opinion, the essence of content marketing is far broader than this.  It’s a strategy, not a tactic, and should actually encompass every single communication that your company utters online, including job adverts, one-to-one emails and absolutely anything you write on social media sites and forums.

Content marketing is one of the best ways of engaging with audiences and potential customers online. It is useful for improving search rankings, increasing brand engagement, loyalty and visibility and for facilitating social sharing and interaction. If you are a consumer-facing company, it is imperative that you  are actively embracing content marketing.

People in-the-know have even gone as far as to say that content marketing is the new SEO.  A big claim, but one that makes sense.   Content is the undisputed king in 2013. High quality content targets relevant keywords, boosts social sharing and increases the number of indexed pages on your website, all of which aid your search ranking climb.

Significantly, the focus for content marketing is not on selling, but rather on communicating with customers and prospects.  So it’s really all about improving your communication strategy and making sure you are communicating with your target audience on the right platforms, with relevant information, using a tone of voice that endears you to them.

What I’ve said so far obviously applies to any consumer facing company. But if you’re a food or lifestyle company you’ve got a distinct edge on the content marketing front and I’ll tell you for why (Gavin & Stacey repeats on Gold, anyone?).

Chances are your product is way more aesthetically pleasing than the majority out there.  People love to drool over images of food or beautiful interiors.  There’s a reason TV is flooded with food porn (Masterchef, The Great British Bake Off, Nigella) and house porn (Grand Designs, anything with Sarah Beeney).

They (those in-the-know bods again) say a picture speaks a thousand words. So you are at a distinct advantage in having access to delicious images that your audience will want to see.  Of course, you don’t want to be just firing incessant pictures of your brand at them, but having this content in your locker gives you a natural foundation for your content marketing efforts.

So what are you waiting for?  If you’re not quite sure where or how to start then either give us a call or pop back next week when my blog will give you a step-by-step guide to Content Marketing.

I think it was my dear, old Gran that first imparted that pearl of wisdom – presumably in response to my child-self’s failure to deliver an unprompted ‘Thank You’.

It is true. Manners do cost nothing and yet they are so important.  Now, I’m not talking about inherited rules like not putting your elbows on the table when eating, or doffing your cap to a person of importance. The contrived etiquette of Victorian times is no indicator of a well-mannered modern person.  No, what I’m talking about is common courtesy.

You’re probably wondering why I’m harping on about manners, in this company blog.  Well, Rumblechatters, I’ll tell you why. Common courtesy is the cornerstone of professionalism in business.  It’s as simple as that.  Behaving in a professional manner whilst at work is akin to having good manners at home.  Being considered a decent person depends on maintaining certain behavioural standards. So does running a professional business.

When you work for big corporations a defined level of professionalism is mandatory.  You can’t get your foot in the door without it.  There is very little room for bad manners in the world of the blue-chip.  Why would there be?  Successful corporations can choose from the cream of the crop.  And the cream tend to be exceedingly well mannered.

It came as quite a shock to me that these rules don’t always extend to the world of SMEs.  My role here at RumbleChat is to help food and lifestyle businesses with their marketing.  The majority of these businesses tend to be small. The vast majority of small businesses I encounter operate in a lovely, friendly, considerate and professional manner – I cannot emphasise this enough.  They are a joy to work with and making a positive difference to their businesses makes every working day worthwhile.

There are however, a small minority, who really let the side down.  And it’s to this small, dysfunctional subset that I dedicate the following rant. You know who you are! And I’m here to tell you there is no need to behave badly in business. While you may like to think you’re a maverick entrepreneur, to the rest of the world you’re just plain rude. If you’re in any doubt as to which category you fit into, check out my list of popular offences:

  • Failing to turn up to meetings…that you requested…without providing any forewarning or excuse…just literally not turning up.  How hard is it to send a text or an email?  Our digital age provides the perfect armoury for cowards – you don’t even have to have an actual conversation. Just whack out an electronic correspondence of some sort
  • Sending emails or texts when only a conversation will do.  Now I know it sounds like I’m contradicting my previous point but I’m not, really.  There are still occasions when only an actual conversation, face-to-face or on the phone, will suffice – like making an employee redundant or terminating a contract. Running a business necessitates some tricky conversations. So man up and deal with it.
  • Failing to pay for services.  If you are receiving a service from another company, you need to pay for it.  End of.
  • Obtaining services under false pretences.  By this I mean, courting agencies to pitch for a project that will never happen…just so that you can steal their ideas and use them yourself.  Bad form.
  • Disappearing off the face of the earth…in communication terms at least.  So rude and unnecessary – refer to my first point

Now none of this is the rocket science of the manners world.  It’s not hard to do.  Anyone can behave in a decent, professional way if they choose to.

In the world of big business there is a warning adage about being careful who you upset on the way up….as they’ll undoubtedly be gunning for you, from their ivory tower, as you make your inevitable descent.  This concept of commercial karma is equally relevant in SME-land.  So for the vast majority of you who ‘do unto others as you would have others do unto you’ as Matthew requested (7:12…impressed?), give yourself a pat on the back and know that commercial karma will be yours.  For those of you who wheel, deal and steal – beware, and take heed of another of my Gran’s pearls: ‘What goes around, comes around’

So RumbleChatters, what’s your most unprofessional business experience? No names please, but give me those gripes!

Today I’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and shine the spotlight on a real bugbear of mine – badly written websites.

Having spent many years toiling as a marketer for large corporates, I am well versed in the high standards a large budget can dictate.  When I started consulting for small businesses a few years ago, I was regularly disappointed to find that they often set the standard bar disappointingly low.

On reflection it was easy to see why.  When money is no object, you can either a) employ the best or b) outsource to the best.  Small owner-operators do not have this luxury. They are often forced to be  ‘Jacks-of-all-trades’.  Whilst I won’t go as far as to say this necessarily results in ‘master-of-none’ status, I am afraid it does often reveal glaring weaknesses that can have a profoundly negative effect on commercial results.

These days everyone thinks they can ‘do’ marketing.  To a certain extent they are right – the world of digital marketing is much more accessible than its traditional predecessor, but being able to go through the motions is not the same as being good at it. I believe the tide will turn; lots of companies are realising that they are not getting the ROI that they desire, and maybe there is value in investing in expert support after all.

But if you are intent on doing it yourself, please ensure that you’re getting the fundamentals right. One of the first areas to examine is your company website.  After all, it should be the desired destination for most of your digital efforts and often represents a prospect’s first significant interaction with your brand. There are some great off-the-shelf website packages available these days, that enable you to create a fresh, modern-looking site, with minimal design investment. Select your template, add your logo, insert a few photos and hey presto, you have a great looking site.

Where lots of small businesses fall down though, is the written content. Some of the startups I see have great ideas, a visually pleasing and well-functioning site, but it just falls apart with the copy. The words are clunky, with grammatical errors and a turn of phrase as grating as fingers across a blackboard.

Writing has become like driving.  Everyone thinks they are good at it. Most people can do it, to a certain extent, but not everyone can do it really well.  Inexcusable apostrophe disasters aside, common content errors include copy that is monotonous and dreary, or verbose and flowery, or simply clunky and jarring. All of these contribute to a negative visitor experience.

Time and time again I’ve seen this with small businesses and the problem is, once you’ve got your website and you’re happy with it, it’s hard for anyone else to tell you it is badly written. Are you really qualified to judge whether your copy cuts the mustard?

“I could sharpen your website copy for you” is a line I’ve used often with clients where we are delivering significant increases in traffic to their websites via social media marketing, but the conversion rate remains depressingly low.

As a small business owner, it’s extremely hard to be objective about your pride and joy. But you need to take the emotion out of it.  A badly written website will hamper your commercial prospects.  Personally, if I log on to a website with grammatical errors and tedious copy, I tend to traverse elsewhere.  For if said business owner can’t be bothered to invest in getting their content just-so, how can I really have confidence in their attention to my overall customer experience?

Freelance copywriters do not charge the earth.  Sure, if you go to a massive agency, they’ll mark up their offering astronomically (you can bet the writer will get a mere fraction of that), but if you hunt around you will find some talented scribes, who will take pleasure in penning you some killer copy for a modest sum.  Check out our competitive copywriting rates here – I can guarantee they’ll be less than you think.

One of the reasons big businesses are so successful is that they continually optimise performance by matching individual’s key skills with business requirements.  There are many business areas where the small operator can get by with a fairly meagre modicum of talent.  Writing isn’t one of those areas though, so if you’re not a natural scribe, please call in the professionals.

 

 

Back in the day, Word of Mouth Marketing was the rarely achieved panacea, the elusive holy grail of the broadcast marketer.

These days it’s become our bread and butter.  Word of Mouth Marketing (or WOMM for short) is the cornerstone of brand success in our digital age. And from the girded loins of WOMM has sprung the latest favoured child, Social Commerce.

With modern consumers imbibing WOMM as an essential part of their decision making processes,  Social Commerce has become the key to future success.

In 2010 Mark Zuckerberg said “If I had to guess, social commerce is next to blow up”.  He wasn’t wrong.  With 74% of consumers now relying on social networks to inform their purchasing decisions, no modern day brand can afford to ignore this latest concept.

Social commerce is defined as a subset of electronic commerce that involves using social media, online media that supports social interaction, and user contributions to assist in the online buying and selling of products and services. In a nutshell, selling within social networks.

Social Commerce allows brands to sell where consumers spend their time.  To capitalise on this you need to make sure you’re there, at the coal face, engaging with your consumers, gaining insight and generally being a likeable, trustworthy all-round good guy.

While Social Commerce is very much in its infancy, with big online brands such as Amazon, American Apparel and Cafepress still at the toe-dipping stage of engagement, it is undoubtedly the shape of things to come. So if you haven’t already, you need to start thinking about it.

How to prepare? In short you’ve got to have a brand that wins on social media – see my previous blog for details of how to do just this.

Now as a marketer, I’d never advise you to put all your eggs in one basket. An integrated strategy is always the way to go.  No one channel can ever deliver business success in isolation. And there’s always a place for the old-school skills. If you’ve got sufficient budget, clever advertising is still a great way to achieve brand awareness, and get you on the radar of your target audience. When it comes to the transactional crunch, though, it’s WOMM that increases your conversion rates and closes deals. And with Social Commerce enabling brands to hold transaction-inspiring conversations quite literally at the point of purchase, you’d be a fool to ignore it.

The high street is dead (boo), long live SC

bacon flavoured coffee

Granted, I’m probably not in the most gastronomically objective of moods, given that at 1am today I was rounding off the evening (a quiet night in with a friend, don’t you know?) with a large tumbler of elderflower liqueur. It was one of those ideas that seemed great at the time, but now in the cold light of day, with pounding head and churning tum, was clearly a huge mistake. Not remotely big or clever…especially on a school night.

But even without a hangover, bacon flavoured coffee just seems wrong. I’m all for pushing the boundaries of flavour combinations in pursuit of the next taste sensation (well, maybe not today), but there is a line.  And that has crossed it. Created by gourmet coffee company Boca Java, they claim their Maple Bacon Morning blend is  ‘reminiscent of a hearty Saturday morning breakfast’. Even for a brand whose tagline is ‘redefining the perfect cup’ this has surely got to be a massive stretch?

I mean, I’m all for the nuances bestowed by different coffee blends – spicy, fruity, full-bodied, rich, smooth etc, but to my mind coffee should taste like coffee…and definitely not like bacon.

Now some flavour combinations, that seem plain weird at first, just work. Peanut butter and jelly (sorry, jam), chilli and chocolate are a couple that spring to mind. Discovering new taste sensations is all in a day’s work for the scientists at Foodpairing. They are slaving away to discover new ways to pair old ingredients.  Using a scientific flavour analysis, they pair together foods that share major flavour components, in ways that we couldn’t even dream of.

According to their findings, surprising yet winning combinations include: Heinz Tomato Ketchup and banana, dark chocolate and parmesan and French cheese and almond cookies.  What say you Rumblechatters? Do any of those tickle your fancy, or even your tastebuds?

I’m not keen on the first pairing, but on a better day I could see the appeal of the latter two. For now though, I just need a strong coffee-flavoured coffee…and maybe a little lie down.