What are the biggest video marketing trends of 2016?


Video marketing certainly isn’t new, but the growing need for visual content across distribution channels has turned it into one of the biggest trends of 2016.

Hyperfine media has created a useful infographic highlighting the individual trends within video marketing, and here is my analysis of each of them.

Branded video content

It is predicted that video will account for 69% of all internet traffic by 2017. For brands, video content is a powerful way to:

  • introduce themselves
  • spread their message
  • promote a product
  • increase their reach
  • boost engagement
  • explain their service

Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat are the most popular social platforms for video content, and brands can benefit from each of them, depending on their target audience, their goals and their strategy.


Native Facebook videos are favoured in Newsfeeds, and it’s no surprise that there has been an 3.6x increase in video content between 2014 and 2015. Brands are exploring how useful videos can be in their Facebook marketing strategy and Buzzfeed’s Tasty channel is the best example to showcase the power of video content.

Tasty started as a standalone Facebook page with short videos featuring easy recipes and it now counts 65 million likes, while it has also spread to more specific pages, adding an even wider audience to Buzzfeed’s reach.

Moreover, Facebook introduced 360 video, which opens the path to further opportunities of appealing video content. National Geographic was among the pages to try it out.


YouTube counts more than a billion users and has seen its average viewing session rise to 40 minutes, which is 50% more from 2014.

Jamie Oliver’s FoodTube is among the most successful YouTube channels with its use of storytelling, counting 2 million subscribers who eagerly await every new video.

food tube 1


Snapchat currently counts 10 billion views daily from dedicated users who catch up with the latest creative (and ephemeral) content.

Many brands have already started experimenting with Snapchat’s unique appeal and vertical video seems to be effective on its own, as it leads to a more engaging experience.


Landing page videos and product videos

Many ecommerce pages have discovered how effective video can be, either in a landing page, or in the promotion of a product.

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 13.44.14

It has been observed that video can increase conversions up to 80%, while 88% of visitors will stay longer on a site that showcases the right video.

Video content can be found in the “About Us” section of a page, as a way to introduce the company to customers, which has proven to be very successful for Zappos and its famous company culture.

zappos video

What’s more, many ecommerce sites feature videos in the product pages, in order to allow customers to get a complete idea of the product, as ASOS does with the catwalk for its clothing.

This leads to an improved trust and confidence among customers who feel that a video is a more realistic representation of the actual product.

asos product video

Use of GIFs on social channels

GIFs are very useful in a content marketing strategy and they’re handy for sharing shorter versions or teasers of longer-form video content.

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 13.44.21

GIFs have been used by brands mostly on social media and email marketing and they can form part of a brand’s promotion, customer service or even the company culture.

Many brands have included GIFs as reactions when dealing with customers on Twitter, while Tumblr may be the ideal medium for a brand to become creative and Disney certainly knows how to use its content, which makes it the most popular brand on the platform.

gif disney

Storytelling via live streaming

Live video is a very interesting video trend that no brand can ignore and Facebook’s decision to join the game of live streaming made it more competitive.

It has been observed that people spend 3x more time watching Facebook Live videos compared to ‘normal’ videos.

Snapchat has also focused on live streaming, curating the best videos into relevant stories, giving everyone an insight of the world at any moment. Discover may be popular, but Live Stories also attract 10 to 20 million viewers every day, which proves the opportunities they may offer to branded content.

Periscope is another interesting platform to explore live streaming and it has already established its presence in storytelling, as more and more users (and brands) take advantage of its broadcasting services.

There is an estimated 15% of brands using Periscope, while its recent announcement of replay highlights and tweet embeds create more opportunities for branded content, whether it’s a sneak peak, live coverage of an event, or a press conference.

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 13.44.37

Videos in email marketing

The use of video content in email marketing has proven to be very effective, leading to a 50% increase in CTR, but also a 35% increase in customer loyalty.

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 13.45.08

It’s even more interesting that recipients prefer seeing the word ‘video’ in subject lines, which leads to an increased open rate of 19%.

A brand may use video content in an email for:

  • promotion of a product
  • brand awareness
  • explanatory content (“how to”)
  • customers’ testimonials
  • detailed view of the product

Training courses seem to make the most effective types of video content, with product demos being the second most effective choice, while brand image messages do not seem to be very effective, at least not in the way some brands want them to be.

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 13.45.13

This article was originally published in longer form on our sister website ClickZ.

26 best expert-recommended free SEO tools

Search Console Search Analytics

SEO at its most technical level is all about the minutiae. The small, precise details that no-one else may notice, but can make the world of difference to your website’s place on the SERPs.

When your hours of tireless fiddling, reiterating and testing pay off with an improved ranking, it can be a genuinely exhilarating feeling. Especially when it results in direct traffic or revenue growth.

However, that doesn’t stop the work from being tireless, thankless or, at times, a bit boring.

Everyone needs a helping hand, and as an SEO you luckily have a wealth of tools at your disposal to help with your day-to-day maintenance and to speed up the research that goes towards keeping your site healthy.

To help you further – and to save you some money – here’s a list of the very best free SEO tools available, which has been compiled from recommendations given to us from our audience of SEO experts on Twitter, as well as priceless individual contributions from SEO consultant and friend of SEW, Dawn Anderson from Move it Marketing.

Caveats: all of the below tools have been recommended by third-party individuals, they are not officially endorsed by SEW. Some tools will carry out the same functions as others. Please do your own individual research before signing-up for or downloading the following products…

General site health

1) Search Console

Before anything else, make sure you’re signed up to Google Search Console.

Here’s where Google will communicate any issues with your site, and it’s also where you can monitor its performance, submit content for crawling, view the search queries that brought visitors to your site, monitor backlinks… there’s so much useful stuff here, you’d be crazy not to spend some time here every week.

2) SEO Site checkup

@sewatch https://t.co/GhIeTUrIn7 great stuff available for free

— Liam Lally, Zaddle (@ZaddleMarketing) July 28, 2016

Keyword research

3) Google Keyword Planner

Despite it becoming slightly less accurate than it used to be, Google’s own Keyword Planner is still indispensable for all SEOs.

google keyword planner

4) Keyword Tool

Keyword Tool is an alternative to Google Keyword Planner, the free version allows you to generates up to 750+ long-tail keyword suggestions for every search term.

keyword tool

4) Keyword Shitter

@sewatch Hate the name but love the tool – Keyword Shitter (cringes) – https://t.co/E7DYIepTjD

— Dawn Anderson (@dawnieando) July 28, 2016

5) RankBrain.me

@sewatch free long tail keyword tool using Google autocomplete https://t.co/DRQwkrmX9N

— Martin Albrechtsen (@Martinpalb) July 28, 2016

6) WordStream Free Keyword Tool

Our guest contributor Larry Kim’s very own keyword research tool comes highly recommended by an anonymous source.


Structured markup generators

7) Open Graph Generator

Web Code Tools’ Open Graph Generator is simply designed and easy to use.

Open Graph Generator

8) Schema Creator

Schema Creator helps you create markup according to the range of Schema options from person to event to movie and beyond.

schema creator

9) Webmasters Markup Helper

And let’s not forget Google’s own Webmaster Markup Helper.

structured data markup helper

10) JSON-LD Generator

Joe Hall’s tool will help you quickly generate the correct JSON-LD for any page on your site.

joe hall tool

Crawling tools

11) Screaming Frog – Spider Tool

The Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider was perhaps our most prolifically recommended tool.

@sewatch Screaming Frog! Great analytics, provides very useful insight and very simple to use!

— Matt Churchill (@geetarchurchy) July 28, 2016

12) Crawler FX

From WebPage FX comes this tool that crawls your site based on a key phrase and send you a detailed report via email.

crawl fx

Sitemap generators

13) Audit My PC’s Sitemap Generator

This free sitemap generator not only allows you to build a sitemap discoverable to all search engines, but it also promises tools that “help discover problems that may be preventing your site from ranking well on search results.”

14) Online XML Sitemap Generator

With this tool, you can generate a sitemap.xml for free and it will report on broken links at no extra charge.

15) Free Sitemap Generator

Here you can create free HTML, RSS and Google XML Sitemaps for Windows, WordPress and Online. Compatible with Google, Bing, Baidu and Yandex.

Web Scrapers

16) Web Scraper – Chrome Extension

With this free extension you can create a plan as to how your website should be traversed and what should be extracted. Scraped data later can be exported as CSV.

web scraper

17) Data Scraping

DataScraping.co is a cloud hosted scraping “solution” that offers 1,000 free pages per month.

data scraping
18) Outwit

Billed as a web collection engine, Outwit breaks down webpages into their different constituents, then extracts informational elements and organizes them into usable collections.

Log analysis

19) Splunk Light

Splunk is a piece of software to allows you to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine data. The Light version is cloud based, allows up to five users, processes up to 20GB of data per day and offers real-time search, analysis.

20) Loggly Lite

Loggly is a cloud-based log management and analytics service, the free version of which allows 200MB of data per day.

loggly lite

Prospect analysis

21) Crystal

Crystal is a personality predictor that analyzes public data to detect your ‘DISC Personality Type” without a test. This can help personalize your communications for other people, so you can speak and write with their preferred communication style.

Redirect checker

22) Ayima Redirect Path – Extension

Ayima’s HTTP header and redirect checker was also very popular amongst our followers.

@sewatch Ayima is a redirect & HTTP header checker Chrome extension I use a lot. Also, I probably use way back machine every single week.

— Tylor Hermanson (@MyNameIsTylor) July 28, 2016

Search view emulator

23) Lynx Browser

@sewatch Lynx Browser – Search View Emulator – Multiple views – https://t.co/oo1oQq57in

— Dawn Anderson (@dawnieando) July 28, 2016

Duplicate content

24) Siteliner

Siteliner is an easy to use duplicate content and broken link checker.

@sewatch Free Proranktracker accounts are great, as is Siteliner for identifying dupe content & analysing content length across a site #seo

— Innermedia (@Innermedia) July 28, 2016

25) Copyscape

Track down stolen or scraped content from your site around the web with Copyscape.


And perhaps most importantly of all…

26) Google’s Mobile Friendly and Speed Test Tool

People are five times more likely to leave your site if it isn’t mobile friendly, so run your site through Google’s site speed and mobile test tool.

google mobile test

How to increase customer engagement with mobile wallets

One method of connecting with users on mobile, which most brands likely wouldn’t consider, is by using mobile wallets.

Mobile wallets, despite being native to both iOS and Android, are still on their way up to becoming a mainstream payment method.

New research commissioned by Urban Airship suggests that not only is usage of mobile wallets becoming more widespread, but that the ‘non-payment’ functions of wallets may give brands an unprecedented opportunity to reach out to consumers through their smartphones – without the need for a mobile app.

A growing trend

In the above study of 2,000 smartphone owners from the US and the UK, more than half of the respondents surveyed (54%) had already used a mobile wallet in one form or another.

Mobile wallet uptake was particularly high among younger users, and those with above median household incomes (over $60,000 a year).

It also found that mobile wallets could potentially boost participation in loyalty card programmes. 69% of respondents said they would be more likely to use a loyalty card if it was on their phone.

The two biggest problems cited with loyalty card programmes – consumers forgetting the card (43%) and forgetting they are members (40%) – could both be solved quite easily through using mobile wallets.

Responses also indicated that consumers would be happy to be contacted about sales and other offers via their mobile wallets. Mobile wallets ranked in the top four ways that consumers want to be kept informed about sales, regardless of generation.

Among UK respondents aged 18-34, mobile wallet was the second-most preferred channel to receive information about sales and coupons, ahead of websites and apps.

Coupon expiration reminders could also be sent directly from the wallet pass to mobile lockscreens, which would make 64% of respondents more likely to use the coupon (77% among the 18-34 age group).

These can be combined with location tracking to send a reminder about coupons expiring when customers are in the vicinity of a physical store, helping to drive foot traffic as well as encouraging coupon redemption.

Urban Airship’s study also posited that mobile wallet usage across a range of areas could drive the future of mobile payments. “Already 55% of respondents are likely to use their phone to pay for things at the register. That likelihood rises to 73% when loyalty discounts and offers are automatically applied — a whopping 32% increase.

“These numbers are even more dramatic for households with lower incomes, who are 42% more likely to pay via mobile phone when loyalty discounts and offers are automatically applied.”

Mobile wallets beyond payments

Urban Airship believes that businesses need to seize the opportunity presented by expanding mobile wallet usage to communicate with customers in new ways.

It points out that mobile wallet “provides another persistent messaging channel on the smartphone”, allowing companies to increase engagement on mobile without the need for a dedicated app.

When it comes to investing in the mobile web versus a mobile app, there are benefits for companies on both sides. Companies who provide a service with a regular login, such as social networks and some ecommerce sites, would find an app worthwhile; for others, a responsive mobile site is cheaper and just as functional.

But mobile wallets could be a way for those companies to enjoy the best of both worlds, delivering offers and loyalty updates to consumers without the need to build an app.

A cartoon graphic of a person using a smartphone, with little square icons issuing diagonally from it: a musical note, a globe, a car, a speech bubble, a shopping cart and an information 'i'.Image by ijimaki, available via CC0

One intriguing example of a brand using mobile wallets to communicate with consumers in innovative ways comes from the New York Times, who chose mobile wallet as the channel to promote the new series of their podcast, ‘Modern Love: The Podcast’.

Listeners could download a pass to their mobile wallets which would take them to the podcast on iTunes in a couple of quick taps. The pass would then update every week with new episode details and other information. The podcast team could also use it to send reminders to their listeners’ device home screens, sharing the week’s special guest and accompanying links.

The mobile pass had a 96% retention rate, according to Urban Airship, and provided the New York Times and WBUR an ongoing channel to continually engage their listeners.

A photograph of a finger tapping at a smartphone touchscreen showing the New York Times Modern Love podcast. Above the phone hovers a window with an 'automatic updates' slider and links to additional content on iTunes and Soundcloud.Photograph: Urban Airship

Other novel ways for brands to use mobile wallets that go beyond payments include providing an easy way for customers to access their order details when collecting a purchase in-store, and using beacons to send a reminder about collection when they near a physical store.

Mobile wallets arguably still have some way to go before they become as widely accepted as something like contactless payments, but the potential is there for the more ‘flexible’, innovative uses to drive widespread adoption, particularly among brands who are looking for an alternative to a dedicated app but still want to reach consumers on mobile.

If digital loyalty cards, coupons, in-store collection notifications and other non-payment uses can get customers using their wallets on a regular basis, it might be the push that mobile wallet needs to become an everyday payment – and marketing – platform.

This article was originally published on our sister site ClickZ.com.

Nine quick fixes to improve your stagnant SEO

asos homepage

You’re no SEO beginner. You’ve sorted your technical SEO. Your site is being crawled regularly and Google is quick to index new pages on your site. You’ve got a solid keyword strategy and you’ve implemented all your main terms across site.

You’re in your site’s Search Console daily, and you catch Rand’s Whiteboard Fridays every week.

But yet… you haven’t seen much organic growth in months.

Maybe its because your developers have a backlog of issues and can’t get the next SEO fix in before other critical issues? Or maybe its because you don’t have the budget for your next link building campaign?

Before you lose hope try these nine low-cost, easy to implement SEO tactics to move the needle immediately.

1) Build internal links

Probably the easiest and most overlooked tactic to boost a page’s rankings is to build internal links to it.

Traditionally external links have been thought of as the bread and butter of SEO, internal links are another way of demonstrating your pages’ authority through prominence within your internal linking structure.

Think of it like this; if you aren’t confident enough in your own content to link to it, why should Google?

The simplest way to do this is to identify your pages with the most external links (you can do this by going into Majestic’s Top Pages report) to find this then strategically build links to underperforming pages. There’s a tonne of ways you can do this.

ASOS utilises child linking from parent categories to direct authority to weaker pages:

Argos utilise a couple of tactics here, with related products, related searches and optimised text all used in their category pages:

argos category pages

My number one internal linking tactic however is main navigation links. Your homepage is your strongest page, and a link from your strongest page is going to give the biggest boost.

Any pages which target big terms that aren’t in the main navigation are missing out on a massive opportunity.

Google also gives prominence to pages higher on the page, so the first link in your navigation should be your biggest page. Also, avoid an additional homepage link in the navigation. This is wasted real estate as the link juice will just be funnelling back into itself.

It’s important to understand that, if you don’t have a large amount of great content on your site, or a great deal of authority, this strategy will need to be toned down. Building too many internal links will spread your authority too thin, and you won’t get the returns this activity should bring.

2) Improve your on-page content

More content gives you more opportunity to target long-tail keywords; it really is that simple. Think about it though, content also gives you an opportunity to show Google you are a more relevant and authoritative site than your competitors, so why not take it?

Every single page on your website should have about 300 words of unique content on it. Go through your priority pages and compare it to your competitors…

What are they doing better than you? Is there more unique content on their page? Do they include images or videos where you don’t? Are you using generic descriptions whereas theirs are uniquely tailored? Which page is offering genuinely valuable information, and which is made up of fluff?

One stipulation here is to make sure you’re working in your keyword into the content as there is no point mindlessly creating additional content for no reason. The ctrl+f shortcut should be worn out after this step. Keep searching for instances of your keyword in the copy and add a use or two into pages where it doesn’t feature.

A great example of excellent category content is Myprotein.com. They’ve got an expandable section of well optimised content above the fold.

Here it is before:

myprotein homepage

And here it is after you hit the read more toggle:

myprotein about me page

Paperchase also do this well, with a section of content in the banner which becomes visible on hover.

Here is the before:

paperchase homepage

Here is the visible text on hover:

paperchase visible hover text

You should look to analyse everything your competitors are doing well, and then improve on it. Don’t give Google an excuse to rank them above you – quality on page content is much easier to create than site authority.

You may not have the resources to build hundreds of links a month, but you shouldn’t have any excuses for being outgunned on page.

3) Optimise meta titles/descriptions for clicks

This tactic can be crazy effective, boosting your CTR by 20% within minutes, and just with a few small changes.

Given what we know about the hummingbird algorithm, its no longer necessary to include every variation of a keyword in our meta descriptions any more. Instead that space can be used to entice clicks. I mean, which would you rather click on:

currys meta description

Whilst John Lewis looks to call out every variation of the term possible, Curry’s uses the space to distinguish themselves from the rest of the results, in this instance by highlighting their low price.

There are loads of different ways you can amend your title tag to improve your click through rate. You may wish to call out your low price or the speed at which you deliver – it might even be your brand values (like locally sourced produce or independent ownership).

Get creative and set yourself apart from your competitors; it will help to get familiar with the results page of your biggest search terms, but it might come down to something as similar as choosing a short title when all your competitors are using long, often-truncated page titles.

4) Refocus underperforming pages

You might’ve been pushing for one particular term for what seems like forever without getting any traction. Everyone’s been there. Perhaps you didn’t realize how competitive the term was before you started. Perhaps you can’t build authority as fast as your competitors.

As with all my points, Googling the term will provide valuable insight.

Are you up against big, authoritative domains? Are the results predominantly informational, when your trying to rank a commercial page?

Whilst it may be all well and good targeting the big volume search terms, if your going up against sites with far greater authority it might be a better strategy to back off in the short term, and go for less competitive terms.

Below we can see the improvement in both position and clicks from changing the on page content for one of our clients:

position improvement

If your page has managed to build up a decent amount of authority, it might be best to switch its focus.

A great example for most ecommerce sites is your all products page. Sure it is great for the user, but no one searches that. Target a generic term around your niche and see that page’s rankings improve. If this change in approach still doesn’t get your rankings going in the right direction, change it up again! Assess, adjust, iterate.

5) Quick link building – brand mentions

Link building doesn’t have to involve labour intensive, lengthy campaigns. You don’t even need content to build a few quick links with these three tactics.

Convert Brand Mentions to links by setting up a Google Alert for your brand terms. For every mention you get, contact the webmaster and ask them for a link instead. If you want to be super sneaky you could even set up an alert for your competitors and try to steal their mentions too!

brand name alerts

6) Quick link building – just ask

Another great quick link building tactic – just ask.

Search keywords relevant to your site and find resource pages which link to content related to your keyword. Once you’ve got an extensive list, ask them all for a link – it really is that simple! Use advanced search modifiers to identify opportunities in minutes.

For example: search for fitness intitle:resources to quickly find some linking opportunities to your workout blog.

advanced search

7) Quick link building – link reclamation

The final quick link building tactic is a bit trickier but you’ll convert more of those outreach emails due as it helps both parties.

Link reclamation involves contacting website owners who have a broken link on their site and recommending your target site as a replacement.

To begin with, you have to find the dead pages. By this point you’ll already have an extensive list of resource pages related to your keywords. From there you can extract all the links on the page to find missing pages from the list.

An alternative approach is to work backwards by finding an authoritative site from your niche and analysing their backlink profile for resource pages.

This method works best if you can find a large, non-commercial website to analyse as they will have little incentive to acquire links so chances are their profile will have some good, natural opportunities to outreach to.

Get creative! If a site in your niche shuts down, their link profile will be a goldmine of broken links just waiting for you to come in and reclaim as your own.

I’d strongly recommend the chrome extension Check My Links to quickly identify broken links on a pages:

check my links

One caveat with the above three steps; make sure these links are from good quality sites. Using the majestic chrome extension to quickly analyse a page’s authority. This is a vital step as building bad links will do much more harm than good.

8) Manage 404 errors

Imagine your site and its authority as a bucket filled with water. Every time you remove a page from the site but keep internal links pointing at it, you are piercing a hole in the bucket and the water is spilling out.

Further still, some pages may have been removed which had acquired their own backlinks, thus exacerbating the above problem as you are removing a source not just a receptacle.

This is exactly what is happening when you remove a page from the site, and is the reason why every SEO should own page removal on their site!

There are a number of ways to identify 404 pages and I would recommend doing them all.

First do a Screaming Frog crawl of your site and pull out all the 404 errors. Next go into Google Analytics’ All Pages report and filter by Page Title: Page Not Found to see 404 pages your users have landed on.

You can then go into the Google Search Console Crawl Errors report and pull out all the Not Found errors Google has encountered on site.

not found errors

My final tactic would be to go into the All Pages report in Google Analytics again, this time going back and pulling all the URLs it has in the past two years, you then upload this list of URLs into Screaming Frog’s List Mode crawl and see just how many of these pages have been removed without redirection.

You should now have a pretty hefty list of 404 errors which you can now run through your preferred backlink tool to see if these pages have backlinks pointing towards them. Any pages which do will need to be 301 redirected to their most relevant category page.

9) Fix redirect issues

Incorrectly setting up redirects will lose you link juice just like 404 pages. The main issue I see is implementing 302 redirects instead of 301 redirects. This signals to Google that the page has been temporarily moved to the destination URL, meaning link juice is not transferred.

Alternatively redirect chains (redirects that pass through multiple steps before they arrive at the page) slow down page speed and are poor for user experience. More worryingly for us, as it is estimated that 301 redirects only pass about 95% of all link juice, each successive step will unnecessarily lose juice.

Finding redirect chains is much the same as the previous point.

Do a screaming frog crawl first, but this time pull out all the 302 and 301 redirects. Then get your old URLs from Google Analytics and run them through screaming frog again and do the same.

Finally export the redirect chains report for both of these crawls and consolidate your report. You should now have a list of 302 redirects and redirect chains.

Make sure the original URL and each successive step is 301 redirected into the destination URL, not just the first to the last, and change your 302 redirects to 301s. That should be it!

To quickly identify what a redirect is doing, get the Ayima chrome extension to view whether it 301s, 302s or goes through a chain:

ayima tool

So now you’ve consolidated your sites link juice and its flowing to all your key pages, you’ve built a few easy links and you’ve increased your click through rate and if your boss asks you a difficult question on and underperforming category you’ve got an answer covered.

You’re no SEO beginner, you’re an SEO authority.

Tom Smith is a Search and Data Consultant at Zazzle Media.

What’s so great about digital marketing anyway?

ClickZLive_Goats screaming like humans_Google_600

Do you work in digital marketing and do you love it? Are you new to the industry and feeling overwhelmed by it? Either way, all this constant change means people in this industry are always learning and sharing their ideas.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the digital world is all around us. For those people still trying to fend off the ‘future’ by disengaging from the digital world, the tide is turning. It’s now getting harder and harder to do everyday things like pay a gas bill, book a holiday or apply for a job without some kind of digital presence.

In some parts of the world – like China – you can’t even get a taxi these days unless you are connected to the internet.

In the words of Bill Heslop: “You can’t stop progress.” That quote might be lost on anyone who is not Australian, but in the two years since I attended my first ClickZ Live event, the digital landscape has changed phenomenally and there are no signs it’s going to slow down anytime soon.

How digital marketing today goes beyond goats screaming like humans

Have you ever Googled “goats screaming like humans”? This was a key theme of the opening keynote at ClickZ Live Hong Kong in 2014. It was delivered by Jason Oke who at the time was the regional managing director, Asia-Pacific, Red Fuse Communications.

I haven’t forgotten this presentation because essentially, Oke was saying that if you were a brand like Coca-Cola, your marketing competition was no longer Pepsi.

Your biggest worry as a marketer was thinking about how to engage the distracted consumer from the endless hours of content around cats that do all sorts of strange things, dogs that know when they are in trouble, and goats screaming like humans.

Here’s one of many YouTube videos devoted to the goats. This one has had more then 30 million views.

And it didn’t stop with the goats. The viral nature of these videos prompted a range of further uploads of goats interspersed in the music videos of Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and Whitney Houston.

Yes, in 2014, these goats had digital marketers staying awake at night.

Oke’s message was short and blunt. In 2014, the party had moved online, and a brand could either attend the party, or remain unnoticed in the shadows.

What’s the marketing value of a contact lens that can measure glucose levels?

At that same conference, ClickZ Asia contributor Mandeep Grover talked about the revolutionary opportunities for marketers around wearable technologies and the Internet of Things.

He talked about the capabilities of some of these new technologies where, for example, a contact lens could measure the blood sugar levels of a person from their tears. Was he talking about the ‘future’? No. This was technology right here already, in the now.

ClickZ Live_Google contact lens_600

*Source: Google

This sort of technology, alongside other health initiatives like fit bits, is a boon for marketers in terms of the additional data they can collect from individual consumers. Imagine the kind of personalized policies a health insurer can now market to individual consumers, based on that data. Yes, big data has been a key theme for some time now, but now that the industry has got better at collecting, and refining it, what should marketers be doing with it?

David v Goliath – staying relevant through digital partnerships

Finding clever ways to use this data to engage with consumers on a very personal level is every marketer’s dream. And those doing it well are startups. They are small and agile and can constantly evolve to meet changing consumer needs and purchase behaviors. Which is why clever businesses are working hard to partner with them. A keynote case study at our Hong Kong event in 2015 looked at AIA’s accelerator programme in Hong Kong.

The insurance industry is one of several sectors at particular risk of losing relevancy to disruptive technologies.

Alyssa Tam, director, AIA Edge, AIA Group, said a key objective of the AIA accelerator programme was to be able to learn and understand what was happening outside.

“Because at the end of the day, we want to stay relevant. We are a very successful company, and we want to continue to be that for the years to come,” she said.

Using data and mobile to ‘power moments that matter’

Which brings us to 2016. What do screaming goats, micro-chipped contact lenses and big business partnering with startups have to do with all of this? Digital marketing is constantly evolving. It means people in the industry, new or old to it, are always learning, exchanging ideas and sharing the challenges that so much constant change brings about. In 2016, key trends have gone beyond mobile being a point of engagement for brands, but how to use the device to enhance consumer experiences – and how to deliver a service in an ‘always on’ world.

At ClickZ Live Hong Kong this year, Brian Wong, the 25-year-old founder and CEO of Kiip will be discussing just that – how the connected consumer is changing the face of advertising. His startup helps connect brands with consumers at their most receptive – being rewarded in a moment of achievement.

His app is a great example of the integration of mobile, data personalization, and the disruptive force of the startup community.

Wong is one of more than 50 chief marketing officers, industry specialists and digital marketers from some of Asia’s biggest names in the industry joining us ClickZ Live Hong Kong on August 3&4 at the Mira Hotel.

Video marketing, digital disruption and transformation, B2B and B2C marketing, ecommerce, omnichannel strategies, digital communications, brand strategy and programmatic buying are just some of the other key themes you’ll learn more about at our amazing event.

Hope to see you there.

For more information on ClickZ Live Hong Kong, to download the agenda or buy tickets, visit our event website here.

How to optimise your videos for better ranking on YouTube

youtube tags

With more than a billion users, and billions of daily video views, gaining user attention on YouTube may seem a daunting prospect.

However, the sheer size of the audience (a third of all web users) means that the rewards are there if you get it right.

In this post, I’ll look at some of the factors which determine YouTube video rankings, some tips to help improve visibility, and some of the factors behind how Google chooses to show videos in its search results pages.

On-site YouTube ranking factors

I’ve split this into visible and invisible factors, i.e. those that can be seen by general users and those used for internal purposes.

Thanks to PI Datametrics for their help in compiling these ranking factors.

Invisible ranking signals

  • Video file name. This is used when attempting to categorise the content, so be sure to label it using target keywords.
  • View density. We can all see how many views videos attract over time but view density matters to YouTube. If your video receives a lot of views in a short space of time, it’s more likely to be pushed up the rankings. This can be visible, but most brands don’t show this. John Lewis does, and here are the stats for the
  • Meta tags. YouTube’s spiders rely on tags to interpret a video’s content. This is thought to be a big factor in determining the positions a video is able to achieve in YouTube. When you upload a video to YouTube you can tag it with your keywords. 6-8 tags are thought to be the ideal amount. Look at the most popular/top tags on YouTube for your topics, and learn from them.
  • Watch time. YouTube used to use view counts and comment volumes as factors, but changed this to watch time in 2012 as the previous factors could be gamed relatively easily.
  • Flags / reports. These are negative factors which could harm your video’s visibility.

Visible ranking signals

  • Title. The maximum character limit is 100 characters. Use them well, place keywords towards the front of the title. As with a writing a good headline, titles need to be descriptive and compelling. The video should also deliver on the headline. If you over-promise, people won’t spend time with the video, share it etc.
  • Description. There are 5,000 characters to play with here, but only the first (roughly) 150 will be visible to people when they land on your page, so these have to work well. This is also an opportunity to add a link back to your site or target landing page.
  • YouTube subtitles, closed captions and transcripts. These make the videos accessible to a wider audience.
  • HD videos. HD quality videos are preferred to lower picture quality ones, though this does not mean that lower quality homemade videos don’t work at all.
  • In-video annotations/YouTube cards: Annotations allow you to add linkable text to a video; including notes, calls to action, and links to related video assets. This serves to build greater authority and encourages CTR, views and shares. YouTube developed ‘annotations’ in 2015 to include ‘Cards‘ which are better looking version of annotations. The big difference is they work better across screens, and especially on mobile.

YT cards

  • Thumbnails. Not a ranking factor, but a well-chosen thumbnail should help to improve click through rates and increase views. The ideal size = 640 x 360 pixels minimum, 16:9 aspect ratio.
  • Likes and dislikes. These provide an indication of the engagement around a video.YT thumbs
  • Comments. These provide a way for YouTube to gauge the authority and relevance of videos. Not as significant a factor as before, perhaps because the comments on many YouTube videos are likely to test your faith in humanity.
  • View counts. Again, not as influential a factor as in the past, but still an important indication of popularity.

YouTube channel factors

A distinct YouTube channel can help give brands (or anyone) a longer term and more effective YouTube presence. There are some useful tips on this from YouTube.

  • Focus on content. Content needs to match the brand and give customers a clear indication of what to expect from your channel.
  • Keep it simple. Branding should communicate the message behind your channels, so make sure videos, channel trailers etc align with this.
  • Make it discoverable. Your branding should help people to find your videos and channel. This means consistent titles, tagging, descriptions and themes.
  • Channel views. As with video views, the channel stats will contribute towards your rankings.
  • Vanity URLs. Not a ranking factor, but something that should help improve other ranking signals by making your channel more easily discoverable.For example, Sainsbury’s has https://www.youtube.com/user/Sainsburys. This helps to give the brand nice and neat results in Google:sainsburys youtube
  • Subscribes. If people have subscribed to your channel after watching your video, this indicates to YouTube as well as to Google that your video is authoritative.
  • Bookmarks. Another factor is the number of people who add your video to their ‘watch later” list.


  • Social shares. This is another factor which indicates the quality and engagement around your video.
  • Backlinks. Links back to your channel or embeds of your video carry weight, and are a further ranking factor.

Branding example: Sainsbury’s

Though John Lewis is better known for its Christmas ads, rival retailer Sainsbury’s manages to out-perform it in terms of YouTube visibility.

This detailed post from PI Datametrics explains in more detail, but Sainsbury’s is more consistent with branding, produces more content, and seems to work harder to optimise it.


Tips for improving YouTube performance

Learning from the ranking factors listed above will do a lot, but here’s a few more tips:

  • Promote videos through your own channels. Using your YouTube videos in emails, promoting on social sites, and embedding on your own website will all help to build momentum around your video content.eSpares is a great example of this. It creates videos around fixing DIY problems, posts them to its YouTube channel and uses them onsite by embedding them. This way it gets full value from its video content.
  • Create video content which addresses user needs. Think about the questions customers will have around your product and service. Do some keyword research to find out the relative popularity of these terms.This is what eSpares and others do, this helps them attract views from target audiences, and a side bonus is that videos will often appear in the SERPs.espares serps
  • Encourage comments. As comments contribute to your ranking, it’s a good idea to do as much as you can to encourage a discussion underneath your videos. This could be by creating content which is likely to attract comments, or simply by asking people to comment.
  • Use YouTube analytics. Data is your friend, so use it to see how your videos are performing, which are performing better than others, which attract most comments / likes etc.YT analytics

All this data can help you to learn from what does and doesn’t work, and to improve the effectiveness of your video content.

Google’s power of censorship: who controls the controllers of the internet?

toy robots

Imagine a world where Google has no secrets, where all search engines play fair, and where SEO doesn’t have to be synonymous with “page one.” Sound like a fairy tale?

The Internet is often cast as the great democratizer, and Google its noble gate-keeper. There’s no doubt that search engines help us easily navigate the web, but we have to remember that Google is a corporation, not a public service.

Our faith in its wisdom and guidance is based on little more than a carefully planned PR scheme. Behind that curtain, few of us really have any idea what’s going on. That kind of blind trust may be dangerous for content creators and consumers alike, both in terms of what we see and what we get.

In a recent column for U.S. News & World Report, artificial intelligence expert Dr. Robert Epstein detailed 10 different ways Google uses blacklists to censor the Internet. Some of them seem perfectly within reason – noble, even: banning weapons sales through its shopping service, for instance, or blocking payday loan sharks from AdWords.

Few are going to argue with these measures. In fact, it’s nice to see a little corporate responsibility every once in awhile.

At the same time, though, how can we know when and where to draw the line? At what point does “corporate responsibility” become a catch-all phrase for “Google does what Google wants”?

The point Epstein makes is that with virtually every case of good Samaritan censorship practiced by the “do no evil” company, similar tactics have been used to justify some pretty blatant power grabs or downright bullying.

When media sources in Spain began demanding that aggregators pay fees for content, for example, Google News simply pulled out of the country altogether, and Spanish-based digital news sources have taken a serious hit since.

Consider too, the case of E-Ventures Worldwide, an SEO service website that had all 365 pages of its site blacklisted from search engine results because Google deemed them “pure spam.”

True, these revelations are not shocking for people who deal in SEO. Our line of work more or less entails tracking and following every algorithm-scented footprint or bit of guano we can find that might lead us to the keys of Google’s ranking systems, even while we live in constant fear of punishment from its all-knowing servers.

It comes as no surprise that Google harbors a tremendous power to influence, say, the results of a certain upcoming political election, or even to sway public opinion on the latest Taylor Swift/Kanye West escapade. The question is – and it’s a contentious one – where does it all end?

At what point (and sooner or later, there must come a point) will the authorities and powers-that-be have to reign in Google’s master controls over internet content and searchability?

After all, the FCC’s net neutrality ruling last year made internet service practically a public utility – in regulation, if not in name. And after broadband service providers, no one has more influence and control over the flow of the web than Google does.

“If Google were just another mom-and-pop shop with a sign saying ‘we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone’, that would be one thing,” Epstein writes. “But as the golden gateway to all knowledge, Google has rapidly become an essential in people’s lives – nearly as essential as air or water. We don’t let public utilities make arbitrary and secretive decisions about denying people services; we shouldn’t let Google do so either.”

The day of reckoning for Google may come sooner than you might think.

Despite a long line of similar cases that have, without exception, ruled in Google’s favor – giving them free range to rank and rate content in whatever way they please – the E-Ventures case in Florida is actually making some headway.

Back in May, the federal judge on the case ruled that Google had “anti-competitive, economic” motives for blacklisting E-Ventures’ pages: the better SEO companies are at their jobs, after all, the less businesses need to pay for AdWords, which is how the search engine makes most of their revenue. It’s not, as Google argues, simply a matter of “free speech” anymore.

On a larger scale, the European Union is also trying to crack down on Google’s Internet monopoly.

Google claims 90% of the search engine market across the continent (compared to just 64% in the US), and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, the European Commission’s competition chief, Margrethe Vestager, says the company is unfairly using that leverage to promote its own advertising materials over that of the competition’s.

This is the third shot the EU has fired at Google in less than two years. Previously, Vestager & co. have filed antitrust complaints against the company over their search engine dominance and over the mandatory Google apps that come pre-loaded with every Android phone. “Google’s magnificent innovations don’t give it the right to deny competitors the chance to innovate,” Vestager says.

All three charges will likely come to a head before the summer’s through. So far, Google has, of course, denied any wrongdoing. But if the Commission succeeds in making a case, Google may have to pay as much as 10% of its revenue (i.e., in the neighborhood of $7 billion per annum) to the European Union to foster a more open, inclusive market.

google stat

It all begs the question: what would an SEO world look like where Google wasn’t necessarily the prime target of our efforts? Furthermore, what would happen to SEO analytics if Google’s criteria was for page rankings were completely transparent?

Experts have been saying for years that SEO strategies should be thinking outside the Google search box, but few other engines have been able to make so much as a dent in the web.

Bing, by comparison, is still only a tiny blip on the radar, with 14 billion indexed pages to Google’s 45 billion. The fastest-growing search engine on the scene is DuckDuckGo, a service that brags enhanced privacy and security.

While they manage to pull in 100 million visits every month, it’s still not much compared to Google’s 100 billion. Meanwhile, social media is trafficking more content than ever, and other search services like Yelp and Flickr have cornered markets where Google lags behind.

If the European Union has its way, more competing search engines might be able to increase their power, size, and scope – and forever change the internet landscape as we know it.

The bottom line: There is a world outside of Google. But will we know what to do with it once we’re there?

Eight most interesting search marketing news stories of the week


Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from around the world of search marketing and beyond.

This week we begin with a bounty of up-to-date search marketing stats, then we end with some bizarre Google searches and a quiz. A perfect Friday round-up I’d say. Maybe I can find a cat gif somewhere too. No promises though!

Google search spending growth has slowed to 22% as CPCs fall 9%

We have a bumper load of search marketing stats from Merkle this week, all of which plot the various search trends of Q2 2016.

The full report covers paid search, organic search, social media, display advertising, and comparison shopping engines, but for now here’s a handful of the most interesting revelations…

  • Advertiser spending on Google paid search grew 22% Y/Y in Q2 2016, a slight deceleration from 25% growth in Q1.
  • Click growth increased slightly to 34%, but CPCs fell 9%.
  • Spending growth for Google text ads slowed to 10% Y/Y as CPC growth for brand keywords fell from 10% in Q1 to 0% in Q2.
  • Google Shopping Ad spending growth rose to 43% as an influx of partner traffic bolstered total click volume.
  • Organic search visits fell 7% Y/Y in Q2, down from 11% Y/Y growth a year earlier, as organic listings face increased competition from paid search ads, particularly on mobile.
  • Mobile’s share of organic search visits rose to 46%, but that still lags behind the 53% of paid search clicks that mobile produces.

Social media ad spend up nearly 50% fuelled by mobile and dynamic product ads

Spend on social advertising has increased by 47% year-on-year (YoY) in Q2 2016, with social ads attracting a 21% higher cost-per-click (CPC) according to the latest global data from Kenshoo.

Growth continues to be driven by mobile, which accounts for 64% of spend, with retailers’ Dynamic Product Ads on Facebook and Instagram, as well as video, playing an increasing role in paid social.

Budgets directed to mobile search ads and Product Listing Ads (PLAs) climbed 63% and 71%, respectively, leading to a rise in overall search advertising spend of 10% YoY.

Paid search spend increased by 4% in Q2 2016

AdGooroo released its quarterly paid search report which examines all US Google desktop text ad activity on the top 50,000 keywords across 14 of Google’s industry categories in Q2 2016 vs. Q1.

Here are some of the findings:

  • Paid search spend increased by 4%
  • Total impressions and clicks dropped by 19% and 3%, respectively
  • The average cost per click increased by 8% quarter-over-quarter, while the average clickthrough rate increased by 18%
  • The number of advertisers decreased from Q1 to Q2 in all 14 categories, dropping by a total of 12%

Google brings programmatic to native ads

As Al Roberts reported this week, Google announced that DoubleClick publishers can make all or some of their web and app native ad inventory available through the service, and advertisers can purchase that inventory programmatically through DoubleClick Bid Manager.

Al goes on to report:

“DoubleClick native programmatic asks advertisers to supply creative components, such as headline and body text, and DoubleClick automatically formats the content for the publisher’s site and the device the viewer is using. The native ad units come in two flavors: a traditional banner slot and a responsive fluid ad slot.”

There are more than 200 publishers already signed up to offer programmatic native ads through DoubleClick.

Verizon acquires Yahoo’s operating business for $4.8 billion

As Sophia Loras reported this week, Verizon has agreed to acquire Yahoo’s operating business in a $4.8 billion cash deal, sealing the fate of one of the internet’s pioneers.

Under the deal Verizon will amalgamate Yahoo’s search, email, video, mobile, digital and advertising assets with it’s AOL entity. Verizon acquired AOL in a $4.4 billion deal last year to enhance its programmatic offerings.

Marissa Mayer, chief executive officer of Yahoo stated:

“As one of the largest wireless and cable companies in the world, Verizon opens the door to extensive distribution opportunities. With more than 100 million wireless customers, a shared view of the importance of mobile and video ad tech, a deep content focus through AOL, Verizon brings clear synergies to the table.”

Google AdWords unveils three new mobile ad innovations

According to a Google blog post, three new mobile ad features will begin rolling out in AdWords to all advertisers this week.

Expanded text ads

These are optimized for the screen sizes of the most popular smartphones and feature two headlines, each with 30 characters, and one long 80-character description line. That’s nearly 50% more ad text for you to highlight your products and services.

Responsive ads for display

Google will now help you build your own responsive ads for display. Just provide a 25-character or 90-character headline, a 90-character description, an image, and a URL, and Google will design ads that fit perfectly across more than two million apps and websites on the Google Display Network.

Set device bid adjustments

New device bid adjustments allow you to maintain the efficiency of managing a consolidated campaign that reaches consumers across devices while giving you more control to set individual bid adjustments for each device type — mobile devices, computers, and tablets.

Top 20 craziest Google queries

As reported this week by Search Engine Journal, Digitaloft has collected data on the most bizarre searches undertaken on Google and the findings should probably be cause for some concern…

  • Am I pregnant? (90,500 monthly searches)
  • How do I get home? (49,500 monthly searches)
  • Are aliens real? (49,500 monthly searches)
  • Does farting burn calories? (49,500 monthly searches)
  • When will I die? (49,500 monthly searches)
  • Why do men have nipples? (22,200 monthly searches)
  • Do penguins have knees? (18,100 monthly searches)
  • Why are we here? (8,100 monthly searches)
  • Is the tooth fairy real? (8,100 monthly searches)
  • Do pigs sweat? (8,100 monthly searches)
  • Does my bum look 40? (8,100 monthly searches)
  • Is the world flat? (5,400 monthly searches)
  • Am I a psycho? (5,400 monthly searches)
  • Why won’t my car start? (4,400 monthly searches)
  • Do men have periods? (3,600 monthly searches)
  • Do worms have eyes? (2,900 monthly searches)
  • Can a man get pregnant? (2,900 monthly searches)
  • What happens if you drink blood? (880 monthly searches)
  • Can I marry my cousin? (880 monthly searches)
  • Why does my boss hate me? (170 monthly searches)
  • Take our fabulous SEO quiz…

    Go on, it’s Friday, and it kinda looks like your doing work right?

    How well do you know these 25 SEO abbreviations?

    And here’s your reward for a job well done…

    200 (1)

    Facebook image cheat sheet: maximum photo sizes for your branded page and ads

    methods unsound fb page

    Our previously published guide to Facebook image sizes is well over two years-old and therefore long overdue for an update, and SO much has happened to the world’s most popular social network (for now) since then…

    • Brands and publishers have seen their organic reach repeatedly annihilated due to changes in Facebook’s algorithm to favour friends’ posts only.
    • Facebook has introduced sooooo many new ad formats and targeting options that it’s impossible to keep up with them all.
    • Plus Facebook is becoming extra helpful in allowing regular users to cut through the Newsfeed noise.

    However, as Larry Kim taught us this week in his post on how to improve organic Facebook reach, it is still possible to find your audience without having to break the bank.

    This guide is designed to ensure that when Facebook users do see and interact with your brand, that you’re all scrubbed up and as presentable as you possibly can be.

    These are the correct dimensions, resolutions and features you need for optimising your Facebook channel, without the need of an overzealous parent spitting in a handkerchief and scrubbing your face till it’s red.

    In order to do this as accurately and up-to-date as possible (seeing as Facebook only just recently changed the layout of branded pages again) I’ll be using examples from the FB Pages Sizes and Dimensions page from Yoconda. It’s worth giving them a like to keep up-to-date. And I’ll be using the helpful advice from Miranda Miller in her original guide.

    Facebook page

    The top of your Facebook page as of July 2016 will now look something like this…

    Let’s break down the measurements…

    Facebook header image

    fb header image

    The optimal image size for your header image is 851 x 315 pixels. Any less and you’ll lose resolution. Start with a canvas of double that size – 1702 x 630 – for sharp, crisp images; Facebook will resize it and you’ll have the right dimensions.

    The mobile safe area is 563 x 315 pixels.

    Follow these dos and don’ts of header images:

    • Do use a unique image to represent your page.
    • Do experiment with different images to see which gets the best response.
    • Do change up your image to highlight special events, seasonal trends, or other types of campaigns.
    • Don’t include any content that may be deceptive, misleading, infringe on anyone else’s copyright, or violate Facebook’s Pages Terms.
    • Don’t encourage people to upload your cover image to their personal Timeline.
    • Don’t make more than 20% of your cover image text.
    • To get the fastest load times for your Page, upload an sRGB JPG file that’s less than 100 kilobytes.
    • For images with your logo or text content, you may get a higher quality result by using a PNG file.

    Facebook profile picture

    Your profile picture will be displayed at 160 x 160 pixels but must be at least 180 x 180 pixels to upload.

    Pictures of different dimensions can be cropped upon uploading.

    fb profile picture

    Also note that the profile picture no longer partially obscures the header image like it used to, so you can no longer do those ‘fun and amusing’ combinations

    Your profile picture appears around Facebook wherever you interact with users and in their Newsfeed at 90 x 90 pixels so your profile picture must be legible at this resolution.

    Shared link image

    The image that’s automatically pulled in from a link you’ve shared, or the one you’v uploaded an alternative image from your desktop will appear on your timeline and in the Newsfeed as 476 x 249 pixels.

    Shared link image

    Facebook ads

    According to the Facebook business help page, different ad objectives recommend different Facebook ad sizes. If you’d like your Facebook ads to be eligible to show in all of the different formats, including desktop News Feed, mobile News Feed and the right column, then you should use the recommended ad image sizes:

    facebook ad sizes

    Also note that if your image is larger or smaller than the dimensions specified it willl be automatically resized to fit in the ad. Animated or flash images aren’t supported.

    Facebook Ads images also have their own set of rules:

    • Must be relevant and appropriate to the advertised product.
    • May not exploit political, sexual or other sensitive issues.
    • May not be overly sexual, imply nudity, show excessive amounts of skin or cleavage, or focus unnecessarily on body parts.
    • May not portray nonexistent functionality, including but not limited to play buttons that suggest video capability and close buttons that do not close.
    • May not contain QR codes.
    • May not use Facebook brand images without permission, including but not limited to logos, icons and alert notification graphics.
    • Images targeted to users under 18 must be appropriate for that age group.
    • May not include images made up of more than 20% text, including logos and slogans. Note: this does not apply to pictures of products that include text on the actual product. Photos of products in real situations or photos of products with a background are acceptable. Images that are zoomed in on logos or images with text overlay are not allowed.

    Facebook photo albums

    Photo album cover thumbnails appear as 175 x 175 pixels.

    175 x 175
    When you click into an album, the image previews are 201 x 201 pixels.
    201 x 201

    Full size images are 660 x 440 pixels. However the maximum image size for uploading to your company albums or timeline is 2048 x 2048 pixels.

    660 x 440

    Why your brand needs a style guide

    independent jermy corbyn cover

    Brands need content. It’s at the heart of the ‘brand as publisher’ concept.

    They need to use the power of words to reach out to their audience and deliver the product or service they need.

    As Zazzle’s MD Simon Penson put it in a post for Moz, the idea here is: “that you’re able to build an engaged, loyal audience of value for your brand… an audience you can then monetize later.”

    Yet it’s one thing realising that you need words to deliver this for you, but quite another to know how to deliver them. Luckily for me, that’s where writers come in.

    Having made the jump from journalism to marketing, it’s great to see that there’s a demand for people to help brands sail these waters.

    George Orwell’s content rules are still relevant today

    Sometimes a company may find themselves pondering how they should write. The first port of call should be George Orwell’s ‘six elementary rules’.

    The 1984 and Animal Farm writer might have written these rules in 1946, but they’re just as relevant in a world of social media and online content that would have been alien to him.

    • The rules are as follows:
    • Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print
    • Never use a long word where a short one will do
    • If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out
    • Never use the passive where you can use the active
    • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent
    • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous

    With apologies to Orwell, we might summarise those rules in the following way:

    • Don’t waffle
    • Don’t confuse the reader
    • Don’t try to show how clever you are (it’s about the reader, not you)

    But that’s Orwell and good (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun, it’s a journalism thing) but brands need to consider the words they choose and not just the way they construct them.

    If brands are to become publishers then they need to start behaving like publishers and adopting some of the working practices they have perfected.

    Orwell’s rules need to be implemented on top of some sound foundations and that’s where a content style guide comes in.

    Tellingly, in fact, those rules appear at the very top of the style guide of The Economist, introducing the important rights and wrongs that follow.

    Style guide: the newsroom bible your brand needs

    The style guide is the bible of the newsroom. Its yellowing pages are thrown in your direction as a rookie reporter and it’s this that you’re beaten over the head with – metaphorically and, depending on the aggression of your news editor, literally.

    In a newsroom this will help you understand the correct way to write out military ranks or religious roles – the sorts of things that will inevitably lead to complaints if you get them wrong.

    That’s the important thing to bear in mind when it comes to a style guide and, in particular, a brand’s style guide. Errors with this are distracting and damaging.

    We can all appreciate this when it comes to typos, for example. A bad typo will be captured in a screen shot and sent around the corners of the internet – on platforms where your embarrassment is a source of great mirth. It certainly happened to me as a journalist.

    Here are a few examples. Poor old ‘Jermy Corbyn’ doesn’t took too happy to have his name spelled incorrectly on the front of the Independent:

    How about this one? The National Council for the Training of Journalists will be red faced at its inability to spell ‘journalism’:

    nctj typo

    Then there’s this from a Digiday interview with Piers Morgan – with an incorrect lower case ‘jack’, awful spelling of ‘England’ and confusing sentence structure:

    digiday piers morgan interview

    These errors show that it happens to the best of us. I love the content produced by the Independent and Digiday and benefitted from the training of the NCTJ. These are not bedroom bloggers scrawling out nonsense. They are highly respected bodies with high standards and they still make mistakes.

    There is no silver bullet to eliminate typos, you just need to find the best proofreader you can get your hands on and put your faith in their expert eyes.

    The reason why it’s important to flag up typos in this piece, however, is that brands need to realise that style errors can, in my opinion, be more toxic that a typo.

    That’s where the Digiday example comes in handy. Try reading that sentence aloud and you won’t sound very coherent. These are not just errors made from a misplaced keystroke.

    Why is style important and what do issues look like?

    Style issues leave a similar stain on the material they are contained within. By ‘style issues’ we mean things like:

    • Slipping Americanism into your text – there’s no ‘defense’ for that
    • Not knowing the difference between complementary and complimentary – which one is a freebie and which a nice word?
    • Switching between E-mail, email, e-mail – it’s the written equivalent of the person who cannot settle on a radio station for two minutes
    • Popping apostrophe’s in the wrong place (like that one, grrr!)

    So, why are these such a problem?

    Firstly, like typos, they are distracting for the reader. This means that they’re likely to focus on these points rather than what you actually want to say. That undermines your text and all the efforts you have put into writing it.

    Secondly, they paint your brand in a bad light. There’s an association in the reader’s head between content accuracy and professionalism.

    If a business doesn’t know where to plonk an apostrophe in a word, can it seriously be trusted to handle your custom? Does it pay such a lack of attention to the products and services it delivers?

    That might seem grossly unfair but, you know, life’s not fair.

    As a publisher you gain the trust of your readers by producing valuable content. Text that is littered with errors will not gain or retain any trust. Readers will also, rightly or wrongly, expect you to adhere to the same standards as publishers. Bloggers might be forgiven for clumsy text, brands won’t.

    Four great style guides to look at for inspiration

    Fancy a read of some of the best content style guides in the business? Here are four that we enjoy – and turn to from time to time:

    The BBC

    The Economist

    The Guardian and Observer

    The Telegraph

    Why you need your own content style guide

    These publishers have made their style guides available online but in the era of ‘brand as publisher’ I think it’s increasingly important to consider a ‘brand-friendly’ content style guide rather than try to wade through those.

    There’s a need to strip away journalistic terms and add in a few basics that will help people who aren’t writers ‘by trade’. Then, depending on your industry, you can replace the journalese with the terminology that is relevant to your business – the equivalent of the military ranks and religious roles that could leave you red faced.

    That’s why we’ve decided to step up to the task. Zazzle’s content team, which has experience in a variety of roles ‘on the other side of the fence’, has produced a content style guide (registration required) that you can download and adopt right away. It covers about 40 essential pointers that can help you to develop a solid ‘style’ that can run throughout your written content.

    It forms the basis on which you could take Orwell’s writing rules forward. If you’ve not got a content style guide then you’re not ready for the world of ‘brand as publisher’. With this, we can get you up to speed. Remember too that this isn’t about punishing the people who don’t know these rules.

    Not everyone knows every rule off the top of their head. That’s precisely why the guide is there. It’s a vital resource and something to fall back on when it comes to those things you always find tricky or that you just can’t quite put your finger on in the heat of the moment.

    No-one has a monopoly on wisdom but we’re pretty proud of our guide. Please download it, use it and let us know what you think.

    How to adapt our style guide for your business

    Brands who want to take their role as publisher seriously will need to use our style guide as a starting point. So, after you’ve downloaded it, what do you do next?

    Here’s our step by step guide:

    • Download the Zazzle template and save it somewhere where everyone can get access – we like a shared GDoc, you might prefer something else
    • Have a brainstorm session in which you list all of the terminology relevant to your business
    • Agree a ‘preferred style’ – whether that be a spelling or whether or not you’ll use a hyphen or capital letter
    • Add all of these to our guide template
    • Leave the guide open to edit so that any new terms you come across can be added in
    • Send it out to any third party writing content on your behalf, everyone needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet and this is your hymn sheet.

    That should all be fairly straightforward – although get in touch if you have in questions and we’d be happy to talk through any content style dilemmas you have. We’re like that…

    Tom Smith is a Search and Data Consultant at Zazzle Media.