Change is everywhere. Change is inevitable. And change has become the prevailing facet of life in every business today.
Nowhere is this truer than in the field of digital marketing – constantly evolving, constantly innovating, and at an ever-accelerating pace.
What worked once, may well not work in the future. Technology is becoming ever more sophisticated, with machine learning, augmented reality and artificial intelligence knocking firmly at the door.
But some things just don’t change. Such as the fundamental questions to which every digital marketer needs robust, objective answers – in order to resolve key issues or seize key opportunities.
1. How much authority does my website have compared to others in my industry?
Google uses hyperlinks to map out the internet. They record who links to whom. By doing so, they analyse relationships between websites.
Google then use these data to decide which websites are the best, the most popular and the most trusted.
The websites that Google deem to be the best are likely to appear at the top of Google’s search results.
More authority = better positions
Domain Authority is an industry metric used for gauging the power of a website’s backlink profile. This metric is produced by a reputable industry body called “Moz”.
The better a website’s backlink profile, the better it will perform in Organic Search, assuming that the website is technically optimal (more on this later).
As you can see, when you search for the keyword “banks”, Google is presenting these institutions in order of their Domain Authority with Barclays appearing at the top with a “domain authority” of 70.
Better positions = more traffic
As you would expect, the higher you appear on Google, the more website traffic you will receive.
The industry tool SEM Rush estimates that Barclays are likely to receive around a million more visitors a month than HSBC. Whilst this is an over-simplification on a very complex field, the point remains – better ranks means more traffic.
Looking at your competitors
You can use Moz Domain Authority to review how much authority any website has. For example, take a look at these leading financial organisations and see how they fare on the authority scale.
- Goldman Sachs have an authority score of 77
- UBS are higher with an authority score of 89
- JP Morgan have a lower authority score of 73
This is based on the quality and quantity of the links that each of these websites has and not necessarily based on the real-world authorities these organisations may have.
TL:DR – your website needs links
If you want to have better ranks on Google, you need to have links pointing to your website.
It’s not just about QUANTITY. Authority is a score that measures QUALITY as well.
You don’t want links from any old website – you want links from high quality websites. Sites that have high Domain Authority scores themselves.
Obtaining premium coverage
The key to beating your competition is generating links from the best websites possible. You’ll need to create content that is compelling enough for other websites to want to share it. This is no mean feat – and a complex, specialist area.
If you’re interested in pursuing this type of activity, Receptional are proud to have had our campaigns featured on some of the best sites on the web. We would be happy to discuss your requirements.
2. Is my website good enough to appear at the top of Google?
This is an important question because it’s not just about links – Google cares about the quality of your website as well.
Why does your website design matter?
Let’s look at it from Google’s point of view. Google’s algorithms do not “care” about your business. They may “want” your business, but they’re necessarily not on your side.
Google care about their own customers. Their customers are those using their search engines and products.
Google doesn’t want its users finding rubbish websites using their search engine because those customers would think that Google was a rubbish search engine and stop using it.
That’s why it matters to Google that your website is well designed – and offers a good user experience.
Technical issues hold you back in search
Websites with technical issues result in a poor user experience and Google can detect these issues.
There are loads of technical elements to consider. A standard SEO audit should uncover issues which may be harming your performance the most, and will be able to help you prioritise which to fix first. We highly recommend focusing on ‘Quick Wins’ first. Two common mistakes include site speed and mobile usability.
We are in a ‘mobile-first’ era
We’ve all been on mobile sites where you can’t read the text very well, or click on things properly, or even use the menus.
Industry surveys tell us that 85% of users think that a company’s mobile website should be as good as or better than its desktop counterpart. If your website doesn’t offer a great mobile experience, you’re going to be in trouble with Google (as well as your potential customers).
Slow websites harm user experience
We all know how painful slow websites can be. It should come as no surprise that over half of mobile users will leave a site that doesn’t load after 3 seconds.
Slow websites can harm your conversion rates. There is a significant drop in conversions when websites take longer than 3 seconds to load. The faster your site, the better it will rank on Google and the more likely it is to result in leads or sales.
Google knows your website is slow
Take Investec for example. Google has marked their site as being slow which won’t be doing their SEO performance any favours – not to mention it’ll be frustrating for their customers.
Find out how slow Google thinks your website is and gain a solid understanding of what work needs to be done to speed it up. This comes as a standard part of our SEO analysis. Get in touch for more information.
3. What share of search traffic do I get relative to my competitors?
Identifying your competitors
The first thing you need to establish is who are your competitors. And don’t assume you know the answer here.
Try this exercise. Write down the following:
- What is the main product or service that you offer? Think of a keyword that customers might use to find your business.
- Write down the name of your number #1 competitor
- Search online for your main product or service. Does your #1 competitor appear at the top of Google?
In most cases, we expect that the number 1 ranking site on Google is not the same as who you perceive to be your number 1 competitor.
With “credit cards” as a classic example, Money Saving Expert ranks #1 for “0% credit cards” They’re a comparison site – not even a credit card provider.
Why is traffic comparison important?
Once you know who your search competitors are, you have to compare your traffic side by side with them and here’s why.
Looking at DPD deliveries for example.
They have over 700,000 UK visitors a month, that’s a lot of organic traffic.
However, it’s not quite as impressive once we compare them to Parcel Force who receive 1 million visitors a month.
But what about Hermes? Hermes enjoy approximately 2.4 million organic visitors a month. Now even Parcel Force doesn’t look so good.
This is why it is vital that you examine your performance in the context of your peers. Without benchmarking, your data means nothing.
Comparing performance over time
It’s great to look at your performance side by side with a competitor. But this insight becomes even more powerful when you examine it over time. It enables you to answer questions like “are you catching up?” or “are you losing your lead?”
As seen here, Hermes is not only bigger – but growing at a fast rate.
But what is driving this growth? Is it because their SEO campaigns are working harder and they’re increasing their visibility? Or is it because online shopping is becoming more popular and people are having to find their website to track their package?
To answer that, we have to delve a little deeper.
Brand vs. Non-brand traffic
We need to examine brand and non-brand keyword traffic separately.
Non-brand keywords are searched for by your potential customers. Brand keywords are searched for by existing customers.
Brand keywords are, as you might expect, keywords containing the brand.
For example – “Hermes tracking” or “Hermes complaints”.
In most cases, a business’ own website will rank #1 on Google for their brand name by default – therefore that traffic has not been earned through great SEO – and SEO’s cannot really take credit for it. We certainly wouldn’t want to take credit for the number of ‘complaints’ searches Hermes receives.
SEO is all about non-brand traffic. Keywords like “best UK courier” or “cheap delivery services”.
It’s not guaranteed that your website will appear for non-brand keywords. The organic channel is dedicated to bringing about improvements that will increase the likelihood that you rank for non-brand keywords over time.
Parcel 2 Go for instance, have clearly done an incredible job to rank on Google for the keyword “best UK courier”.
This is why you have to look at non-brand traffic in isolation to really understand your SEO performance. If you don’t, your insights will be completely skewed by brand keywords.
When we look at Hermes again through the lens of non-brand keywords, it tells a very different story.
It turns out that Parcel Force receives more non-brand traffic than Hermes do, and are arguably doing a better job in terms of their SEO than Hermes are.
The main point is: if you think you’re doing a great job in search – make sure you’re looking at non-brand traffic in isolation before reaching this conclusion!
4. Which keywords drive the bulk of search traffic in my sector?
The search landscape is changing
Google state that over 15% of search queries are new and original. You need to periodically revisit your keyword strategy and most don’t do this.
Looking at the mortgage sector for example, the data tells us that over the last decade, fewer and fewer people have searched for generic single-word phrases like “mortgages”.
Meanwhile, we see an increase in the number of people searching for longer tail, more specific keywords such as “buy to let mortgages”.
This insight tells us that searchers are savvier, more sophisticated than ever before. This is all about User Intent.
Keywords & User Intent
We know that the quality of the results we get on Google is based on what we search for. It’s not enough to know where the high search volumes are and to blindly aim for those.
We need to consider User Intent, or going after the right keywords. The ones that are used by our ideal customers and that are the most likely to result in a sale of some kind.
A great way to figure out how to attract the right type of customer is to look at your competitors and see how they are positioning themselves in the market. You can then spot gaps and figure out how best to position yourself.
5. Where do my competitors tend to focus their targeting?
What’s their USP vs. yours?
Correct keyword targeting is essential when it comes to attracting the right customers. Keyword targeting is all about your USPs and how you position yourself in the market. Why do customers choose you over your competitors?
Our advice here would be to use the data available to strategically diversify from your competitors and carve your own niche. In short, go after less competitive keywords, while simultaneously driving the volume of sales or enquiries.
Organic Keyword Targets
If you want people to find your products and services, you need to use the language that they use. But you also have to consider who is occupying that space already.
We can see this in action in the search results for the keyword “business bank accounts”.
The banking niche is massively competitive, and the companies seen here know this. They don’t all just go after the keyword “business bank accounts”. Instead, they hone in on their USPs.
They insert their offers into their listings in order to increase their click through rates. By doing so, they’re all using search to attract the right customers which is what you should be doing too.
The companies seen here all essentially offer similar products to a similar audience. But they use different terminology to set themselves apart.
- Starling focus on “business bank account” – nearly 15,000 monthly searches
- Barclays focus on “business banking” – 4,400 monthly searches
- TSB focus on the more specific “business bank account online” – 2,900 monthly searches
By carving their own niche, they can dominate their space – even if that space is slightly smaller.
To summarise, there are three things to remember:
- Keyword data can be used to inform how your business positions itself vs. its competitors
- Align with the phrases and terms your ideal customers use – to attract the right kind of traffic
- Intentionally leverage your USPs to differentiate yourself in a crowded market
6. What are the most successful strategies my competitors are pursuing to maximise their share of the available search volume?
There was a time when publishing was new and exclusive – there was no battle for attention.
These days, everyone is a publisher. We all have a website, and a social media presence, and are running search campaigns. That exclusivity is gone.
Today, there’s a battle for attention. Attention is scarce and we all want to get our prospective customers’ attention. Which is why we need to stand out, particularly in a crowded market.
Take this advertisement for example – for Spa Seekers. Their USP, mentioned in this campaign, is the fact that you can take your dog to the spa. Who wouldn’t want to do that and then share it on social media? We all love seeing our furry friends – especially when they’ve been pampered.
The campaign did fantastically well in terms of its two objectives:
- Increase brand awareness
- Attract links back to the website, to improve its SEO rankings and attract more traffic
It’s important to understand what campaigns our competitors are running:
- Look at effective campaigns that are delivering, which can then be analysed and improved
- Exploit weaknesses in activity or channels they’re not using effectively, to run better campaigns
- Use ad targeting features in search and display, to target like-minded customers or people who have visited particular pages on your competitors’ websites
But how do we look at your competitors? We find gaps in your content. We compare their content campaigns with yours.
Here, we identified 23 unique pages that have the potential to attract 39,000 visitors a month. We plotted out an editorial calendar over the course of the year, to produce and promote content. Using this approach, you could also steal traffic from your competitors or the market leaders.
7. What are the content topics and formats that generate the highest levels of engagement in my sector/category?
The biggest challenge is around the amount of data that’s available for us to analyse. In 2020, we produced 7x more data than we did in 2010.
For marketers, it’s a problem and can be overwhelming. It’s important we run competitor analysis, prior to running campaigns.
But, we’re in a better place now than ever to bring media, data and technology together to help grow businesses.
At Receptional, we’ve developed a tool called Search EyeTM.
It takes all the keywords, relevant to your business that people are searching for, and puts them into buckets of similar types of terms. We can then run campaigns based on those terms.
This chart makes it a lot clearer to understand. It shows the different types of searches made all the way through the marketing funnel. 1 in 10 searches on Google is a question.
On the flipside, as publishers, we need to make sure we are creating the content in the right format, to match our users’ interests.
In the editorial process, it’s important to know which content type will resonate with your audience best. So, we use a tool called BuzzSumo. It looks at popular topics and formats in your sector. Here are six of our favourites – but of course, there are many more.
A widely underused – but incredibly valuable – tool is the Facebook Ad Library. It allows you to type in any given brand and Facebook will show you all the ad campaigns that brand is running. But it also shows the longevity of those ads – a proxy for success. It shows us what’s working well in any given market.
8. What successes are your competitors enjoying with social media marketing that you are not?
You may ask why this is important. Well, the UK digital advertising market is worth £14bn a year.
Facebook and Google between them take up 80% of that market. They have the greatest share of the eyeballs. Google sites (including YouTube) takes a quarter of the viewing hours, while Facebook (who own Instagram) also takes up a large proportion of time.
If you want to be present on the internet, you need to have a presence on Google and Facebook.
Another exercise for you to try – find out what Facebook knows about you, so you can interrogate your audience. Log in to your account and go to ad preferences.
In this example, you can food subscription delivery service Hello Fresh shows up. There’s no doubt that online food delivery has boomed in recent months.
You can now see there are so many ads in this niche. There are affiliates, promoters/influencers, gourmet, drinks, and vegan suppliers – all the food delivery services you can imagine. All because of interacting with Hello Fresh in the first instance.
Looking at the Finance sector, there are far fewer examples. You’ll notice there are far fewer ‘household’ brands – it’s a less saturated market. There are fewer people advertising, and this makes it a great opportunity.
But the ads are less targeted – there’s an irrelevant ad for “pet insurance”.
It’s important to know your market, who’s doing what well, and what your advertising costs will be.
9. What is the optimal level of digital marketing spend for my brand across the three key areas of organic, paid and social?
There is no right or wrong answer.
But here’s a recommended framework, suggested by Google: 60% on search, 30% on display, and 10% on video.
Of course, everyone’s aims and budgets are different – and you’ll want to adjust accordingly. It’s best to test for the long-term, but the framework is a good starting point.
Many businesses aren’t investing much in display. By investing in display, you build up brand audiences and make your search marketing cheaper.
Marketing should be seen as an investment – and what works today, may not work tomorrow, so it’s important you manage the risk.
Testing different methods should leave you with a balanced portfolio of marketing channels. Ones that both work affectively in their own right, but also support overall objectives and take an integrated approach to campaigns. Too many businesses are one-dimensional in their approach to lead generation or sales.
Covid-19 has seen our clients profitably testing more display and video. Therefore, it’s worth testing areas that are underused in your sector, like YouTube. Areas where there’s potential to get greater returns and a better brand presence.
10. Taking account of the above, within six months, what do you estimate my traffic levels to be?
Good forecasting has to be based upon reliable data – from today and historically.
Many of the brands we talk to haven’t invested in setting up the right levels of data to be able to forecast accurately. Not just Google Analytics. But Facebook Pixel tracking and building remarketing audiences. And the similar tool provided by LinkedIn, to get insights of your audience personas and people you wish to target.
Receptional uses our proprietary tool DataSuiteTM, which combines all the data sources together in one place, or resource. It allows you to:
- Profile and segments audiences ready for on-going marketing
- Work out who responds best to what content, by job title or demographic
- Measure what really matters to you
- Start to build remarketing and retargeting lists
Once you’ve got your data set-up, you can take a look at the bigger picture. What do you want your market share to be in 12 months’ time – or whatever your timeframe is? For example, if it’s 3% now, it could be 6% in three years.
We then look at individual niches within the market and put a forecast together. This should give you a sense of value.
Once you have your model, you can then plot this out over time. You can then find out when the activity starts paying for itself – which is often a lot quicker in paid search – and when it turns into profit.
By prioritising the ‘quick wins’, you’d should see returns within a few months. Which you can then reinvest in future growth.