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The UK Digital Experience Awards is recognised as an industry leader. Accredited with the Gold Awards Trust Mark they are seen as a renowned platform for digital innovation. Unique in that Hallam presented their entry live on the day of the awards to a panel of independent judges.

L-R: Jake Third, Client Services Director; Jonathan Catton, Paid Media and Insights Consultant; Bethany Pigott, Account Manager at Hallam

Competing alongside many prominent UK and global brands Hallam were thrilled to be recognised in the Best Digital Agency category. They confidently demonstrated an insightful and innovative approach to the use of data and analytics with a transformational integrated search strategy on a project that delivered over £900,000 of revenue for their client with a 1005% return on ad spend. Results that completely altered the client’s perception of data-driven pay-per-click strategies. 

Stuart Ross, Managing Director of Hallam, commented: “We’re very proud to be winners at the UK Digital Experience Awards and of our Paid Media Team for proving once again that they are experts in this field. We encourage every team member to gain a deeper understanding of the impact our activity is having on our clients’ bottom line, with innovation and strategic thinking at the heart of everything we do and it’s great to see that recognised at an industry level.”

Further success was announced today (Friday 19 July) when Hallam was shortlisted for Biddable Media Agency of the Year at the UK Agency Awards.  

These awards celebrate exceptional agencies across the UK, Hallam’s nomination demonstrated significant growth potential for their client by delivering profitable campaigns with minimal wastage, utilising automated bids and custom fields for Google Shopping. An incredible 611% ROI was achieved for the client.

Hallam continues to prove their digital leadership in the Midlands by organising the second  Nottingham Digital Summit earlier in July. With speakers from Google, Virgin Media, Jaguar Land Rover and Experian who inspired over 750 local business people and raised £20,257 for the Nottingham Samaritans.

The post Hallam #winning appeared first on Hallam.

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The life cycle for technology is becoming shorter every year. New competitors are disrupting industries by leveraging the latest digital practices and processes. Customer expectations are constantly evolving in an accelerating race for seamless experiences. 

IT departments are under increasing pressure to support leading-edge capabilities such as data analytics, cybersecurity, automated processing, and technology integration with third-party systems. 

With this context, your company’s selection of technology, which seemed to meet requirements a few years ago, is rapidly becoming obsolete. 

Yet some of the most important factors have not changed at all. Companies must remain focused on their competitive edge. Modernisation efforts must create value for the business.

Understanding what to get right, which technologies you require to reach your goals, is essential. Knowing how to plan, invest and engage the business around your technological modernisation is just as important. Below are 7 principles any company introducing a new technology must adopt to ensure success.

1. Design for flexibility

Modern businesses have a constant need to adapt within an ever-changing environment, requiring continuous innovation in products, services and processes. Their systems must also have the flexibility to keep up.

The technology systems of the past competed on functionality. They were designed to do one or two things very well, and the business adapted to focus on those one or two activities. When the business needed to change its focus, the structures and processes of the system held it back.

Today’s more modular systems are more flexible. They can rapidly accommodate a range of possibilities for connection and configuration. So seek out modular platforms that can accommodate a wide range of plug-and-play functions for your business — including those that haven’t been designed or even imagined yet.

To assess the fitness of new technology or upgrade, adopt a minimum viable product (MVP) approach. This approach consists of a “bare-bones” installation, covering the few features that are absolutely necessary to demonstrate the system’s value. Release an MVP to a small group of employees or customers, and ask those early adopters for responses. You will learn what features customers care about, what features they don’t, and what features are missing.

2. Put the customer first

Although any number of factors may trigger a decision to introduce new technology in the workplace, one goal is key: to deliver value. Every investment in technology should provide more benefits for end customers, whether through better experiences, higher product quality or operating efficiencies that reduce prices and add value.

Use cross-functional teams to plan and design this modernisation effort. Functional experts from areas such as IT, strategy, R&D, customer interaction, and operations can all work together in an agile environment to design the changes around a set of aligned specifications. In this early stage, and throughout the initiative, you thus link leading-edge knowledge of the changing technology with day-to-day awareness of the desired results. As you bring these teams together, you will establish a shared frame of reference as well as a common language to describe the features you want and the capabilities you are building. 

3. Engage with your workforce

Introducing new technology in the workplace is often seen solely as a matter of changing technology. However, changes in technology sustain themselves only if people accept and embrace them. You must, therefore, align your new technology with the company’s culture. This starts with clearly defining the new habits that people will need to adopt.

You will probably have some established elements of your culture that you can build on to accelerate effective change. Additionally, every company has “ informal leaders,” people at every level of the hierarchy who are already demonstrating the behaviours you need for modernisation because they believe in the new direction. Find these individuals and work closely with them. They can tell you about the readiness of your business to change, the places where resistance will occur, and what effort is required to overcome resistance. 

4. Make the change stick

Before starting to introduce new technologies, perform an analysis of the resources needed for a successful outcome. Project management and leadership capabilities are as important as technical capabilities. Be highly selective in creating the team that oversees the effort. Choose people with a track record in change, a strong desire and ability to learn, a high tolerance for complex and uncertain situations, and a solid reputation for collaboration and teamwork.

Financial resource allocation is just as important. Align funding to your highest technology priorities. Be very clear about which areas you will not spend money on. Scrutinise your choices about desired features and technologies to ensure that financial resources are generating a return.

5. Adopt a services mindset

The old approach to technology treats systems as assets that a company owns and operates. A modern approach treats technology as a set of services that a company can use and integrate as needed, without necessarily owning the systems at all. Companies can then select and combine services from a range of ‘best in class’ providers, within an overall framework that suits the company’s unique needs.

This approach redefines the IT function within your organisation. Where once you hosted and managed systems internally, now you oversee a more open platform. Services are outsourced and managed; when a service component is not effective, you can adapt or replace it. You no longer care as much about the source of a service; you care about how well it serves your needs and creates value.

6. Plan the journey before starting

Any successful transformation is a staged journey, as is introducing new technologies. Your systems modernisation can help you do something similar. Having set a direction based on customer value you now plot a road map for technology introduction, that is, a sequence of milestones that you can expect along the way. For example, you might introduce cloud-based capabilities early, so they can be used for other initiatives. Or you may need to modernise some legacy systems as a prerequisite for improving time-to-market for product launches.

7. Choose your partners carefully

New technology is the key to your company’s future. Therefore, do not treat modernisation as a transactional event. When selecting long term partners do your due diligence. The goal is to find companies that can deliver mutual benefits and with which you can develop a working relationship that involves mutual commitment and creative collaboration as well as a good price.

If you don’t get this right, not only could the project fail, but the switching costs could be substantial. Therefore, use informal as well as formal ways of gathering information. Seek out companies whose values you share and whose leadership has proven trustworthy. Evaluate the credibility of their work by looking at the technology systems they have built for themselves. Think about how well those systems support their own distinctive capabilities, especially those that would benefit you as their customer.

The post 7 Principles for introducing technology in the workplace appeared first on Hallam.

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The conference was organised by Hallam as a fundraiser for their charity of the year, The Samaritans. 

The funds will be used by The Samaritans to replace the leaky roof at the Nottingham Samaritans’ office in Clarendon Street and also towards supporting their outreach work.

Susan Hallam, CEO of Hallam and Chris Shilling, Deputy Director of the Nottingham Samaritans

Chris Shilling, Deputy Director of the Nottingham Samaritans, said: ”I want to thank the team at Hallam for organising the Summit, and facilitating one of the single largest donations to the Nottingham branch of The Samaritans. Quite literally, we will be using the money to replace the roof over our heads. We are hugely grateful to every delegate who made a donation. These funds are vital for us being available when people need us.”

The Summit is the largest digital event in the Midlands. 31 expert speakers donated their time and expertise not only to power up Nottingham’s digital marketing community, but to also give full support to the fund-raising initiative. Leading digital marketers from Jaguar Land Rover, Saint Gobain, Google, Experian, Virgin Media, Boots and Adobe took the stage and shared best practice tips and techniques for marketing in a digital world. 

Susan Hallam, CEO of Hallam and the organiser of The Summit, said: “Hallam is committed to demonstrating Nottingham as one of the UK’s leading creative cities and I think the Summit did just that. We’re proud to have brought together the brightest minds in digital, creative and tech for such a great cause as the Samaritans. Thanks to all the speakers, sponsors, delegates and volunteers for creating such a successful event.

“Last year we raised £15,000 for Nottingham’s leading homelessness charity, Framework. And we invite local charities to get in touch to be considered as Hallam’s charity of the year for 2020.

As Hallam’s charity of the year The Samaritans benefit from the agency’s fundraising activity, digital marketing support and awareness raising. Members of its team are also active volunteers. 

The Nottingham Digital Summit will be back in 2020 on 23rd June. 

The post Hallam’s landmark digital conference puts a new roof over the Nottingham Samaritans’ heads appeared first on Hallam.

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SEO video optimisation for YouTube

When you initially upload your video, YouTube has no data to let it know how good or bad your video is, so it can’t calculate how you should rank for any particular keyword.

Over time as your video gains views, YouTube will take into account this data to help it’s ranking algorithm decide whether your video should appear higher or lower in search results.

But how do you get those initial views in the first place? You need to optimise your video by following SEO best practice. This means you need to understand what criteria YouTube uses when deciding where to rank your videos. Optimising your YouTube video will help the algorithm used to rank your video understand what it’s about. 

The main metric used to rank videos and the one you should, therefore, focus your efforts on is ‘watch time’. The main measure of a successful video is how long your viewers each spend watching your video. If your video is able to keep viewers watching for longer periods than competing videos, you have a good chance of ranking highly in YouTube search results.

Topical relevance of your channel

Your YouTube channel has a reputation. The best way to think about this is as though your channel is an employee.

The opinion of an experienced employee, who has consistently delivered good work, will be trusted by colleagues because of the knowledge they have gained over several years. To apply the same logic to a YouTube channel would result in the same effect. YouTube trusts older channels which have consistently uploaded high-quality content about a topic and kept the watch time high (among other factors).

To boost your rankings you, therefore, need to be clear about what topic you want to be seen as having expertise in.

Why is this so important? Because YouTube doesn’t have a lot of data to decide on the initial visibility your video gets, so it has to rely on the optimisation alone. The exception is if it already knows that your channel is a trusted source of expertise for the topic of your video. This is why newer videos can sometimes be seen towards the top of results, as shown in the example below. YouTube is allowing the video to rank higher while it gathers more data to help it decide the most relevant ranking position based on the YouTube video optimisation techniques and user data.

How can you build topical relevance for your channel? Create a strategy which defines your chosen topic of expertise, then plan the information you need to give, and the range of videos needed in order to target the topic effectively.

Optimise the videos with the tips in this article so YouTube knows which keywords your channel is offering the expertise on. Over time, you’ll hopefully see that as you upload videos, it’s easier to rank.

Group videos into playlists

YouTube’s main goal is to keep people watching videos, so what better way to do so than by creating a playlist dedicated to the types of videos someone wants to watch. These can then auto-play until the viewer’s interest wanes, their laptop’s battery runs flat, or the WiFi goes down.

Grouping your videos into playlists is an easy way to keep those who have an interest in your channel watching your content. Similar to the topical relevance point above, playlists help to convey which topic your videos apply to.

Give your videos a title

Every YouTube video starts with a text title which describes the video in a concise and clear way. This text not only describes the video content but also provides keywords to help with indexing and ranking in the results.

YouTube allows titles of up to 100 characters, but keep your titles to around 70 characters, so they are not truncated by search engines.

Write a video description

The description explains your video to viewers as well as search engines. You can write a very long description if you wish but make sure the first 100-150 characters are appealing to potential viewers and are keyword rich for the benefit of search engines. The first sentence of your description appears as a snippet in the search engine results page and YouTube search results.

The added benefits of an optimised YouTube description is that it can help you appear as a suggested video. This enables more clicks from related videos to help get more views for your video, perhaps even increase your subscriber count.

Should you include a link in the YouTube video description? Yes, if it is relevant and/or offers a benefit to the user. For example, a blog or resource covering the topic in more detail would entice a viewer to click and read it. The amount of clicks a link will receive from the description is typically quite low, after all, YouTube’s focus is to keep viewers watching videos.

Create an appealing YouTube thumbnail

The days of not having a custom YouTube thumbnail are gone. A YouTube Thumbnail is the image that appears on your video before someone clicks play.

Thumbnails are a quick way to improve your channel’s performance. Thumbnails have to be appealing and make users want to click to watch your video rather than a competitor’s. Don’t feel as though the thumbnail has to include a still image from the video. You can use tools such as Canva to easily create your own eye-catching thumbnail.

Some ways to help optimise your video thumbnail include:

  • Using the title of the video in the thumbnail
  • Adding relevant imagery within the thumbnail. This doesn’t necessarily have to be something which is shown within the video, as long as it’s relevant to the topic
  • Using an image of the video’s presenter
How to make YouTube Thumbnails using Canva - Thumbnail Tutorial - YouTube
Include video tags

For your video tags, use the main keyword in your title, as well as terms or phrases that describe your video. Put your tags in order of keyword priority, with the most important coming first. The longer your list of tags, the less the keywords lower down in the list will be factored into your ranking. So don’t spam the tags with an incredibly long list of keywords/phrases, pick 5-10 which best represent your video. If you look at your list of tags, you should be able to grasp the context of the video rather than be confused by how broad it is.

YouTube doesn’t display these tags anymore but they are still important for YouTube video optimisation. Tools such as the vidIQ Vision for Youtube Google Chrome extension help to show the tags competing videos are using. Simply look at videos which are ranking well for your keyword/topic and see what tags you could use to optimise your videos.

Use YouTube Cards

You can include calls to action in your videos with cards, previously a similar feature was known as annotations. Cards can be created to promote different types of buttons while users are watching your video, such as:

  • Promote a video or playlist
  • Link to another YouTube channel
  • Donations to a nonprofit organisation
  • Create a poll for users to answer
  • Link to an approved website
All about cards on YouTube - YouTube
Write subtitles or transcripts

Search engines cannot view the videos but they can read the text. It’s, therefore, best to add a transcript, so that they can understand what your video is about and potentially rank you. A transcript is also extremely useful for viewers and can be a secondary source of content for your business.

Categorise your video

Having the same category for your videos (if they’re about a related topic) helps to organise channels and videos with content and audiences they want to associate with. This will help build the topical relevance for your channel.

Paid YouTube video advertising

YouTube video advertising is a great way to boost brand awareness and potentially conversions for your business using paid marketing for video campaigns. Here’s a run-through of the main YouTube advertising formats which help to promote your video.

TrueView in-stream adverts

If you want to create videos longer than 30 seconds for your YouTube video advertising campaign, you can use in-stream adverts because they have no upper time limit. This type of video advert allows your video to be seen either before, during, or after someone watches a video. The catch? Viewers have the option to skip the video after five seconds, so whatever is shown to the viewer in those first five seconds has to be extremely good to prevent them from pressing skip. A charge applies once a viewer has watched 30 seconds or interacts with the video. If the video advert is less than 30 seconds, YouTube will instead charge for views of the entire video.

TrueView EXPLAINED While Being Bombarded With Puppies | YouTube Advertisers - YouTube
TrueView discovery adverts

Discovery adverts are located in YouTube search results, related videos and anywhere viewers search/find video content on YouTube. This method relies on putting your video in front of a relevant audience and enticing them to click and watch, ensuring you have a strong thumbnail is key to making your advert stand out. The charge for this campaign advert applies once a user clicks on the advert to view your video.

TrueView Discovery Ads EXPLAINED While Doing Yoga | YouTube Advertisers - YouTube
Pre-roll adverts

Pre-roll adverts play your video advert before the video the viewer has selected, the advert is 30 seconds long and you are charged per click. Due to the charge only being per click, this is often a cost-effective type of YouTube advertising, typically used to grow a subscriber list or to gain clicks to your website to then convert the viewer.

Bumper adverts

A bumper advert is a non-skippable 6-second video which plays before the video a viewer and chosen to watch. These types of adverts are a great way to improve brand awareness. Six seconds is enough time to grab a viewers attention and works particularly well on mobile devices.

Under the hood: Bumper Machine | YouTube Advertisers - YouTube
How to brand your YouTube channel

Your YouTube Channel is your shop window, if someone chooses to view your channel make sure they want to click subscribe by the time they leave. All branding, whether it is for a company or individual, should be consistent.

Company logo

Include your company logo as your channel icon. This is a key piece of your brand which viewers will hopefully recognise and build trust as your channel ages.

Channel banner

Create a channel banner that is themed around your brand, products, or company personality. If you have a graphic design agency or in-house team, get them to design it. If not, there are free tools out there that can provide you with good YouTube specific templates, such as Canva.

Add relevant links

On the bottom right-hand side of your banner, you have the option to add links to your website or social media pages. Make sure you use these to help promote your brand/company.

Featured video

Create a short channel trailer that describes the type of content that you provide for customers. Remember, this is people’s first taste of what your YouTube channel is about, so make sure you get it right. Include a prompt to subscribe to your channel at the end of the video, to get customers to further engage with you. YouTube’s examples of great trailers typically last from 0:20 seconds to 1:25, so remember to keep it short and snappy and be clear about what people can expect from your channel.

Channel description

Write a concise summary of the services that your company provides and the aim of your YouTube channel videos. Do they explain how your products are made, what they do, or what customers have said about them?

Playlists

Remember to group your videos into playlists, depending on their aim. You can have one playlist for videos describing your products, one for customer reviews, one for videos showing how your products are made, one for company presentations, and so on.

Extra: Get a verification badge for your YouTube channel

If your channel is lucky enough to have 100,000 subscribers, visit this link to request that YouTube verifies your account in order to have a tick display against your channel name.

Extra: Link channel to Google Analytics property

Go to your YouTube Advanced Settings and enter your tracking ID into the ‘Google Analytics property tracking ID’ field, this will make it easier to see visits to your channel and to share data between the two.

How to measure the success of your YouTube optimisation

Like with all digital marketing strategies, make sure that you begin by determining your goals, so you can decide what you need to measure. Consider what do you want to achieve from improving the SEO video optimisation for your YouTube channel. Do you want more customers, followers, or links? Or, are you using videos for customer retention, or to increase your visibility in search engines? Your goal should be established prior to creating the videos and should inform every decision you make about various aspects like content, tone and outreach.

Depending on your goals, the key metrics to measure include:

Audience retention

If people are closing your videos after only viewing 15 seconds, you need to consider how to make the video more interesting to them. If people are leaving the video halfway through, this may indicate that you have focused on a specific topic for too long. These metrics will help you understand what to do in future videos.

Traffic sources

Find out where people are discovering your videos. This can then inform your strategy in terms of where to promote your videos and what channels are better for ROI, for example.

Measuring engagement

Are people liking, sharing or commenting on your videos? These metrics will show you if they are interested and keen to pass on the knowledge to others.

Subscriber rates

This metric helps you see what videos are working best for you. You can find out which videos are making viewers subscribe to your channel and which ones aren’t. Use this information to help inform the types which help catch the attention of new viewers enough to subscribe to your channel.

Summary

YouTube optimisation isn’t the secret to ranking first, but neither is creating videos which are wonderfully crafted with not enough people watching. Striking a balance between the need to optimise information effectively..

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So why should you create a guest blogging strategy?

Guest blogging not only builds you as a thought leader within your industry, it also allows you to deliver your message directly to your target audience. And that’s not all… 

So, if it isn’t already part of your digital marketing strategy –  read on and find out some guest blogging tips. 

Position yourself as a thought leader

This is a long-term goal. I can’t lie and say it will happen overnight – because it won’t – but becoming a thought leader should most certainly be on your agenda. By regularly writing and guest blogging about relevant industry news, you can gradually become recognised as an authority in your industry. In time, your audience will begin to come to you for advice.

Hallam’s guest blog on Search Engine Journal Build brand awareness

Building brand awareness is one of the core values of all marketing strategies. If you think of a fizzy drink, a chocolate bar, or a trainer, the chances are that particular brands immediately pop into your head.

This is why building brand awareness is so important. Even if you don’t plan on taking over the world, you want customers and prospects to think of you when talking about products or services in your niche. You want to be recognised as a reliable and high-quality brand, so people automatically gravitate to you when they need a particular product or service that you sell. 

Alongside this, building a personal brand has never been more important than it is today. Anyone with access to the internet and social media can build an audience, position themselves as an expert, and start attracting clients for their business. That’s exactly what a lot of people are doing, and in a crowded market, you need to stand out. It may be worth creating a guest blogging strategy to help achieve this.

Build links to your site

Link building is the process of gaining hyperlinks from other websites back to your own, and there are two fundamental ways that the search engines use links:

  1. To discover new web pages
  2. To help determine how well a page should rank in their results
Google looks at the quality of links you have pointing to your site as an indicator of trust.

Once search engines have crawled pages on the web, they can extract the content of those pages and add it to their indexes. In this way, they can decide if they feel a page is of sufficient quality to be ranked well for relevant keywords.

Therefore, if relevant and good quality sites in your industry are linking to you – you’ll end up ranking higher. Here is a list of blog types that earn quality backlinks

Guest blogging and SEO

Guest blogging and SEO work well together within Google’s guidelines. Publishing useful content on high quality and relevant websites is likely to benefit your search engine ranking position and ultimately bring more traffic to your website. In turn, this will hopefully result in more sales and customers for your business.

Guest blogging should be used as part of a wider strategy for your SEO because it can’t do everything you need, although it will help get you closer to where you want to be. 

Only write for trustworthy and relevant sites

Google hates spammy websites, so it is important for a number of reasons that you only blog for good websites. 

What is a good website? You can judge a website by its domain rating, design and how user-friendly it is. The website should also be relevant to your topic and business. Avoid associating yourself with poor quality and spammy websites because you could end up being penalised by Google, which certainly isn’t worth it. You shouldn’t want to associate your brand with these types of sites anyway.

Don’t abuse anchor text

This is one of the harder areas to perfect. While anchor text is still a direct ranking factor, it is really important not to take advantage of it by shoe-horning keywords into a blog for the sake of it. 

Try to avoid using exact match keywords in your anchor text for every link you get from guest posts. Producing natural and well-written content should still be your priority.

There are plenty of tools, such as Ahrefs and SEMrush, which can help you to get a handle on your anchor text profile. Aim to maintain a balanced anchor text ratio with a combination of branded and commercial links.

The future of guest blogging

But getting relevant links isn’t always straightforward, as anyone in Digital PR will tell you. This recent experience is typical and shows why getting relevant links takes work.

Our team recently pitched some interesting and relevant content to UK home and lifestyle and parenting bloggers: 15 practical home security tips for summer. We discovered and contacted 299 bloggers and webmasters, prioritising 60 of the most relevant blogs to target, which we then reached out to first. We made no mention of a budget but pitched the content for its editorial value.

Out of 106 responses, 92% wanted money for links and content and only 1.8% would use the content, but without a link. It’s also worth noting that we got responses where prices differed: £65 for a ‘no follow’ or £85 for a ‘follow’. The graph below shows how much they were asking for. Some even charged for a ‘no follow’ link.

Not many of the bloggers asked to see the copy before putting a price on its editorial value. For most bloggers, this was a straightforward business transaction. Bloggers are now so aware of the commercial possibilities of working with brands that they’ll seemingly accept any content, so long as it’s reasonably relevant.

What does this mean?

Google brought in ‘no follow’ links to prevent spam, and they’ll penalise a site if they don’t use ‘no follow’ links on unnatural (paid) linking. This is a direct contradiction to what we found with our recent outreach. Bloggers will happily accept money for a ‘follow’ link on their site. Google still considers guest posting as natural – that is, organic – so a ‘follow’ link is fine. What is interesting is the speed at which bloggers are turning link building into a profitable business. It’s a full-time job for many, but it’s important to recognise the difference between advertising and the desire to offer quality content:

Example response from a blogger What can we do?

Digital marketers and PRs will need to use a much more targeted approach. They’ll need to focus all of their attention on blogs that have a large readership, or are directly relevant to their brand. We need to be more specific about the blogs we want to target, and we need to be more personable than ever.

It’s still useful to check the usual indicators of quality: Page Rank, domain authority, amount of posts per week, average comments per post, and the number of social followers they have. All of these things help determine whether a blog is good enough to target.

It goes without saying that your content must be worth sharing. It must try and evoke an emotional response, and it should always encourage engagement in order to grab the attention of the reader. Make your content the start of a conversation, and make an attempt to reach out to a blogger’s audience.

Your strategy should be to build better relationships, which in turn may build links. You should start a relationship by giving. Give content, give insight, give an opinion, and share your expertise.

So, is guest blogging still worth it?

In short, the answer is yes. There are many benefits of following guest blogging best practises such as brand awareness, building links and improving your website’s domain authority. 

Publishing useful content on high quality, relevant websites can benefit your search engine rankings greatly, and ultimately bring more traffic to your site. It will also build your authority in the industry and bring others in your sector to you as a thought leader and expert in your field. 

This article has hopefully allowed you to understand the benefits of guest blogging as well as some great guest blogging tips!

The post The benefits of guest blogging appeared first on Hallam.

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Why is UX in marketing important?

Jenni first explains why UX is important to marketers. She starts by outlining that it delivers and experience users come back for, allows you to gain insight into what your users want and how you can make it real and maximise conversions. 

Finding the balance

Start by talking to people – Stakeholders come in all kind of shapes and sizes, senior leaders to marketing colleagues to customer service, salespeople and even customers. Look for requirements, not solutions, and find common themes.

What idea is going to make the most impact?

From this, it is important to take these findings and create something that fits them. This can be a simple wireframe, a mock-up or even a storyboard. Jenni highlights that anything is better than nothing; it is a stake in the ground and a platform to spring from.

Now, let’s get some feedback. Get some real data, prove what is working and improve what isn’t! Don’t forget to combine both internal and external feedback. 

Feedback can be collected through a number of methods including session recording, phone interviews or card sorting.

Explorative Session recordings

Jenni’s favourite way of testing her own concepts and receiving feedback is through remote, unmoderated, explorative session recordings. She outlines 4 key steps to getting started with this type of test. These are as follows: 

  1. Get your concepts prepared and ready using a place they can be linked to. She recommends using a tool like Invision or Adobe XD to create a replicable story if you’re creating a website
  2. Write your scenario and questions – Give your audience some context to know what they are looking at
  3. Select your sample and send out your test. She recommends a sample size of approximately 14. 
  4. Record the responses. She recommends some online tools to do all of this, including UserZoom, WhatUsersDo and HotJar
Actions From Feedback

From her experience, Jenni suggests that following explorative sessions, you will have a great deal of feedback data. Therefore, it’s important to write everything that has been said and categorise it into the area it relates to. Following this, you should review whether it is actionable or not and choose whether to move forward with the idea or not.

Jenni tells the audience to always be willing to learn more every day and get ready for change at any moment. Never take any feedback too personally, keep moving and improving your work and keep your goals in sight and aim for them.

Release your work into the wild!

Now, it’s time to release your work into the wild. This is also another time to receive key feedback, pay close attention to what you’ve created. 

  • Look at your conversion rates
  • Drop off points
  • Engagement 
  • Use heatmapping

This is where you gather actionable insight for the next phase of improvements.

Tie it all Up

Bring the feedback to life through your actions! Don’t forget to be the voice of the user and be prepared to adapt. Jenni’s final word is to remember, the road to improvement never ends.

The post The UX showstopper: data and design – Jenni Stacey, Experian – Nottingham Digital Summit appeared first on Hallam.

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Chanade Hemming, product manager at Virgin Media and digital lead for the ‘I get help’ journey, continues the Summit with a presentation on product management. Throughout the presentation, Chanade emphasises the importance of customer experience and immersing yourself in the customer world. 

Getting signal from the noise 

We live in a world with so much data, noise, customer feedback. Chanade’s presentation aimed to inform the audience on how to set themselves up to listen to the right signals. 

Most importantly, Chanade outlined three things:

  • How to set yourself up for success
  • How Virgin Media works and how to think about customers and the front line performers  
  • How to be dated informed 

How Virgin Media Operate

At Virgin Media, there are two ‘squads’, the journey squad, who are a cross-functional team, and the digital squad, who are a functional team. The digital squad has a larger number of team members, ranging from product donors, designers, copywriters and analysts.  

The design thinking process at Virgin involves the collaboration of people from across the organisation. Therefore, it is not only digital team members involved in design. At Virgin, design thinking is expressed predominantly through design workshops as well as the google design sprint. The Nielsen Norman Group design thinking process is a good example of this. 

Virgin aims to move away from waterfall cycles which can take up to eighteen months, and towards shorter, faster, eight-week processes. Chanade suggests that personas are good from a marketing perspective, but not for unique customer needs. Therefore, methods which are less generic and more situational are much more beneficial. 

Immerse Yourself 

Chanade also emphasises the benefits of immersing yourself in the customer world and spending time with your customers. Chanade also outlined the benefits of encouraging the team to get away from the desk and gain value from the outside world; no matter what industry you are in.

Alongside the customer world, immersing yourself in the product is of huge importance. Experiencing life as a customer can provide valuable insights into how and where products can be improved.

According to Chanade, It’s really important to look inside, not just inside your own industry, but challenging yourself by looking at others. We must ask “what can we learn from different people in this industry, as well as those outside it?”

Tactical Empathy

Applying tactical empathy is important in all industries. This can be done by putting yourself in the customer’s shoes; thinking about the customer and the device they’re on and adapting the design to fit customer needs. 

Chanade uses an example from Virgin Media whereby Virgin transformed its strategy to fit customer needs. Instead of using a long piece of text to help customers overcome problems, Virgin developed an interactive step-by-step method, which they found to be much more effective. 

Chanade alluded to a quote by Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses.” Following this, Chanade suggested that it is really important both to think about what the customer says to you and to couple this with all of the other data. 

Data-Informed vs. Data Driven 

However, Chanade argued that using data alone is risky; “Data is great but it won’t give you the why”. At Virgin, the team makes data-informed rather than data-driven decisions, without thinking of the outcome at the end. 

This data-informed method can also be implemented outside of work. This can be seen in our personal lives, for example, when booking a holiday. We don’t make decisions using one piece of data (e.g., the star rating of the hotel) you group data together to make an informed decision (e.g. the star rating, the price, the location, the reviews). These collective experiences and knowledge allow us to make informed decisions. 

Chanade then went on to discuss several well-known brands and discussed whether they are data-driven or data-informed. 

A common misconception is that Tesco data-driven. They are actually data-informed, and this is visible through their recurring theme around convenience. For example, their launch of click and collect allows them to stay relevant. Their option for home delivery reflects their convenience. Finally, the fact that they have groceries, home furniture and clothes in store means that they become a one-stop shop for everything, again reflecting convenience.

Netflix is another example of a data-informed business. In 2015 Netflix hired an anthropologist which means that their content is timely and relevant, chosen by someone who keeps up with what is going on in the world. 

Digital kingdom is not where the magic comes from 

Chanade concluded by suggesting that the digital kingdom is not where the magic comes from. Ultimately numbers only give you a snippet of reality. Chanade, therefore, reiterated the need to immerse yourself in the customer world, the benefits of bringing everyone on the team on the same single journey and the fact that humans are designing for humans. Involving your customers and adding a human touch to each and every product and design is necessary to achieve success. 

The post Product management: getting signal from the noise – Chanade Hemming, Virgin Media – Nottingham Digital Summit appeared first on Hallam.

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Next up is Adam Harris from Fresh Mindset who discussed the implications of remote and virtual working. He shared tips, tools and techniques he’s learnt from a series of conversations with online businesses owners over the last 18 months. 

Adam opened with a quote from Richard Branson: “one days offices will be a thing of the past”. Businesses are changing, moving and evolving quickly and all of the time, and according to Adam, the traditional workforce is not what it was previously. His presentation considered what is important for us as individuals, what impact remote working has on the business, and finding a unique approach for every single individual. 

The future of teams

Adam began by discussing the future of teams. He suggested that just like the advancement of technology, the workforce is advancing at a fast rate. For example, a lot of people now work from home. Other organisations have no physical office; they just connect online. This is known as a distributed team, whereby employees can be located anywhere in the world. Distributed teams utilize online technology to communicate and typically board meetings take place via online calls. So where will this go moving forward?

By alluding to research conducted in 1998, Adam introduced the 50-foot rule. This is the concept that if you work more than 50ft away from somebody, communication with that individual is minimal. And when we take into consideration teams that work on different floors, according to this theory, there is hardly any communication between co-workers.

However, Adam outlined many advantages of remote working. For example, the flexibility of being able to work to your own time scales and exercise individual control increases productivity. Remote working enables individuals to consider when they work best (i.e. whether that be morning or evening), and this leads to productive, successful work. 

Remote working impacts businesses leaders massively, therefore it is vital for leaders to communicate effectively and understand what is happening and where.

Building the right team and how you can fit in

Adam stated that normal interviews don’t usually work for remote workers. He, therefore, suggested introducing the ‘rule of three’. By conducting three different interviews in three different locations with three different interviewers, employers are given a great opportunity to more deeply observe potential employees relationships, personalities and skills.

Adam also suggested that however you communicate and work with individuals, clarity is vital. For business leaders, clarity on the relationship and the working environment is necessary. This is a two-way-street whereby employees and employers must work together and always remain open to listening to one another. Staying curious is another key factor for Adam, who believes that questioning the answer, is more important than answering the question. Finally, having accountability ensures demands are met whether you are the employee or employer. 

Rhythm and Routine

According to Adam, rhythm offers consistency. The regular standup is what is known as a scrum. Adam argues that it is vital to communicate with everyone in the business. Small sharp conversations are key because it keeps the connectivity up and moving forward. 

Regular team meetings are key in any business, but especially when you are working online. It is absolutely necessary for leaders of online businesses to have a clear plan of the next steps for the team and to clearly define and understand the culture of the business.

Adam suggests that if you don’t have clarity, then you have ambiguity, and this is risky for online businesses.

Relationships

Understanding what will work for the individual and the organisation needs time, effort and energy. Adam suggests that it is necessary to get into a rhythm of sitting with individuals and their discussing needs so you don’t fall into the void of making uninformed assumptions. 

Making conscious efforts to understand each employee’s unique needs is vital.

Key takeaways

As leaders of remote and distributed businesses, it is necessary to understand your place within it. Focussing on organising the culture and rhythms of a business is vital. It is necessary to make sure you have the right processes in place in order to empower the team around the world. 

Being able to utilise and leverage technology is key in this respect. Developing the ability to use the tools available to you and be able to adapt and change to new tools is very important. 

Ultimately, it is all about people, patterns and communication. Adam suggests that no matter where you work from, make sure you are on scope, on budget and on time. It is important as an organisation to set employees up to win.

The post Remote and virtual working: implications for the digital workforce – Adam Harris, Fresh Mindset – Nottingham Digital Summit appeared first on Hallam.

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With the Nottingham Digital Summit 2019 now approaching its conclusion, Darren Taylor of Air BI has come to the stage to give a demonstration of how business intelligence can transform a business for the better and improve efficiency.

What is BI? 

The first thing Darren covers is to explain what BI actually is. Business Intelligence (BI) can be described using the example of lego.

The data collected can be compared to jumbled lego blocks. BI will first sort this data into certain categories, such as colour. Then, once the blocks of data have been sorted into colour, it’s possible to arrange the blocks into a proper stack of data. Finally, once everything has been sorted and arranged into stacks, it’s possible to make the blocks of data presentable and proper conclusions can be reached.

Main Challenges of BI

To identify the major challenges faced by businesses that don’t use BI, Darren identified an unnamed global retailer in the USA, they were dealing with complaints, feedback and Lab testing. 3 unrelated teams deal with all 3 of these pieces of information all at once which made handling everything difficult. When Darren came in to help this company become more efficient at handling complaints and handling its data effectively, he recognised a number of challenges, these are:

  • Everything must be low cost due to their status as a retailer
  • They deal with a lot of customer data from many sources and receive 1000s of complaints every day
  • Their central database was aging and inefficient leading 
  • Had an attitude of “always done it this way” and a reluctance to change 
What did they do?

After acknowledging these challenges, Darren used his BI expertise to solve the data problems the organisation was experiencing. Here’s what they did:

  • They built one view of the business and connected people in multiple teams to one version of the data and removed excel files
  • Used deep machine learning to create insights into the data such as understanding why complaints were made and what the root cause of them was
  • Created dashboards to tell product managers where to focus their limited time
  • Increased competitiveness among the retailer by making the team more nimble to problems 
Outcome

Following Darren’s team’s BI based resolution plan, a number of outcomes were identified by the team. These were:

  • Investment into Bi improved efficiency in the teams. They could work faster and spent less time responding to complaints inefficiently
  • They gained early warning dashboards to prevent problems before they escalated so they could focus their attention on the correct items
  • Reduced complaints by understanding why they happened in the first place
  • Staff felt empowered to make key decisions on data they could actually trust (they couldn’t trust old data in their aging Excel based system)
  • One view allowed teams to plan smarter rather than harder 
  • Built a stronger brand with customers, following up on complaints with suppliers, and giving customers a real answer to problems  
How can you make your first steps into Business Intelligence?

If you’re considering making your first steps into business intelligence following Darren sharing his experiences. Darren recommends Power BI and Zoho Analytics as good places to start and provided a practical tutorial of Power BI during his talk at the Summit. He claims that you are half-way to being able to use Power BI if you’re able to use Microsoft Excel. Furthermore, he recommends moving Excel workbooks online, creating charts and a dashboard and keeping this data up to date. 

After you are set up and proficient with using simple BI software, you could also consider sharing information with customers and even implementing deep machine learning and AI technology.

The post Digital transformation through business intelligence – Darren Turner, Air BI – Nottingham Digital Summit appeared first on Hallam.

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The third talk of the afternoon on the Playhouse stage at the Nottingham Digital Summit was Susan Moeller of BuzzSumo. She discussed how to navigate current trends and move your audience from passivity to partnership.

Passivity to partnership is becoming harder

This is for a number of reasons:

  • Distrust of social networks: Because they’ve preyed on our data, people no longer trust them.
  • Adblockers: 22% of people in the UK use adblocker technologies – and these statistics are higher in the US and Europe – less people are seeing ads.
  • Increased control: Because of these, the audience is in control of the messages they receive, which means there are a lot less people who can actually view our content.

There’s a huge amount of content being published – more than ever before.

The consumer decision journey has four key battlegrounds, according to the McKinsey Loyalty Loop:

  • Initial consideration set: The consumer considers an initial set of brands
  • Active evaluation: Brands enter and exit the consideration set at any point up to purchase
  • Moment of purchase: Ultimately, the consumer selects a brand
  • Loyalty loop: Consumer repurchases current brand without shopping for others

Our customers are always shopping around – even ones who like our product.

McKinsey recommends you make your brand very easy to find, and increase spending on brand awareness. Make sure that when people come to your site, you have a great way to capture them, so they’ll consider you when they make a purchase decision.

It’s difficult creating content that gets good results. 50% of today’s content gets less than four shares, and zero backlinks. This content is influencing absolutely no one.

The social shares that occur are for power posts – 1.3% of content shared gets 75% of total engagement.

While the landscape has changed, our goals haven’t. We still need to move their audience from passivity to partnership. To do this, we need to understand and create influential content, by understanding the following:

  • Our industry
  • Our audience
  • Promotion and distribution
  • Collaboration
  • Our results
Understand our industry

Industry and topic content evaluation to determine competition and content saturation levels. Different saturation require different strategies, and savvy marketers recognise the goldmine an unsaturated topic – high interest and low competition.

Savvy marketers also know how to drive action in saturated topic areas, by discovering a niche, working with influencers for distribution, and gaining a high production value.

So, how do you discover if a topic area is saturated or unsaturated?

In this example, we can see that articles about “influencer marketing” have 47% less competition than articles for “content marketing”, and 43% more engagements. Therefore, influencer content is a lot less saturated.

Scale your content creation so you can saturate a topic area – but you can only do that with an area that’s currently unsaturated, and you have to act fast.

What do you do with an unsaturated content landscape?

  • Find your niche area: There are subject areas related to the topic, and specific sub-topics. For example, content marketing covers content strategy, content writing and Google Analytics. You can break these down into further sub-topics.
  • High production value content: Look to content such as an ebook, online course or professional video, as there will be less competition on those types of content, as opposed to a blog article.
  • Teamwork: Collaborating with influencers or contributors can help you to create more and better content.
Understand our audience

Data helps us to understand our audiences, so we can give them what they want.

“I call content marketing ‘data-driven’ empathy.” – Andy Crestodina.

By using tools like BuzzSumo and Google Analytics, you can get closer to your audience to find out what they love, so you can create content that solves their informational needs.

Great content aligns with what your audience wants. You need to know what they find engaging and what they want to know, so you can help them.

Essentially, there are three ways you can do this:

  • Talk to customers and prospects: Customer success team, surveys, real-life events
  • Cultivate industry knowledge: Competitors, thought leaders, conferences, trends
  • Observe behaviour: Traffic, social media engagement

Social shares are a good proxy for interest, and can save time in creating content at scale. Start with what works overall in the digital landscape.

Some useful stats from a collaboration between BuzzSumo and Backlinko:

  • Question headlines (i.e. ones with a “?”), get an above-average amount of social shares
  • List posts and “why” posts get a high level of shares, whereas infographics and “how-tos” don’t
  • The ideal content length for maximising social media shares is 1,000-2,000 words

The other thing to remember? Don’t be afraid to write really long headlines!

What are people searching for when they find your site?

You can identify which keywords people are using to find you, and which pages are driving the most traffic with Search Console and Analytics.

How to build a sustainable content research workflow

Weekly

  • Keep up with industry trends
  • Adjust strategy for upcoming month
  • Connect with and curate content from industry influencers

Monthly

  • Deploy content
  • Measure success of content as it’s published
  • Keep an eye on competitors
  • Adjust content profile
  • Review best performing content for topic areas to find trends
  • Collaborate with someone

Quarterly

  • Take a look at the most successful content for your topic area, your competitors and your site
  • Develop list of topics, formats and influencers
  • Decide on social promotion networks
  • Plan content

Annually

  • Review any research about effective content from the digital landscape
  • Note formats to try
  • Create content profile
  • Find and plan for evergreen content
  • Look at agendas of industry conferences for emerging themes
Understand promotion and distribution

People discover things online through search, social and word of mouth. For search, you need to optimise your content for SEO. For social, they are likely bored, so are looking to be entertained.

You can’t just fix and forget our content – you must continue to distribute, update and re-release. You need to ensure your content is relevant enough, and the tone must be appropriate for the channel that you’re going to optimise it for (social media, SEO etc).

You have to master the art of getting content in front of human eyes by working with bots that serve that content up in the form of SEO.

When it comes to social media promotion, consistency is key, to keep your content in front of your audience. How you do this will depend on the number of people in your team, and the time you have. The most effective way is to create a content promotion strategy, and stick to it.

Understand collaboration

  • Content quality
  • Engaged audience
  • Expert opinions
Understand our results

It’s important you measure content of each type with the correct KPI. Set these KPIs within your team and help them to expect the right outcome.

Create content that supports your goals, and measure the right things for each piece of content. Know your results – there is some level of experimentation or iteration in producing great content. With tools like Google Analytics, every piece of content creates its own feedback loop.

The post Creating influential content – Susan Moeller, BuzzSumo – Nottingham Digital Summit appeared first on Hallam.

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