Content marketing – guest blogging
Matt Cutts is Head of Webspam at Google. He is basically their SEO guru. He sent digital marketers into a frenzy this month by announcing that “he’d expect Google’s webspam team to take a pretty dim view of guest blogging going forward”. Guest blogging is writing and publishing an article on someone else’s website or blog, with a link back to your own site. This link is great for your own website's SEO and is therefore widely used by digital marketers.
Matt Cutts then followed this up with a slight backtrack, saying guest blogging was still a valid marketing tactic for businesses in terms of exposure, branding, increased reach, and community building.
So, the ambiguous Cutts left web developers and business owners confused about how they are allowed to market their businesses in the eyes of Google.
Since Cutts’ statement, the general consensus for digital marketers is that high quality guest posts will still be acceptable going forward.
Web design and development – www.marksandspencer.com
Marks & Spencer launched their new website, which had been two years in the making. The new site comprised a smart redesign coupled with a platform shift from Amazon’s services to its own. It aimed to give the impression of a luxury high street shop online, with a focus on visuals, magazine-style editorial, and a good user experience on all devices.
M&S then suffered an 8.1% drop in sales, which the Chief Executive blamed on the new site. Users complained about performance issues, problems with filtering products, a lack of product information, and confusing navigation. Amazing that such a huge brand could have got it so wrong at launch!
Online advertising – more targeted advertising for Facebook
This month, Facebook continued to give its advertisers more targeting options, a process that was first announced in February. Users of their advertising service were able to target people on location, demographics, interests, and behaviours. Facebook are continuing to expand their online advertising offer in an attempt to compete with the market-leaders Google and their AdWords service. Many businesses are sticking with Google AdWords for the time being, seeing Facebook as a platform for social engagement rather than direct advertising.
Digital – rise in use of tablets for older people
This month Ofcom revealed that the number of people aged 65-74 using tablet devices to access the internet has more than tripled in recent years. Ofcom found that over-65s now spend an average of nine hours and 12 minutes a week online.
Free time and improved health, combined with relative financial comfort and a greater readiness for self-indulgence, are creating a mature market eager to consume and explore – and they're using tablets for some of that consuming.
Many marketers are only just realising the impact that shifting demographics will have on the success of their marketing, and are starting to understand that their long-ignored older customers now have access to the digital technology previously considered to be a younger person's channel.
Direct mail – Royal Mail encourage direct mail
Royal Mail launched a campaign to highlight the value of mail working in conjunction with digital.
They backed up their campaign with research which revealed that customers are urging brands to use both mail and email to communicate with them. The majority of people surveyed said printed mail grabs their attention, gives a better impression of the company and makes them feel more valued. Meanwhile email campaigns are considered useful for follow-up, and are easy to file and access.
Their study found that campaigns with printed mail outperformed campaigns without mail substantially – so, print used well in marketing is far from dead!
Marketing during the World Cup
World Cup advertising was particularly tough this year as non-sponsors tried to muscle in on the act. A TV commercial by Brazil’s biggest airline, TAM, fell foul of regulators by suggesting that it was the official carrier of the event.
Even official sponsors had problems – Adidas’ ‘Looking to score’ campaign with t-shirts depicting a bikini-clad woman had to be withdrawn. Meanwhile its rival Nike, a non-sponsor, is the brand that Brazilians most associated with the World Cup.
There's a great summary of the best and the worst of World Cup marketing here.
Logo design – Air B&B
Many large brands updated their logos in 2014, including Black & Decker, Foursquare, Bacardi, PayPal, Reebok and Visa.
Successful online accommodation booking site Air B&B followed suit in July. Their new logo caused some negative comments for its similarity to existing logos (Automation Anywhere – who have now changed their logo – and interiors giant Habitat). It was also criticised for its similarity to parts of the human body (although to be honest you'd have to use your imagination!).
Despite some negativity on social media, the new logo led Air B&B to spend some time this month as the top trending item on Twitter, helping to boost its profile and extend brand awareness.
SEO – Google 'Pigeon'
Google launched another update to its search algorithm in July in the US, appearing in the UK the following month. (Search algorithms help to rank web pages according to their relevance to a user's search term.)
Although the update was given no official title by Google and limited information was released, the name 'Pigeon' was used by digital marketers. The algorithm change was found to affect local ranking results.
One of the main changes since the algorithm update is a facelift to the ‘Google Local 7-Pack’. The 7-Pack is the name for the group of seven Google Maps listings you are presented with during a search within a local area, e.g. 'Digital marketing Leamington Spa'.
Pigeon gave a much tighter focus on local businesses within the immediate area of search.
Permission in marketing – Apple and U2
Apple ‘gifted’ all its iTunes customers with the new U2 album 'Songs of Innocence' to celebrate the launch of the iPhone 6. None of these 500 million customers had actually chosen to download the album, and the widespread negative public reaction led Apple to rush out a special tool that allowed users to delete the album.
This was widely viewed as a fundamentally flawed marketing strategy, highlighting the importance of permission in marketing, and giving consumers the chance to opt in or out.
Social media - Facebook finally buys WhatsApp for $22 billion
Facebook completed its biggest acquisition to date by buying instant messaging app WhatsApp for $22bn. Why? Facebook were hoping that WhatsApp would give them access to a younger demographic, be able to reach its 600 million worldwide users, and tap into the ever-growing telecoms sector.
The question digital marketers – and WhatsApp's users – were keen to answer was whether WhatsApp would remain an ad-free service, particularly as adverts are pivotal to Facebook’s own business model nowadays.
Online advertising – Google AdWords: M&S vs Interflora
This month the Court of Appeal ordered a re-trial in the ongoing Marks & Spencer vs Interflora Google AdWords case.
Interflora claim that M&S infringed their trademark by registering ‘Interflora’ as one of their own Google AdWords terms. By using ‘Interflora’ as a keyword, internet users who are searching for ‘Interflora’ are led to the M&S home page.
Marketers took note – confirming that when selecting keywords for AdWords campaigns, it's best to avoid using competitors' brand names.
TV advertising – the battle of the major retailers
Retailers' Christmas TV advertising has become a feature in the festive period. By the middle of the month, John Lewis' "Monty the penguin" was considered the most compelling Christmas ad of 2014, according to research by facial recognition analysts Realeyes.
The John Lewis Christmas ad was followed by Harvey Nichols' “Could I be any clearer?”, the Post Office’s "Get Christmas all wrapped up", Boots’ "#SpecialBecause" and Iceland’s Peter Andre-fronted ads.
Not appearing in this top 5 was Sainsbury's. They teamed up with the Royal British Legion to retell the story of the Christmas Day football match from WW1. Hundreds of complaints about it being exploitative and in poor taste were filed to the advertising watchdog. However Sainsbury's claimed it received positive responses, and highlight that all profits from a £1 chocolate bar featured in the advert will go to the British Legion.