Cross Brand Collaborations: ‘x’ Marks the Spot

Cross-brand collaborations seem to be everywhere right now. Across fashion, beauty, travel, homewares and beyond, you can’t seem to move without seeing a big ‘X’ sandwiched between two brand logos to show they’ve been working on something together.

But why the sudden explosion in collaborations? And why do brands do it?

Is it just a marketing tool that’s being hammered hard for short-term social media awareness, or are collaborations the way forward for brands?

We’ve delved into some of the likely reasons behind cross-brand collaborations and collected some handy examples of those collaborations in action. X-citing times.

Cross-brand collaborations Feature 1 Moschino x HM

Brand collaborations to open up new markets

One reason for collaboration is to open new, complementary markets and get your brand in front of potential customers. A collaboration will vastly increase your brand reach as you’re talking to two sets of customers rather than one and gives a signal from one brand that the other brand can be trusted.

We’re seeing this a lot in the fashion world. High-fashion brands are constantly collaborating with high-street brands. Think Moschino X H&MFenty X Puma, or Junya Watanabe X The North Face.  It helps to tap into different customer groups and introduce higher end brands to the high-street shopper through capsule collections.

But it’s also being done across sectors too. Virgin Atlantic X OnePiece and Grant’s Whiskey X findmypast.co.uk may not seem to make sense on the surface, but look deeper and you’ll see the mutual interests around passenger comfort and heritage respectively that would lead the customers of one brand to then consider the other.

IKEA are current kings of the new market collaborations. They regularly collaborate with other brands and individuals with the recent wave including super-hot streetwear label Off-White, Lego, Sonos and Adidas amongst others. All of which open up the IKEA brand to new customers and markets.

Cross-brand collaborations Feature 2 Simpsons Lego Ikea

Show you “get” your customer

Sometimes a collaboration isn’t necessarily about accessing new customers but showing your existing customers that you get them and understand what they want. It increases brand value and makes your fans even more dedicated.

This is all about brands with a significant overlap in customer bases working together to create something they know their customers are going to love.

LEGO are particularly good at this with Star Wars, Batman, Simpsons and Harry Potter brand collaborations all reinforcing their respective brands even further within their target markets.

Sports brands are also getting in on the action by collaborating with sports stars and other ambassadors (who are brands in their own right nowadays).

Nike X Cristiano RonaldoPuma X Rihanna, and Adidas x Pharrell Williams are all examples of brands spotting trends amongst existing customer bases and using collaborations to reinforce their brand with their customers.

Get noticed

The marketplace in all sectors is so crowded now that brands have to do something out of the ordinary to be heard and raise awareness. And a collaboration is one way to do just that.

Some of the most hyped collaborations of recent times include Supreme X Louis Vuitton (what’s a blog about collaborations without at least one mention of Supreme?), Nike X Apple, and Uber X Spotify.

These all generated massive amounts of coverage and awareness, but it’s not just the big brands using collaboration.

Smaller brands can use collaborations to get ahead and piggy-back on the reputation of their better-known collaborator. Palace Skateboards, well known in their niche but not globally renowned, have had great success with their Adidas collaborations. As have Anna Glover X H&M with her fabric products and JW Anderson X Converse with their footwear.

Through the collaboration the smaller brands get access to a much bigger audience and the larger brand gets positioned as a champion of the next wave. Win – Win.

Cross-brand collaborations Feature 3 CALM Mark your man

Promote a cause

Brands can also team up for selfless reasons. The CALM X F&F #MarkYourMan campaign, WWF X Whiskas and GLAAD X Asos collaborations all help shine a light on different charity causes such as preventing suicide, protecting tigers and promoting LGBTQ rights.

There is still a sales message and a commercial drive behind the collaboration for a cause, but in most cases a portion of proceeds will go to the charity partner or donations will be made to them.

A collaboration can be a fantastic way for a charity to expand its reach and awareness with the relevant people, while also generating more funding. For the supporting brand, it can create good feeling as they demonstrate their commitment to charitable causes.

Cross-brand collaborations Feature 4 Cath Kidston Heinz

Reinvigorate a brand

Sometimes a brand collaboration can be a great way to shake the dust off an established brand and create a bit of positive buzz to show that it’s still relevant.

Heinz soup cans had been largely untouched for 108 years until a design collaboration with Cath Kidston was launched in April this year.

Cath Kidston have also been involved with a Disney collaboration project, using the characters to change up their classic floral designs.

Mickey Mouse and friends have also collaborated with footwear brand, Vans and “couture athleisure” brand, Opening Ceremony to shake up their character-lead designs and give them a bit of street-cred.

Crayola, beloved crayon brand and supplier of one of the best smells from your childhood have been getting in on the action, launching a make-up range with Clinique that sent beauty bloggers crazy. Their second make-up range released with Asos is primed and ready for festival season.

Both ranges will have reintroduced the brand to many former Crayola fans, and tapped into nostalgia to drive the brand forward.

Tap into the latest trends 

Collaborations aren’t necessarily long-term deals and that’s never more evident than when brands team up with pop culture flavours-of-the-month for short term collaborations.

No doubt they’re a great way to boost awareness and align a brand with something hot but they possibly lack the authenticity of a collaboration motivated by one of the other reasons.

The marketers at Topshop might love Stranger Things, the guys at Drop Dead probably binge watch Game of Thrones and the team at Covergirl are obviously massive Star Wars fans, but the mass appeal of the shows and the buzz around new releases is more likely the reason for the collaboration than any shared ideals or agendas.

Collaborations between brands don’t look like they’re going to stop any time soon, and with the ever-growing pressure on the high-street it may soon be a case of “collaborate or die” for those retailers who haven’t done so yet.

So, whether it’s to open up new markets, reinvigorate a brand or shine a light on a cause close to a brand’s heart which brands do you think will be the next to collaborate?

5 Brands Celebrating Pride Month with Content

This month, people around the world are celebrating LGBT Pride. Parades and events are held in June to commemorate the Stonewall riots and to celebrate the impact of the LGBT community.

It’s also a month where we discuss some of the issues that the community faces and raise support for charities who can help.

These brands are using content to do just that. From a hilarious Cards Against Humanity campaign to a practical tool from PFLAG Canada, we’re taking a look at the best content from Pride month.

Cards Against Humanity – Pride Pack

Makers of the self-described ‘party game for horrible people’, Cards Against Humanity released a special themed Pride Pack this month. It’s full of limited edition cards to add to your game, with all profits going to Howard Brown Health, a US-based charity.

But they released it in true CAH style, with an absurd landing page. Featuring animated illustrations of advocates like Cher, Ellen and RuPaul, the page sarcastically declares Cards Against Humanity a Gay Icon. It then goes on to sell two versions of the pack – one with glitter, one without.

Their trademark irreverent tone even makes its way into the FAQs section and it’s the perfect example of a brand knowing their audience.

June content round-up image 1

Nike – Be True

Nike have partnered up with their equality ambassadors including LGBT athletes in their Be True For Equality campaign. With a mission statement to make sports more inclusive, Nike are announcing their financial support for organisations that fight for equality through their Be True fund.

The campaign introduces Nike’s equality ambassadors in their own words and encourages users to get involved by adding their own picture to a photo mosaic with words of support. Nike fans can also show their support with items from the equality collection made specially to celebrate Pride month.

Kenneth Cole – Tied with Pride

Kenneth Cole have been supporters of LGBT equality for 25 years, so to celebrate this year’s Pride month, their Kam sneaker was given a makeover with a rainbow stripe. This detail signifies the brand’s continued support of the community and encourages wearers to show their support.

To launch the new products, the Tied with Pride campaign gathers together 6 individuals from the LGBT community and profiles their stories. Take a look at the campaign video below.

PFLAG Canada – Destination Pride

Canadian charity PFLAG provide education and support for people on the issues of sexual orientation, and gender identity. They have plenty of helpful resources, including their Destination Pride tool.

Using data from around the world, the tool gives each location a score based on the status of the rights of and sentiments towards the LGBT community. It’s designed to help travellers understand their destination’s level of acceptance.

The website uses data visualisation to present scores and breaks it down into different categories using the Pride flag.

Instagram – #Pride2018

With its majority youth following, Instagram has been established as a place for activism and expression. And to celebrate the fact, along with Pride month, the social media platform introduced 5 young LGBT leaders to their role models to encourage conversation about their work and lives.

Instagram wants to encourage others to discover and connect with their role models through the platform. So, working with GLAAD, Instagram identified the hashtags which the LGBT community use to communicate and have given them a rainbow gradient for Pride month to show their support.

They hope to create a safer, more inclusive community on Instagram and are using positive messaging to do this.

June content round-up image 3

These are just some of the ways content can be used for good and we hope they’ve left you feeling inspired. Don’t forget to check back next month to see more of our top picks.

On your marks: May’s best sports marketing campaigns from Under Armour, BBC and more

There’s a whole Summer of sport to look forward to in the coming months. With the countdown to the World Cup underway and Wimbledon set to be a scorcher, we decided to warm-up for the events with a look at some of the best sports and fitness content out there.  

From an awe-inspiring animation by the BBC, to an inspiring campaign by Under Armour, take a look at the top 4 sports content campaigns this May.   

BBC – World Cup tapestry  

This Summer will see the BBC cover one of the biggest sporting events globally – the FIFA World Cup in Russia. To celebrate, their in-house agency, BBC Creative, attempted a world-first ad by creating a 7-metre long tapestry of iconic events from the tournament’s history.  

Moments including England’s 1966 win are shown in a short film which premiered during the FA Cup Final. The film is made up of 600 individual frames and features Russian folk song, Oche Chernye, recorded at Abbey Road.  

The actual tapestry will be added to with memorable moments from the coming World Cup before being displayed in Manchester’s National Football Museum.  

Asics – I Move Me  

Sports and fitness wear brand, Asics, launched their I Move Me™ campaign with a manifesto encouraging people to move. The messaging focuses on how moving can make you happier, stronger and sharper, rather than any mention of body image.  

Asics has created short videos in collaboration with fitness influencers like Food & Lycra, to break down social body pressures. The videos have been shown as pre-roll ads on YouTube, with some gaining over a million views.  

Under Armour US – Will finds a way 

Under Armour US is pushing a similarly inspiring message with their Will Finds a Way campaign. Fronted by brand ambassador, Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson, Under Armour have created short films with athletes to discuss how they achieve success. 

The landing page tells the story of each individual athlete with stunning imagery and lets users shop the look for their training gear.  

England Squad  Team announcement  

The FA announced the England squad for the 2018 World Cup with a video led by football fans. Young people from up and down the country got to reveal the 23-player team heading to Russia in the video which has since been viewed on Twitter over 3.4 million times. You can see the original tweet over on their profile, or check out our Marketer’s Guide to the England World Cup Squad.

The FA’s website also features helpful content for fans, including interesting player stats like who scored the most goals in the qualifying stages, and fixtures for the World Cup games. It provides a great hub for people to look at throughout the tournament. 

Mays Best Sports Creative Marketing Campaigns Team

Like us, you’ll probably be glued to the TV to see all the sporting action in the coming months. But you won’t want to miss any of the great marketing campaigns kick-starting over Summer, so check back to see more top picks next month.

 

Want all the latest content from Red Hot Penny direct to your inbox? Just pop your email in the box below.

 

Changes in Shopping Habits

The way we shop is always changing. From years of austerity and rationing during the Second World War, to the economic boom of the 1950s when consumerism took off and brands like Marks and Spencer led the way with a mixture of quality, value and customer service.

Then came the dot com explosion of the 2000’s – the internet opened up a whole new way of shopping and has changed the face of our high street forever.

Death of the High Street

Shopping Habits Changes - Death of the High Street

Online sales have been steadily rising over the last 10 years, with internet sales making up 16.3% of all retail sales in Britain in 2017. And the effect on the high street has been clear. So far this year, we’ve seen retailers like Toys ‘R’ Us and Maplin go into administration plus stores like New Look, Mothercare and now House of Fraser, close in dozens of locations.

This is a huge contrast to the success that online retailers are seeing at the moment. Sales at the top 20 online-only retailers, including Asos, Feelunique and Ocado, have grown by nearly a quarter (23%) in the last year.

It’s not just being able to purchase new clothes or groceries with the click of a mouse – online retailers are able to provide excellent service with perks like free shipping and try-before-you-buy options.

Mobile First Use

But even the way we shop online is changing. Sales made on smartphones in the UK have increased from 19% in Q4 2017 to 32% to Q1 2018 according to Criteo – which analysed browsing and purchasing data from more than 5,000 retailers.

This is a big increase in such a short time frame, and it signals how consumers are adapting to the connectivity that their smartphone offers them. We don’t need to be at a computer to access the internet, now we can purchase whatever we want from just about anywhere.

Plus, with Google’s mobile first index, there’s a shift to search engines favouring mobile websites, proving how popular it is.

…And now there’s voice search

Shopping Habits Changes - Rise of Voice Search

In addition to smartphones, smart speakers are becoming the must-have gadget. Nearly 25 million smart speakers were sold in 2017, and they’re conditioning consumers to only use their voice to make searches.

Predictions by ComScore say that more than 50% of all searches will be voice-based by 2020. And considering Amazon Echo owners increase spending on Amazon by 6% after purchasing the speaker, it gives us an idea of how consumers are using the devices – they’re shopping more.

Voice search is becoming popular for a number of reasons, when asked why they use voice search, 61% of people said it’s useful when their hands or vision is occupied. 30% said they get faster results and 24% said it’s down to certain devices being too difficult to type on.

What do these changes in shopping habits mean for retailers?

Shopping habits are all about convenience.

So, you need to make it as easy as possible for shoppers to shop – and that means being accessible online in order to remain relevant to customers.

That doesn’t mean it’s enough just to have a functioning website though. To stay relevant, retailers also need to think about:

  • Online service

Can consumers purchase online?  If your website is hidden on page 5 of Google’s search results, customers might not even realise they can buy from you. A fully-optimised website that ranks for related searches is essential.

And are they going to get the service they expect? As a brand or retailer, you should be providing a fully joined-up service wherever and whenever customers choose to interact with you.

  • Purchases made on mobile

If it isn’t already, your site should be optimised for mobile to make it as easy as possible for customers to buy products with the tap of a smartphone. Every page and navigation feature should be designed with mobile in mind.

Site speed plays a huge part in Google’s ranking factors. Key things like image dimensions, file sizes and site code scripts can really slow down websites, so it’s worth doing a mobile audit.

  • The rise of voice search

This will see a growth in longer, more conversational searches. So webpages need to be relevant, work seamlessly on mobile and be easily readable to be picked as a voice search result.

Voice search may also come in useful for driving footfall to any physical stores. Optimising your Google My Business Listing for things like location and opening hours answers commonly searched queries like ‘where is the nearest bar?’ and will help direct customers to you.

Retailers need to stay ahead of the curve and get ready for the new shopping habits that are emerging.

Because failing to keep up with changes in shopping habits has already caused well-loved brands to go bust.

 

Find out more about voice search and its rising influence in our Slam Down blog or find out what your voice search IQ is with our quiz.

Reclaim your Monday – Data Studio Dashboards

Monday mornings in ecommerce and retail businesses can be a real drag.

You’ll probably spend a lot of your precious time pulling reports out of Google Analytics, copying them into Excel and reformatting them to put into your trading pack. We’ve seen businesses waste up to a day a week in man hours just generating the reports for their Monday meetings. But there is a better way. A way that allows you to reclaim your Monday, gives you your time back and lets you focus on everything else you need to do to drive the growth of your brand.

Data Studio Dashboards.

Data Studio Dashboards connect to your Google Analytics account and extract all the data for you automatically, providing at a glance metrics for your weekly trading meetings without the need to spend hours every Monday in Excel.

Dashboards provide you an easier and more efficient way of creating more valuable reporting, and we here at Red Hot Penny have created one that we’re letting you get your hands on for absolutely nothing. We’re not even asking you for an email address.

All you need to do is click the button below and then follow the easy instructions to connect it to the Google Analytics account of your choice. It really is as simple as that.

RHP Data Studio Button

Our data insights dashboard has 4 tabs covering performance overview, campaign performance, customer behaviour, and product performance, but once you’ve had a chance to try out the dashboard if you need any help or you’d like to make suggestions for new features/customisations just let us know here:

Make sure you reclaim your Monday.

7 Reasons why you should be using Amazon Marketing Services already

Consumers are moving away from search engines for their product searches – and they’re turning to Amazon as their one stop shop. 

In December 2014, 55% of consumers would turn to a search engine to look up a product for the first time. But in December 2016, only 26% were starting there. 

And Amazon?  

In December 2014, 38% of people would go straight to Amazon to look for a product. As of December 2016, 52% of people said they went directly to Amazon. (Raymond James research). 

There’s a huge amount of ever-growing retail traffic out there, and most of it is now going to Amazon.

Amazon knows this, and that’s why it’s trying to bring as many other retailers into the fold with Amazon Marketing Services (AMS). 

AMS uses components from PPC and Google Shopping (with a small nod towards Facebook Ad functionality) so you can advertise your products on Amazon. 

But where it differs from other biddable media channels is that you also have to pick your keywords, rather than just products.  

This gives you greater control, helps your products get seen and generates more sales. And this in turn means you’ll be getting more reviews, which will help your organic Amazon selling strategy as your products rank higher there too.  

We asked our Head of Biddable Media, Ben Lipscombe, why he’d encourage retailers like you to be working with Amazon, instead of seeing it as a competitor. Here are his seven reasons you should be using Amazon Marketing Services…  

1. Amazon Marketing Services get high conversion rates  

Amazon Marketing Services 1 Shopping Conversions

Amazon searchers are incredibly likely to already have an Amazon account. And they’re shopping for a specific product on Amazon. Which means they’re not really going to leave Amazon to go and buy the product elsewhere (unless it was at a significant discount).  

Because why would you spend time creating an account on another retailer’s site, when you can quite literally buy what you want on one site in 10 seconds? Especially on mobile where attention spans are low, and people don’t want to have to navigate and fill out forms over and over again. 

2. You have control over Product and Keyword 

Unlike Google Shopping, you are able to select specific keywords to advertise against your products. This gives you a finer level of control that will ultimately lead to increased campaign efficiency. 

3. It’s cheaper than Adwords/Google Shopping  

Amazon Marketing Services 2 Google Shopping Comparison

Amazon Marketing Services are still quite new, which means there isn’t as much competition as channels like Google Shopping, which also means ad and bid costs are still quite low.  

And this is true even for non-brand specific terms (like Google 10 years ago).  

On Google Shopping, you’re bidding on products themselves, and an algorithm organises the search term results you get in your feed. 

With AMS, you still have the products, but you also bid against keywords and search terms, instead of letting the platform decide this for you. 

With lower ad and bid costs than Google Shopping, and better optimisation of what your ads show for, your paid Amazon Marketing should be more efficient and get more Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS). 

4. Many PPC and Biddable skills are transferable to AMS 

Although Amazon’s interface can take more time to manage than more advanced platforms such as AdWords, many of the skills needed for success are transferable from other PPC Channels, so the platform easily integrates into your wider Paid Strategy. This allows strong PPC professionals to deliver results immediately on AMS, without too much need for a learning curve.

5. Paid Amazon ads will be prioritized, just like on Facebook  

We have seen in recent years how other channels (Google and FB) have had a steady inertia towards prioritising paid advertising, and Amazon will be going the same way. More and more visibility will be given to paid listings within Amazon (at the expense of organic listings), and its important to be present in that space.

The wave of Paid AMS Ads will continue to gain more and more momentum in the coming years, and it’s a wave that business’ should probably be riding.

6. You get more visibility for your products and can be there when consumers are searching 

Amazon Marketing Services 3 Product Visibility

If you advertise on AMS, your products will have significantly increased visibility. So, they’ll be getting more eyes on your products, getting you more brand awareness, and you should be getting more sales if you’re covering more online real estate. Which is good news if you’re trying to sell directly from your vendor site.  

But remember, it’s never an either/or choice. You should be embracing Google Shopping, Amazon Marketing Services and any other channels that make sense for your business to cover a wider online area.  

7. Amazon is the new giant  

There’s also just a general acceptance now that Amazon is THE online retail giant.   

Some might say Amazon is taking away from the ecommerce industry. But the fact is, if you’re selling a product which is on Amazon and you’re not, it’s going to be much harder to generate sales if you are not also present on Amazon and AMS. 

Ready to start using Amazon Marketing Services? 

Amazon Marketing Services 4 Start Using AMS

Like it or not, retailers like you may soon find themselves in a position where they will need to work with Amazon – either to spread their bets and open up new channels, or to open up markets as a smaller brand. 

And if you’re already selling on Amazon then you should definitely consider Amazon Marketing Service’s ad campaigns.  

Amazon Marketing Service’s keyword dominance, coupled with its lack of shortcuts and bulk editing function, do make it slightly trickier to set up than Google Shopping though.  

Like any paid channel, you’ll need the knowledge and experience to make the most of AMS – and deliver the returns potential it holds. 

For help building your Amazon marketing strategy, get in touch. We can carry out a quick and free audit of your AMS account, talk you through the results we’ve already delivered for clients and show you the return potential it could offer you and your business. 

 Want to make the most of Amazon? Share your email address with us and we’ll get in touch.

 

April’s Top Marketing Campaigns: Content for a Cause

This month, we’ve been focusing on campaigns with a cause. Content from Greenpeace, Battersea and others has been bringing attention to issues including global warming and mental health.

From clever chatbots to total rebrands, these are the brands campaigning for change – and they’re using great content to do it.

Let’s Drink Better Association – My Liver Chatbot

We’re kicking off this month’s content round-up with the quirky. Let’s Drink Better is a group that wants to encourage responsible drinking – and they’ve come up with a genius way of doing so. Introducing: the My Liver chatbot. It’s built into Facebook Messenger and helps you keep track of your drinking.

You can chat to My Liver on a night out and record the number of drinks you have. You can even check how drunk you are with games like sequence memory tasks. The chatbot will give you tips on how to drink responsibly – and has a characteristically bold and brassy way of doing it. The next morning, you’ll get a full report on what you’ve drunk, along with some constructive feedback on how well you’ve managed to stay within your limits…

Check out the cheeky chatbot below.

The Book of Man

The Book of Man is a new media brand that publishes digital content offering advice to modern men. Covering subjects from mental health to gadgets, the brand looks like it’ll be a huge content hub going forward (they’ve already collaborated with CALM, and rapper/mental health campaigner Professor Green will be writing a fortnightly column).

The brains behind the new website is writer Martin Robinson. His aim for The Book of Man is to question preconceived ideas of masculinity and provide advice and skills to help men tackle these issues.

RHP Content for a Cause Book of Man

Project Literacy – Daunting World

Project Literacy is tackling the problem of illiteracy worldwide. According to their data, 1 in every 10 people can’t read, and by 2030 Project Literacy want to make sure everyone can. The Daunting World campaign shows what it’s like to be an adult that struggles to read and write.

Everyday situations are shown through a series of colourful images. But when you look closer, the images show how difficult these situations can be for adults who can’t read. The ads have been rolled out across social media to raise awareness of the issue.

RHP Content for a Cause Feature Project Literacy

Greenpeace – Ocean of the Future

UK supermarkets generate 8,000 tonnes of plastic every year, and Greenpeace are drawing attention to the damage it’s causing our oceans. They’ve created a short film that imagines what a school trip to the aquarium will look like in the future. Fish are replaced by plastic bags, bottles and packaging to show what the ocean’s future might look like if we don’t reduce plastic waste.

The short film has been running across social media channels this month. Greenpeace are using it to get signatures for their petition, asking supermarkets to ditch plastic packaging, and it’s nearly reached its goal of 500,000 names.

 

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home has undergone a rebrand. With a little help from design consultancy Pentagram, the charity has updated its identity and website to be in line with its brand values. Hiromi Suzuki was commissioned to illustrate cute watercolour images to feature on Battersea’s merchandise and communications. Battersea’s rebrand is probably most obvious on their website.

From the updated homepage that showcases videos of the animals, to the individual webpages for each cat or dog. CTAs have been made bigger and bolder to encourage donations, and a focus on studio photography means Battersea can really do justice to the rescue animals looking for their forever homes.

We hope you liked these content campaigns as much as we did. We’ll keep our eyes peeled for the best content appearing in May and put them in another handy round-up – so be sure to check in then.

 

 

Outlinks: The Gold Mine that will Boost your Brand & Rankings

Links are a huge part of SEO – they’re an unparalleled indicator of site quality and recommendations made by humans. Anyone who has spent 5 minutes trying to get their site picked up by Google will know the never-ending struggle to earn links to their site and navigate the murky world of bloggers, buying links, directories and content campaigns.

The logical thing to do is make sure there’s plenty of reputable sources linking back to your website so these crawlers find it and index it.

But that’s just half the story.

It’s equally important to include outlinks throughout your own content, both to your own webpages and even someone else’s.

But why are outlinks so important? And what can you do to make sure you’ve got enough of them on your site?

The theory behind links

RHP Outlinks Blog 1 - Link Theory

Search engines use links to crawl the web to find new and authoritative content. They start with the pages in their index already and follow any webpages they link to. And so on and so on.

This helps search engines find new webpages to crawl and index and it also helps them decide where to rank those pages for the billions of searches and voice queries users are performing every second.

Why the need for outlinks?

RHP Outlinks Blog 2 - Link Intuition

It might seem counter-intuitive because, as marketers, we’re keen to keep users on our site and we worry that rewarding someone else with a link will put their website above our own and hide us in page rankings.

In reality, including links to other pages has the opposite effect and can improve your own rankings.

Here’s why:

  • Search engines are increasingly looking at the links you send out as a signal of quality – great websites are likely to link to other great sites while spam links to more spam.
  • You’ll encourage others to link back to you – linking out shows you’re not closed-off but have an active and positive part to play in your industry. Successful sites attract other successful sites.
  • It makes your site more valuable for your readers – you’re sharing more content with them to read and learn from other than your own, so they’ll get a more rounded view of the topic.
  • This helps back up your points with facts and expert opinions rather than being a standalone fake news site.
  • A long term experiment by Reboot investigated the rationale behind these benefits and found that brand new sites benefited from the quality and quantity of their out links.

This doesn’t mean you should throw in links at random though.

In fact, there’s a lot to navigate when it comes to including links on your website.

Our handy guide below explains the basics of using links and serves up the dos and don’ts to get you linking like it’s 2018.

Do these things, strike gold with your outlinks

RHP Outlinks Blog 3 - Outlink Best Practice

1. Do – link within your niche

Links should be logical steps and help build up your own authority. If you’re writing an article on fitness but your sources point to a site about furniture, it’s not a great indicator for what your page is about in the first place.

You want to reach people who are actually interested in what you do and your website, so link to topics that make sense. You should aim to be a master of your niche and let things progress logically rather than jumping all over the place.

2. Do – link out naturally

Firstly, think about how many links to include. Over linking can appear spammy. There’s no magic number for the number of links you should put in each article, but they should only be used when they genuinely serve a purpose.

Secondly, your anchor text should read naturally and tell users what you’re linking to. For example, “We recommend this brand / this product” rather than “Buy best cheap brand / product deals”.

3. Do – include external links in the content you write

The whole purpose of creating content is to be as useful as possible to the people consuming it. You can’t possibly cover an entire subject in one blog or webpage and users will be looking to read-up as much as they can. So, don’t make your content a dead end.

Content should provide a joined-up experience where readers can flow from one place to another rather than jumping back to the results pages and links will guide them to their next piece of content – whether that’s on the same website or another one.

4. Do – link internally if you have a piece of useful content

Link to other pages on your own website that users might be interested in. It’ll help them navigate your site and keep them on it for longer to lower your bounce rates.

5. Do – use link building as part of a much wider SEO strategy

The out links you provide are just one of many ranking signals and should be used as part of a much wider SEO strategy. Take a look at our SEO iceberg to see the other ranking signals that search engines look for.

Building trust through links and reviews, having a strong technical foundation, creating high quality relevant content and offering a great experience on all devices including mobile should be high up on your list

Don’t do these – here lies fools gold

RHP Outlinks Blog 4 - Outlink Harmful Practices

1. Don’t – just do link-for-link reciprocal agreements

Sometimes, a group of websites all agree to link to one another’s site. This is called a link farm and it’s a form of spam that has no overall effect on your link building. Following updates to their algorithm, Google has been devaluing two-way backlinks.

2. Don’t – use the nofollow tag unnecessarily

The “nofollow” attribute is something that used to be added to links if you didn’t want search engines to award any authority to the site you were linking to. It was common when Google used PageRank to show the value of the site and people would go link crazy and try to keep as much of that PageRank in their site as possible.

Now link building is more PR based and naturally earned, things have changed. You should only use nofollow tags for specific links such as adverts or paid links, blog comments, potentially unsafe content or password protected content. If you have a link to a resource or site but are not sure whether you trust it enough to link to without a nofollow attribute, reconsider whether you should be linking to it in the first place.

If you’re linking as part of a sponsorship deal, this needs to be disclosed as part of advertising regulations anyway. For a more in depth resource on how and when to use nofollow attributes, try this Search Engine Journal post.

3. Don’t – link in your footer.

Using site wide links causes duplicate linking issues which search engines might see as spam.

Each time you create a new page or filter type pages are created by the system, the links multiply and you end up with more than you intended. The same goes for widgets you might be using that provide external feeds to things like podcasts and social media.

So, while placing links can be a tough task to navigate, it should come naturally as part of creating great content. Be open to linking to other websites, make sure those sites are relevant, authoritative and safe, and don’t overuse the no follow tag. Want to understand how you can tap the outlink gold mine as part of your brand’s organic search strategy? Just enter your email in the field below and we can discuss how it’ll help build your brand and boost your rankings.

The Time for SME Agencies to Shine is Now

An Agency of Record is a go-to provider of all services and offers everything under one roof. They’re popular because they give brands a single point of contact – an efficient way of working which allows them to build a stronger relationship with the agency. But the rise of smaller, specialised agencies poses a threat. They are leaders in their market and often undercut bigger agency prices.

Is there room for both AOR and SME agencies in today’s market? Our Sales and Marketing Director David Schulhof takes a look at the competition.

AOR vs. SME

RHP SME Agency Blog Image 1 - Small Agency

AOR is a term that’s being heard less and less, which is great for smaller agencies. It used to be impossible for creative and super talented smaller/boutique agencies to work on sizeable projects, competing with bigger rival brands.

Procurement policies, expansive scopes complete with lengthy RFI processes favoured the big boys and gave the rest of us little chance.

But in the past 18 months, from my own experience, it feels like a shift has occurred, with brands of all shapes and sizes seeking more agile support with defined briefs and goals – perfect for an SME agency.

And let’s be clear, an SME agency can be anything from a one-man consultant to a 150 person agency – so still an agency of significant size and scalability.

A shift in how big brands work?

RHP SME Agency Blog Image 2 - Shift in Working

A great article by Erin Lyons from Marketing Week shared some stats to support this shift, with 66% of business leaders expecting to use SME sized agencies instead of their AOR. Coupling this with the fact that over the next five years, 78% will place more value on specialised expertise over general jack-of-all-trade offerings, now really is the time for SME agencies to shine. As an owner of an SME agency this is a trend that we’re excited to see, and one that follows up my recent post about the surprise I receive from brands that we not only accept but are keen to work on a project basis.

It seems that bigger agencies are trying to ring fence their preferred AOR model, and would rather walk away from a client or project. Is this a survival tactic or an inability/unwillingness of these larger agencies to adapt to changing client needs?

The end of the Agency Of Record?

RHP SME Agency Blog Image 3 - Network

I would be naïve to think that the big agencies don’t have an important role to play. As they do. Big brands will still have an AOR, but rather than turning to them for everything they will turn to a network of smaller, more agile and specialist agencies on specific projects.

With all the sad stories about high street heavyweights like Maplin and Toys R Us struggling – will the brands that survive and continue to grow be the ones that have single AOR models or those with a network of specialist agencies and resources?

I’m sure over the next 12 months we will see some interesting data on this.

My conclusion is summed up perfectly in another article from Colm Hebblethwaite from Marketing Tech – which states that AOR still have an important role to play for business leaders, but the pie is being eaten in to by the savvy boutique agencies that can offer better value for money and bespoke services.

Get in touch to find out more about the benefits of a specialised SME approach for your brand.

Paid Search Challenges: Are Resellers Undercutting your Brand?

Your resellers are undercutting you on Google Shopping. What are you doing about it?

Google Shopping is one of the most important channels you can use to drive generic online growth. But you might be shooting yourself in the foot with current reseller agreements that allow your partners to undercut you on your own product pricing.

And with Google Shopping being an extremely price-sensitive channel, you need to make sure you have a proper pricing strategy in place for your resellers, otherwise you face an uphill battle when trying to sell direct on your own site.

We spoke to our Head of Biddable Media, Ben Lipscombe, for all the facts and answers to your Google Shopping price-undercutting problems…

Why Price Undercutting is a Problem

Google Shopping Pricing Image 1 - Set Agreements

The reason resellers start to discount your product price often comes down to a lack of awareness around the agreements put in place at the beginning of your partnership, and the lack of restrictions placed on them.

With no restrictions in place, your resellers can sell your products for a lower price than you are selling them.

By the time you realise it is a problem, it’s often too late. And when this happens, you’ll have very little room to negotiate because the agreement is already in place – without restrictions on any price undercutting.

This can then limit the potential you have to drive sales on your own site. And it’s hard to then backtrack on an agreed-upon process when things aren’t going right.

Google Shopping Pricing Image 2 - Strain Relationships

It can put a strain on relationships and cause discontent, so you need to be clear on this when you enter into a new reseller relationship and avoid undercutting yourself from the onset by not thinking about your PPC and Google Shopping channels.

You don’t really want to get beaten on price on Google Shopping. It’s essentially a product with a list of prices next to it.

Having a great brand and strong website won’t matter if someone else can get exactly the same product for cheaper elsewhere. But if everything was selling at the same price then brand would matter and would drive more traffic to a retailer’s own website.

And you definitely don’t want to end up in the position where you’re looking at how to expand and grow, only to then find out that you can’t because your own resellers are selling your products cheaper than you can.

Because you’ll only have yourself to blame for not putting pricing boundaries in place at the start.

Solving your Google Shopping Pricing Differences

Google Shopping Pricing Image 3 - Pinpoint Differences

Google have recognised the issue and they’re planning on bringing out a set of analytical tools later this year that’ll help you pinpoint pricing differences across your product feed and any products that are being undercut by resellers, and competitors.

This will help you identify any future hurdles ahead of time, and also leaves you room to focus on the areas where you don’t have so much of an issue right now.

By having a pricing strategy in place when you first negotiate with your resellers, you can make sure that you leave yourself with the option to sell online through your own site via Google Shopping, and you don’t shoot yourself in the foot by not regulating your resellers’ Google Shopping pricing strategy in the beginning.

For most cases, there’ll already be contracts that exist with no mention of Google Shopping pricing restrictions. So, it’s a case of having a careful discussion with your resellers to reach a compromise without any party feeling hard done-by. This is why it’s so important to consider your reseller and partner Shopping agreements pre-emptively.

And always remember that Shopping is a price-led channel, no matter how big your brand is.

Even if you are a massive brand, if some unheard-of company undercuts you, that will still leave a massive financial dent. Brand size almost goes out the window when it comes to Google Shopping.

Next Steps

If you’re already in the position where you’ve got a contract in place but no pricing restrictions, get in touch for advice on how to manage the problem with a sensitive approach that’ll help keep all parties happy. Our track record in helping brands rely less on their resellers through Google Shopping means that we can also help with pre-emptive conversations.