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.

The Mechanics of Going Viral: A How-to Guide

In July 2017, Buzzfeed published an article called ‘You Might Not Know It, But It’s Extremely Likely That You Have Thalassophobia’. It got about 331K shares on Facebook (325,224 in its first week) and has since had a massive 4.5 MILLION page views, definitely making it a viral piece of content.

So how did Buzzfeed manage to make thalassophobia go viral? And why would they even want it to?

We investigate the mechanics of ‘going viral’ and take a look at some of the techniques you can use for your own viral content marketing.

What makes Viral Content?

Viral Content Guide Image 1 - Spreading

Viral content is defined as something that spreads quickly and widely around the internet without any budget behind it- (you’ll know you’ve achieved virality when your notifications blow up). And it can add big value to your brand when it’s done right.

Having your brand’s content spread far-and-wide by your audience rather than publications is a great way to build trust. You’re much more likely to trust what your BFF has to say over a big corporate company who just wants to sell you stuff. So when people see their friends and family sharing your content, it gives it a virtual stamp of approval that marks it as worthy of their time.

Viral content can help get you in front of your target market with greater ease. We all make friends with people who have similar interests/style/opinions as us. That means when people who are already brand advocates share your content, it pops up in potential brand advocates’ feeds – and you haven’t even had to ask your manager for a media spend.

The key then, is to create content that attracts your existing customers and makes them want to share it on their social accounts. Easier said than done, right?

Why do people share content?

Viral Content Guide Image 2 - Sharing Mobile Content

Understanding what makes people share content is critical when it comes to catering for your audience. In fact, to understand the reasons why people share content, we’ll have to turn to psychology.

Firstly, articles, blogs, and videos are a form of social currency. We all share them across our social networks to get likes and comments, and to look good in front of our friends. And the more likes and comments we get, the better. Because it validates our popularity.

There’s a subconscious element to this too – people don’t always realise it, but they share content that makes them look either A), smart, or B), like they have inside knowledge.

Secondly, people are more likely to share content that has engaged them emotionally. A famous story in marketing folklore tells of poet Jaques Prevert. One day, he walked past a homeless man whose sign read ‘I am blind, please help’, but his donation cup was empty. Prevert rewrote the sign and the next day the homeless man’s cup was full. The sign now read: ‘Spring is coming. But I won’t see it’.

Emotion trumps logic, always. Just like the people in the story, your audience will be more willing to act if your content is emotionally-charged – whether it’s charged with humour, sadness, fear, or excitement.

Finally, people will share content that looks great and is well designed. Internet users have short attention spans – just 8-seconds according to Microsoft – so your content’s design needs to make an impression and be easy to digest.

You might have spent hours researching and writing a really interesting blog post, but if it’s not properly formatted and easy on the eye, people probably won’t finish reading it, let alone share it.

How to create viral content

With these 3 factors in mind, here are 3 things you’ll need to offer your readers to be in with a chance of going viral:

1. Value

Viral Content Guide Image 3 - Valuable Content

Whether it’s data, opinion, facts, or something else, your content has to offer people value. Remember, it’s social currency.

Look at Buzzfeed’s viral article again.

What is thalassophobia anyway? If you’ve read the article, you know. And if you’ve shared it, your friends know you know, and they want to know too.

It’s a fear of the sea, FYI. Buzzfeed taught us that, so the value of this article is knowledge.

But if Buzzfeed said what Thalassophobia is in their title, the knowledge wouldn’t seem as exciting and ‘insider’.

Instead, Buzzfeed used a big word that makes their readers curious and then makes them feel smart to offer the value of exclusive knowledge. Pretty clever.

2. Emotion

Viral Content Guide Image 4 - Emotional Content

You know your audience’s pain points, their problems and their interests, so focus on making content that uses these to connect emotionally.

Buzzfeed starts to stir emotion in their headline.

YOU might not know it. YOU have thalassophobia.

Straight away, the article makes the reader the centre of attention. It makes them feel intrigued and slightly panicked about what the phobia they have, is.

There’s no need to panic about thalassophobia though, so Buzzfeed have their readers slightly duped. But it is something most people can relate to. And once they’ve opened-up the article, feelings shift to familiarity.

It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, but that’s how great content hooks you in.

3. Good design

Viral Content Guide Image 5 - Well Designed Content

Infographic, blog post, list article. However you design your content, it needs to showcase the value and convey emotion in the best possible way.

Buzzfeed’s list article uses images and GIFs to visually illustrate thalassophobia. Because showing people exactly what thalassophobia is stirs the feelings it causes.

There’s not a lot of text either – 417 words to be exact. The topic doesn’t call for a wordy explanation, and in this case, images work better – a perfect example of well-designed content showcasing value and conveying emotion.

Just as much thought needs to go into what format your content will take as what you’re going to say in it. Want to entertain your readers? Keep it short and fun, like a quiz. Want to educate them? An informative article does the trick. You could even play around with unique content formats. Like these Red7 emojis that tapped into the social trend by offering hen and stag-themed emojis to create a buzz.

There is a disclaimer to all this. Value, emotion and good design will certainly make your article shareable but going viral is tough, and like anything, takes a pinch of luck. So the focus shouldn’t be on making viral content, it should be on making great content that goes viral.

So next time you sit down to write your next blog post, think. Would you share it? Probably.

Will 331,000 others share it too? You’ll have to find out.

 

 

Certageddon is here. Are you ready?

SSL certificates are changing. And you might need to take action before the 17th April.

Previously, you only needed an SSL certificate for the areas of your site that you needed to be secure – like password-protected log in areas of payment pages.

But in 2014, Google announced that having a site using the secure HTTPS protocol would be a ranking signal – something that search engines consider to calculate their rankings. They also suggested it would become a stronger factor in their algorithm, meaning that non-secure sites may find it more challenging to out-rank secure sites.

There was nothing saying you had to be on a secure domain. But seeing as 81 of the top 100 sites on the web are using HTTPS as default, Google has made no secret that it’s a consideration in their ranking algorithms.

Now, Google are taking things up a notch. As of July this year, any sites that aren’t on HTTPS will be marked ‘not secure’ in a Chrome web browser – which might harm click-through rates from SERPs.

That’s not all though.

Google and Mozilla have announced that they no longer trust SSLs issued by Symantec (and the brand family – Symantec, Thawte, GEOTrust, Rapid SSL).

Certgeddon HTTPS Encryption Broken

Why?

Because Symantec was letting their network issue certs without enough oversight, including one to google.com. Google then published a timeline (which can be found here) to fully distrust Symantec certificates.

So, what does that mean for your website?

Well, if you’re not using HTTPS yet, or you have a certificate issued by Symantec, you might have some work to do…

Our Head of Organic Search, Carl Brooks, is here to answer any questions you might have on Certageddon:

I have a Symantec SSL certificate – what can I do?

This depends on the type of certificate you have, there are a couple of things to consider:

For certificates issued before the 1st June 2016, Google and Mozilla Firefox won’t trust it after the 15th of March 2018.

  • If the certificate expires before March 15, 2018, you don’t need to do anything. The certificate will continue to be trusted by Chrome until it expires.
  • If the certificate expires after March 15, 2018, but before September 13, 2018, you can re-issue this certificate any time before March 15, 2018.
  • If the certificate expires after September 13, 2018, you’ll need to re-issue the certificate before March 15, 2018.

For certificates issued after the 1st of June 2016, Google Chrome browser won’t trust this certificate after September 13, 2018.

  • If the certificate expires before September 13, 2018, you don’t need to do anything. The certificate will continue to be trusted by Chrome until it expires.
  • If the certificate expires after September 13, 2018, you’ll need to re-issue the certificate before September 13, 2018.
  • If you purchased a certificate after December 1, 2017, the Chrome browser will trust this certificate. You won’t need to re-issue.

My website is already on https – how do I know who issued the SSL certificate?

You should contact your developers and SSL providers to double-check and find out who issued your site’s certificate. Or find out for yourself by following these steps:

  • Navigate to your site in Chrome and click on the secure symbol in the address bar where you’ll see an option for “certificates”.
  • Click on the valid link directly below this to see a pop-up box with the certificate details in it.
  • You’ll find the issued details in the general tab. Just double check that Symantec (or any of their brands) aren’t involved by clicking on the certification path tab to see the full certification path.

I haven’t got an https site yet – how do I get one?

If you’re not on an https site yet, you’ll need to do a couple of things:

  • Make sure you get yourself a non-SymantecSSL certificate as soon as possible. You’ll need your web developers to implement this for you and get your current site redirected to https.
  • You’ll also need to get your marketing team, Search team and/or SEO agency to set up https versions of your site for the Google search console and Bingwebmaster tools as well as amending your Analytics set-up. Migrating from http to https will stop data coming through into the search console as it did before, so you should make sure this is all set-up properly to avoid losing important metrics.

Got more questions about SSL and what it means for you? Get in touch with us to find out more.

Top 5 marketing campaigns this March 2018, from Nike, Warehouse and Cadbury

Spring is finally here, and with it, a load of great content from brands launching new products, promoting events and addressing social issues.

Check out a few of our favourites from Nike, Cadbury and more.

Nike – Epic React

Nike kicked off their campaign for Epic React running shoes earlier this year, and we’ve seen a big push in their marketing activity since. The fully integrated campaign runs online, across social and in stores. It focuses on the technical design of the trainers, which use a newly-developed foam material that is cushioned and lightweight.

It’s all explained on Nike’s landing page where a combination of video, imagery and copy introduces the innovative trainers. Social posts have been building anticipation for the shoes too – showing the design process from inspiration to innovation.

But it was Nike China who took things to the next level with an in-store experience – putting shoppers into a video game. The ReactLand turned users into an avatar and got them to run on a treadmill wearing the Epic Reacts. The avatars made their way past world landmarks like the Great Wall of China before reaching the Statue of Liberty. Players’ progress was shown on large screens to get other shoppers involved too – take a look at the game below.

Warehouse – Curates the City

Women’s fashion brand, Warehouse, teamed up with fashion blogger Catarina Nogueira to launch their new season line. The feature – Warehouse Curates Lisbon – follows Catarina around Lisbon as she shares her style and travel advice.

The interactive campaign forms a clickable timeline with 4 shoppable looks. GIFs showcase the different areas in Lisbon, overlaid with spinning images of Catarina’s clothes edit and tips for exploring the Portuguese capital.

The campaign seamlessly matches stunning content with Warehouse products to give users a unique shopping experience.

March Marketing Campaigns - Warehouse Lisbon Curation

Hands Away – Ghost Injuries

Hands Away is a mobile app, developed in France, that lets users report sexual harassment and assault. The app records the exact time and place of an incident, and lets victims connect for online support.

This month the makers of the app raised awareness of street harassment with their Ghost Injuries campaign. Using data collected from the Hands Away app, Snapchat geofilters were attached to the location of an incident to remind Snapchatters of the aggression women have faced in the same place they’e photographing.

The filters encourage users to become a Street Angel and report any abusive behavior they witness in public.

Cadbury and The National Trust – Easter Egg Hunt

With Easter just around the corner, Cadbury have started advertising their annual Easter Egg Hunt in partnership with the National Trust. The British chocolatier host Easter family days at locations around the UK as part of their long tradition.

A dedicated microsite has been set up to promote the egg hunts and help people find their nearest event. And it’s choc-full of specially created content, too.

Parents can find lots to keep little ones entertained over the bank holiday weekend, from downloadable puzzles to Easter egg hunt props. Plus, an exclusive digital book written by Frankie Bridge.

Cadbury have created a clever content hub that will really help frazzled mums and dads.

March Marketing Campaigns - Cadbury NT Hunt

 

Starling Bank – #MakeMoneyEqual

International Women’s Day was celebrated at the start of March and brought plenty of campaigns drawing attention to women’s issues. Starling Bank decided to look at the different ways men and women are spoken to about finance, with their #MakeMoneyEqual campaign.

Looking at 300 articles, Starling Bank compared the language used in female-focused and male-focused publications. They found that women are stereotyped as ‘excessive spenders’ while men are pressured to be ‘adept financiers’ who should get involved with masculine activities like investing.

The campaign landing page sets out the findings and uses video to display the different headlines used by women’s magazines and men’s magazines when they talk about money. The mobile-only bank provider has set out a manifesto to change the way businesses talk about gender and money.

Enjoyed these creative campaigns? Take a look at last month’s round up.

The Value beyond clicks & The rise of the ROPOs

Should you always believe everything you report on? Is there more value beyond clicks and data that we don’t always see? Just what is a ROPO? Our Head of Biddable Media, Ben Lipscombe has got the info you need and he’s got evidence (plus a table of stats) to prove it!

 

Not everything that has value is trackable

You can’t improve what you can’t measure, right? I’m generally in agreement with the old adage, and whilst Attribution – that is an understanding of the value of all customer interactions across a journey with our brands – is incredibly important for us as digital marketers, I’m also of the opinion that we do need to appreciate that not everything that has value for us is trackable.

“How can that be?” I hear you howl from behind your CRM systems and Google analytics account.

Well let’s talk about a trend in customer behaviour we’re seeing more and more of with our clients who have both an online presence and physical stores. It’s customers who Research Online, Buy Offline – the ROPOs.

Have a think about the following ROPO scenario, which we’ve probably all been in ourselves.

You’re in a shop looking at “something” but you’re not quite sure it’s the “something” for you, so you whip out your phone and have a quick check of said “something” online, making sure it’s got decent reviews, or the spec is as you want it. Having done that you’re happy so you pop your phone back in your pocket and pay for your “something” in store.

All seems straight forward and normal, but you’ve given some other digital marketer somewhere a head ache. They’ve spent time and budget building landing pages, crafting content and standing up campaigns which you’ve just used specifically NOT to make an online purchase. No conversion, no revenue, no good for digital marketing efforts.

But you still made the purchase with the help of the digital marketing activity, right?  It was just in a way that can’t be quantified as it would have been digitally. So what’s the issue?

 

Thinking BEYOND digital marketing

When we’re thinking about digital marketing and the value it adds we also need to think BEYOND digital marketing. Customers exist in a world that isn’t just made of clicks and metrics so whilst these are important things there’s also a need for us to take a step back and “read between the lines” of data to look at digital marketing in a more holistic way.

As an example, working with one of our clients Crabtree & Evelyn we’ve been able to look at search activity in the geographic areas around their high street store locations. The closer to a shop someone was, the lower the online conversion rate. This is no coincidence, as we can see a clear pattern when looking at the gradually increasing distances from a store. Like this…

Research Online Purchase Offline - The value in looking beyond data

 

Look how perfectly this increases the further you go. That’s because the further out the radius, the fewer people with offline intentions make up the total. This also shows how much it changes with distance too, from 2.76% within a mile up to 4.75% when a user is miles away. This just shows that a big proportion of people will ROPO when they have the opportunity to do so.

So, there is a need for us to appreciate the offline value of what we’re doing as well as the online. If we were to just look at online revenue data in the scenario above we’d only attribute part of the total value. But by using things like Clickthrough Rates by location we can pick up on trends that may not be obvious at first and use them to estimate the additional value that exists beyond our online attributed sales.

 

Spoiled by data?

What doesn’t help with this shift in mindset is the amount of data we have available to us. In some ways we’re spoiled by data – we can often feel like if it can’t be proved with numbers on a screen then it doesn’t have value. But that’s not the case and it’s perhaps an unrealistic expectation that we’re able to prove EVERYTHING.

Although you can prove a lot with data and metrics you can’t prove or show the thinking behind a search, a click or a conversion.

With digital channels we’re always trying to get the most detailed and high definition picture of what’s happening, but it can often be that what we actually end up with is just an 8-bit version or a vastly simplified version of reality. One that doesn’t necessarily cater for all the other things that aren’t trackable. Like those ROPOers.

We obviously still have to (and absolutely should) use the data available to prove what we can, but we do also need to step back from data sometimes and appreciate the value digital campaigns and digital spend can add elsewhere – that online spend has offline value too.

 

Ben Lipscombe

Head of Biddable Media

To dive deeper into the role ROPO could be playing for you or to discuss why Tesco shouldn’t have changed the recipe of their Madeira chicken, just drop Ben an email.

Get inspired with these creative campaigns from February

Now that January is out of the way, take a look at all the creative content brands have been bringing out for February. We’ve been celebrating 100 years of votes for women, filling up on chocolate for Valentine’s Day, and glued to Winter Olympics Curling.

Campaigns from Intel, Channel 4, and more have helped to drive awareness around the key events of the month, and we’ve brought them together into one marketing campaign round-up, just for you.

CALM – Best man project 

The 1st of Feb was national Time to Talk Day, raising awareness for Mental Health. One campaign that has caught our eye is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, or CALM, with their #BestManProject. CALM is dedicated to preventing male suicide and is highlighting the importance of friendship through good times and bad.

People are encouraged to get involved with the #BestManProject by signing up to the newsletter, offering tips and advice on how to be a great friend. The heartwarming video campaign pairs best friends together and asks things like “Who takes the longest to get ready?”, before encouraging each friend to talk about what their friendship means to them.

River Island  Labels are for clothes 

River Island kicked off their Spring/Summer campaign this month. Describing it as a ‘people positive campaign’, River Island’s Labels are for Clothes brings together a cast of diverse people to celebrate what makes them unique.  

It’s a fully-integrated campaign that includes a competition, TV ad, Snapchat lens, and hashtag. The landing page includes River Island’s mission statement, a link to the clothing range and short profiles on each of the faces of the campaign.  

February content blog River Island

Channel 4 – #Vote100  

It’s been 100 years since some women were given the right to vote, and to celebrate this fact, Channel 4 ran a series of empowering films and female-centric programmes. Their social media accounts were also taken-over with the hashtag #Vote100 for the day.

Channel 4 enlisted the help of three centenaries, Millie, Beattie and Margaret, to be continuity announcers and mark the day’s celebrations. The women introduced programmes and discussed how life has changed over the last hundred years.

Black Mirror – Coach dating 

One of the most popular episodes from the recent series of Black Mirror was ‘Hang the DJ’. The story follows people in a walled-off society where they’re matched-up via a digital dating device – Coach. The device dictates how long each couple has together before they breakup to be paired with someone else.

For Valentine’s Day, Black Mirror fans were able to try Coach out for themselves. The Coach dating website lets you share a link with your partner, and then prompts you both to click its interface at the same time. It’ll then tell you how much longer you have left in your current relationship. This clever campaign helps to keep the flame alive for lovers of ‘Hang the DJ’.

February content blog Black Mirror

Intel – Team in Flight  

The Winter Olympics kicked off in PyeongChang on the 9th February. Intel put on a show with Team in Flight – a light show made up of more than 1,200 drones – as millions of people around the world watched the opening ceremony.

The show lit up the sky above the Olympic stadium, coming together to create images of snowboarders and the Olympic rings. Intel even broke the world record for the most Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in the air at the same time. An amazing opportunity for Intel to kick-off the Olympics and showcase how they’re innovating with drone technology.

We hope you’re feeling inspired to create your very own seasonal campaigns. Tune back in at the end of March for more of our favourite content…

A Rapid Review – Google Site Speed Changes

With customer attention spans and patience levels at an all-time low and competition at an all-time high, site speed now plays an extremely significant role in how well (or not) your brand performs online – particularly on mobile devices.

To help us all out, those kind people at Google have released a number of changes and updates so you can make sure your site is the fastest it can be.

We’ve taken a look at these changes and updates to give you a quick overview of what they are and show how you can use them to get your site in tip-top, gold-medal-winning condition.

 

Page speed will be a major ranking factor for mobile.

After being a desktop ranking factor for 8 years, the move to a mobile first index has led Google to announce the “Speed Update” which will prune the slowest pages from mobile search results too.

This update, to be launched in July, will focus on weeding out the sites which offer a frustratingly slow performance to users due to fixable issues such as weighty images and inefficient code.

Site speed has been mentioned specifically and persistently by Google for a good few years now, and with the rise of Accelerated Mobile Pages and PageSpeed Insights, the weighting of load times as a ranking factor will only increase.

How can I speed up my website?

To prepare for July we recommend looking at the key things that are liable to slow sites down; image dimensions and file sizes, video and audio auto-playing, hosting provider throttling, and site code containing unnecessary scripts – which is particularly worthwhile looking at if your site uses a theme on a platform such as WordPress, Magento or Shopify.

Google has also stressed that content relevance still takes precedence, so creating relevant and useful on site copy and rich media can help overcome any shortcomings in your site speed.

 

Google PageSpeed Insights. Now using real data

Google Speed Updates Pagespeed Insights

What’s the PageSpeed update all about?

Google’s push towards rapid search results has seen an evolution of their PageSpeed Insights tool.

Having previously relied on best practice suggestions the tool now uses metrics from 2 billion real world Chrome browser users. This means that rather than having just a single instance of your speed results from PageSpeed Insights you now see data on how long it took real life users to load your page and an average across the industry.

How does Google use PageSpeed to categorise my site?

Google has two ways of looking at page speed – how long it takes to load the first useful bit of the page, and how long it takes for the page’s source code to load.

Having access to real world data from Chrome users has also resulted in a rework of how Google classifies your page as Fast, Average or Slow. For more on how this is calculated here is an explanation from Google themselves.

What does the Optimisation Score mean in PageSpeed Insights?

The optimisation score uses the same kind of comparison as PageSpeed to judge a page as Good, Medium or Low based on how many best practices this page is following compared to others in the same category.

These best practices are taken from PageSpeed Insights Rules regarding page redirects, the size of image and script resources, the order in which the page loads, how many requests have to be made to the server and whether all resources are properly optimised. If a page is not following a particular practice these suggestions will be visible in a summary.

What does the Page Stats section of PageSpeed Insights mean?

The Page Stats section describes how much back and forth is required between the server a site is on and the device a user is browsing with to load the crucial resources a page requires to function (such as the page layout and content) before the additional extras (such as scripts and styles) can start being fetched.

It also assesses how many megabytes of data are needed to load the page and compares this to an industry average. The fewer round trips required and the smaller the page footprint, the faster it will load.

How can I make my PageSpeed Insights scores Fast or Good?

As well as following our top tips in the “How can I speed up my website?” section above there are handy suggestions in each section of the PageSpeed Insights tool itself. You can also give yourself a pat on the back by checking out the “Optimisations already present” section to see what you’re winning at already.

 

Google Chrome Performance Audits

Google Speed Updates Lighthouse Chrome Audit

 How can I use Google Chrome to look at page speed data for my own site?

The first update of Google Chrome this year includes several features built in to the browser to audit and benchmark your page performance.

With each Chrome update there are new abilities for both DevTools and Lighthouse. With these tools you can learn more about how your pages are built and rendered and how search engines access and read your pages.

This is a great way to get instant feedback on what is affecting your site performance and what could be improved at a detailed level. As an added bonus you can also run a basic SEO audit within Lighthouse to take a look at how your website compares to fundamental Organic Search best practices.

Where can I find out more about Google Chrome DevTools?

Check out Google’s official documentation on how to access the DevTools on your browser, gain insights into your code and see real life web page loading in action.

An overview of Chrome DevTools: https://developer.chrome.com/devtools

New Updates in DevTools for 2018: https://developers.google.com/web/updates/2018/01/devtools#audits

The new SEO audit category in Lighthouse: https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2018/02/seo-audit-category-in-lighthouse.html

What are some good examples of fast websites?

You can use PageSpeed Insights and Chrome developer tools on these sites to uncover the techniques and optimisations each uses to deliver a quick experience. Just put them through PageSpeed Insights and speed related DevTools to view their scores

https://www.mozilla.org/en-GB/ – The download site for the not-for-profit web browser Mozilla Firefox uses graphics rather than large images and has light, clean code.

https://www.gov.uk/  – The UK Government website portal even claims to be “simpler, clearer, faster” and loads images last after all of the crucial code has been loaded.

http://www.fixya.com/ – The Product question site has minified code, prioritises visible content and is hosted on a fast responding server.

https://www.indeed.co.uk/ – The Job Search site is free from large images and focuses on functionality.

https://www.reference.com/ – The question answering service speeds up its answers by compressing everything and minifying code.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/ – A great example of a fast eCommerce site, loading in under 2 seconds with a fast server and lightweight code.

 

Not sure where to start with optimising your site speed and organic visibility? Have a chat with our Organic Search experts.

Our 5 Favourite Marketing Campaigns This January

Marketers are steaming ahead with their January campaigns to kick-off the new year.

Lonely Planet, Samaritans and Cadbury are just some of brands serving up creative campaigns to help take our minds off the post-Christmas slump.

Lonely Planet – Best in Travel 2018

Every year, Lonely Planet get a panel of their biggest travel geeks, experts and editors together to rank the must-visit places around the world. They pick 10 of the best countries, regions, cities and best-value locations, and wrap them all up in an annual best-selling book to inspire tourists. Their website drives awareness for their print publications and also offers a comprehensive guide to the panel’s top picks. From beautifully-shot videos, to written guides, explore hours of content dedicated to Lonely Planet’s top destinations for 2018.

Cochlear – Does Love Last Forever?

Cochlear is a company that designs and makes implants, devices and prosthetics to help with hearing loss. In their short film ‘Does Love Last Forever?’, they’ve come up with a creative way to test for hearing loss.

The film follows a couple as they grow older. Towards the end, the characters’ body language suggests they have fallen out of love, and ambient noise is used to mask loving conversations.

Depending on your hearing, you might interpret the film as love lasting or love being lost – in which case you might want to book a hearing test for peace of mind…

 

Samaritans – Brew Monday

Blue Monday, usually the third Monday of the month, was named the most depressing day of the year by a travel company in 2005 as part of a marketing campaign. This year, though, mental health campaigners and charities were keen to shake-up the message and remind people that depression is not something that only happens on one day. Samaritans renamed the day ‘Brew Monday’ – encouraging people to talk about their mental health over a cup of tea, and raise money for their life-saving service.

The charity got celebrities to chat about their perfect brew, drummed up support on social with their #BrewMonday hashtag, and sent out fundraising packs to help raise money with offline activity.

Papier – Starting with a Blank Page

Papier partners with illustrators, designers and studios to create beautiful stationery, including cards, invitations and notebooks.

They produce some great content on their blog, The Fold, and this month, they gave 5 creatives a personalised sketchbook to see how they would fill it.

The blog includes images of the creatives’ work, and short descriptions from them about what they created. The stationery is showcased and there’s an option to purchase the products featured.

 

Google – Arts & Culture

Google’s Arts & Culture app hosts artifacts and artwork from museums around the world in a digital form. You can explore art movements, world heritage sites, fashion and more in the app. The latest addition to the app is a feature which lets you take a selfie before matching it with your doppelganger from artworks sitting in over 1,500 museums around the world.

It’s a ridiculously fun way to discover art, and Google has seen over 30-million people using the feature.

Sadly, the feature isn’t available in the UK yet. But we can still enjoy the selfies people have been posting online in the meantime.

Bonus: Cadbury – White Crème Egg

This campaign isn’t strictly digital, but it’s been brightening up our January so much that we just couldn’t leave it out.

Cadbury are running a Charlie and the Chocolate factory style competition, with white chocolate crème eggs hidden on retailers’ shelves. Winners get a cash prize and a taste of the rare white crème egg.

If the number of crème eggs in the Red Hot Penny office is anything to go by, Cadbury have found a clever way to make the Easter treat more sought-after than ever.

We hope these digital campaigns have made your January a little easier. Watch out for February’s edition of our content round-up, landing in your inbox next month…

New Year, New Design Trends

We’ve already given up on our New Year’s resolutions and we’re struggling to commit to dry January, but one thing we are dedicated to is predicting the biggest digital design trends for 2018.

Incorporating strong visual content will be essential for your new year marketing campaigns to reach your audience and create impact.

Make sure you’re adopting best-practice design with our round-up of the 2017 design tricks that are sticking around for 2018, and the newest trends you’ll want to be adding to your design skillset…

Gradients/ Colour Transitions

Gradients (or the new ‘fancier’ term Colour Transitions) have come a long way since their PowerPoint slide appearance. Designers have side-lined them in the past few years in favour of flat design. But as they become more versatile, with their reappearance in iOS, and industry leaders now adopting them for branding, buttons and backgrounds, we’re starting to see them work better as backdrops to our content.

Instagram’s new logo for 2016 got a makeover, with gradients becoming smoother and flatter, paving the way for a new style of background designs and overlays.

Spotify’s rebranding successfully uses Colour Transitions with its duotone approach. Cleverly overlaid with varying type and shapes, it works well for the brand and their millennial target audience. Emphasis on the rich and lively music culture it fronted was key for the brand, transforming from a tech service to an entertainment brand.

2018 Design Trends 01 Gradients

Split Page Design

With advancements in UX and web design, designers and developers have been able to work closely together and grow the split page design. As an evolution of the hero image, split page creates a contrasting effect to promote specific content, offering users an unconventional experience.

It gives brands more freedom to feature multiple touchpoints, and helps the user find what they’re looking for faster – with fewer clicks.

Bose cleverly uses a 5-way split page design to promote select products. The bright use of colour contrasts with the products, and emphasises the brand’s personality. This is coupled with dynamic animations – crucial for delivering a great user experience.

2018 Design Trends 02 Split Page

Responsive Logos

As minimalism increases and more smartphones are released, mobile first design continues to reign on, and designers now lead by the mantra of ‘less is more’. And that means brands are having to revamp their logos to become universal and embrace technology advancements.

Brand giants such as Coke, Chanel and Nike have mastered the responsive logo, and start-ups will need to follow in their footsteps to compete within the digital landscape.

Animations/GIFs

“Video First” is a term coined by Facebook to encapsulate the growing phenomenon. We’re seeing more and more moving graphics online, and GIFs and animations will still be trending in 2018.

Animations allow the user to engage more in their online experience, making it more seamless and enjoyable. And more brands are responding, animating everything from icons, to logos to get in touch CTAs.

Google’s brand motion animation is clever and memorable, and is just one of the ways the search giant is adopting motion branding.

Cinemagraphs

A slow adopter – but a trend to look out for in 2018 is Cinemagraphs. When used correctly, a Cinemagraph tells a story, and adds excitement to a still image.

Cinemagraphs are essentially short clips, with the same opening and ending shot to help create an endless video loop. One element of the image displays as a moving video, showcasing one single component to move, while the rest of the shot remains still.

These living photos work particularly well for travel brands looking to showcase beautiful oceans and rippling lakes, or to create a wind effect for product shots, as seen in the fashion campaign  below. We’re naming them the more elegant version of a GIF.

Cropped Type

The perfect balance between creativity and professionalism = cropped type. Erase parts of the letters, or cut up the words (but keep them readable) to create the effect.

This technique allows the typography to have more substance, and lets the eye read the subject in an unusual way. You’ll get a minimalist type with a modern twist.

2018 Design Trends 04 Cropped Type

Creative Type

Different to cropped, Creative Type cleverly works into the design to communicate a message in an abstract way. This trend of playing with type has heavily-influenced designers in 2017 – and it’s here to stay for 2018.

Graphic designers get more creative freedom and see just how far typography can take them – As shown by Fiat below.

2018 Design Trends 05 Creative Type

If we can sum up the digital design trends for 2018 in three words, they would be – Pretty, Damn, Awesome. The next year will undoubtedly drive new innovations and creative ideas we haven’t touched upon, but the excitement to see what it brings is one we’ll look forward to.

The goal for every designer is to be unique, and create something memorable and appealing. But to do this, you need to make sure you’re keeping your design fundamentals in mind. Constantly stay up to date with the latest innovations in design and branding, and sign-up to our newsletter to receive digital marketing industry news. We discuss how the newest design tools and trends impact your digital marketing strategy.