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In an age when technology is constantly shaking things up, keeping up with new ways to market products and services is essential for any industry – and the car-hire sector is no different. The advent of online travel agencies (OTAs) and aggregation sites has changed the game dramatically, and not always positively, while global financial and environmental pressures present a number of issues that stand in the way of progress.

 

So, while the global car rental industry is predicted to grow to $74.7 billion by 2020, the huge opportunities for companies to get in front of millions of potential car-hire customers have also created a number of other challenges that must be overcome for firms to succeed.

The pros and cons of taking the aggregation route

Shaking hands over a car

Sites like Opodo and Kayak are popular with customers because they allow them to see all the options quickly from a number of OTAs and direct car-hire firms, before deciding how to take things further. This is positive in that companies with strong deals, good selections, reviews and locations can attract a lot of potential customers, but it presents a number of issues, too.

 

The accuracy of the availability needs to be consistent, the prices need to be constantly checked to stay competitive, and excellent customer service has to be a huge focus — a couple of bad reviews can be a deal breaker, even if there are many more good ones. Maintaining the technology required is a time-consuming and costly task, and it's so multifaceted that mistakes are almost inevitable.

Who goes direct these days?

Plenty of people. In fact, millennials, who hold 33% of the travel market share, prefer OTAs thanks to the choice and value on offer. While their rise has been good news for car-hire companies in some ways, with huge visibility on a number of global platforms, the increasingly high commission rates (up to 30%) mean it's more financially beneficial if customers book direct.

 

Driving traffic to direct sites is therefore imperative, and rental companies can invest in a variety of ways to drive more traffic. One such method is to use an SEO agency that provides carefully targeted copywriting to help direct sites sit higher up the search rankings, which can massively increase exposure. Loyalty programs are also being heavily pushed to motivate buyers to buy direct.

The drive to go green

Electric car chargingInvesting in green cars is not only better for the environment, it also makes business sense due to the increase in oil prices. This not only pushes up the price of rentals but also impacts on the purchasing power of the travelling public. More stringent emission standards enforced by governments also plays a part, so investing in greener vehicles represents an essential challenge for car-rental companies.

 

An additional benefit to going green is the brand perception among potential customers, particularly the younger generation, who are conscious of the environmental impact of fossil fuels. They are therefore more likely to look more favourably on companies with more of a conscience.

Customers changing lanes

Sometimes a challenge can also be an opportunity. There's been a large rise in customers changing tack to short-term rentals and car sharing in recent years, all ordered quickly from mobile devices and picked up easily with the minimum of fuss. This cheaper, tech-friendly option is expanding all the time, and becoming very popular, particularly in major developed cities, so the car rental firms have had to react.

 

Many companies now offer hourly rentals to capitalise on this new trend, and big hitters like Hertz and Avis have started working with Uber and Lyft to offer their expertise. They have also been reducing their fleets to match demand by selling off their superfluous cars and vans, enabling them to run a leaner business and decrease wasted days when cars aren’t on the road earning money.

Not the end of the road

Dead End SignIn a constantly evolving rental market, being agile enough to adapt and innovate is very important. The challenges posed by ever-advancing technology, environmental issues, and the race to grab market share in a super-crowded space will need time and money for car-rental companies in the coming years.

 

But with these challenges come huge opportunities to reach more potential customers. By investing in the latest online marketing and systems, green-and-lean vehicle fleets, and working hard to cultivate exceptional customer service that breeds great reviews and brand loyalty, car-hire companies can achieve exceptional results – for now at least.

The beginning of spring has echoed themes of change and progress throughout the digital sphere. From search engine updates to GDPR preparations, here are some of April’s biggest headlines from SEO, content marketing and digital PR.

Google rolls out updated search algorithm

Mutters of a Google algorithm update have been heard throughout the search and marketing industry this month, and on April 16th we finally got the news we’d been waiting for. Announcing the news via Twitter, Google identified the change as a ‘broad core algorithm update’, the likes of which systematically take place at several points throughout the year. Even so, businesses across the globe have been eager to discover exactly what the update means for them.

 

The general consensus from Google is that these updates are an integral part of their work. While some users are expected to experience slight drops or gains in visibility during this time, the search engine is keen to reiterate that there is very little sites can do in order to prepare for such updates – aside, of course, from continuing to produce a steady stream of quality content.

“Changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded”, Google SearchLiaison confirmed in a series of tweets last month. “There’s no ‘fix’ for pages that may perform less well, other than to remain focused on building great content.” More so than ever, it seems that investing in a solid content strategy is vital to securing and maintaining sought-after SERP positions.

Brands and businesses prepare for upcoming GDPR roll-out

GDPR

If your inbox has been flooded with emails alluding to websites’ updated terms of service this month, you’re not alone. As we ease ever-closer to next month’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) launch, brands and social media giants have been scurrying to inform users of ‘important updates’ and secure their continued custom long after the GDPR laws are put in place on May 25th.

Perhaps the biggest change will be the regulation that customers will need to actively opt-in to their data being shared, as opposed to the opt-out system that many market leaders have favoured in the past. As a result, the influx of ‘opt-in’ emails and notifications witnessed over the past few weeks is only expected to grow. For many, however, the introduction of the GDPR brings about serious concerns around the future for businesses and marketing agencies on a worldwide scale.

“The world of digital marketing is increasingly reliant on collecting personal data for ad targeting, and this could severely impact their capacity to do so” highlights the Digital Marketing Institute. Even so, there’s little scope to argue that the regulations are anything but relevant, useful and necessary – particularly in light of recent data protection scandals from the likes of Facebook and Uber. “It’s important that business managers and digital leaders not only abide… but incorporate policies internally that support and sustain the same principles”, the Digital Marketing Institute concludes.

Google Assistant named smartest personal search assistant

google assistant

A new study from Stone Temple Marketing has unveiled Google Assistant as the ‘smartest’ personal assistant, beating the likes of Alexa, Cortana Invoke and Siri. Results may vary depending on your platform, however, as Google Assistant accessed on a smartphone proved slightly more accurate than the same programme operated on Google Home devices.

While Alexa proved one of the lesser able to deliver full and accurate responses, it took some consolidation in being named the most improved assistant when compared with results of a similar 2017 study. 12 months ago, Alexa attempted answers on just 19.8% of queries – rising to 53% this year. Perhaps surprisingly, it was Apple’s personal assistant, Siri, which proved least competent in both attempting answers (40.7%) and ensuring those answers were full and correct (80%).

The study was conducted on a small sample of devices, with 4,952 individual queries being proposed to each assistant. While the results are far from comprehensive, there are many valuable takeaways from the study – including an insight into the rapid pace at which personal assistants are developing and improving in reliability.

The next couple of months look set to bring a great deal of change within the marketing, search and content sectors. For more information and advice on staying up to date with emerging trends, get in touch with WooContent today.

We’re already a quarter of the way through 2018, and search engine and social media giants are pushing boundaries in the name of improving user experience. From shoppable social media posts to drastically condensed search results, here’s the biggest marketing news from digital and SEO in March.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announces security changes in light of Cambridge Analytica scandal

Facebook’s association with data mining company Cambridge Analytica has made global headlines this month, as it’s been suggested that data gathered through the platform may have been used to influence elections. The news has once again thrown into question just how secure our online data really is.

In light of the scandal, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg this month announced plans to strengthen security and reduce the likelihood of third-party apps being able to access personal data. Key changes include a thorough investigation of both new and existing apps that use the platform, as well as further restrictions on the amount of data developers are able to access.

“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you”, explained Zuckerberg in a statement posted on the platform this month. Despite this, many have continued to call for a boycott of the social networking site, with ‘#DeleteFacebook’ trending on Twitter throughout the latter half of March.

Google introduces mobile-first indexing to a growing number of sites

Google mobile first index

As promised, Google’s revised mobile-first algorithm was rolled out to more sites this month, with affected developers and site owners notified of the change via Search Console. Sites that “follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing” are the first to be switched, according to a blog post from Google Software Engineer Fan Zhang. The change follows a long period of testing, as the search engine prioritises mobile users, which currently contribute to the majority of traffic on the platform.

Sites that are affected will begin to see the mobile version of each web page being used for ranking and indexing. Even so, Google is keen to reiterate that mobile-friendliness is just one of a range of ranking factors. Sites that offer users a seamless mobile experience have long been favoured by search engines, yet desktop pages still have the capacity to rank well if they’re filled with useful, relevant information. Check out our guide to mobile optimisation for handy tips when preparing for the full roll-out.

Instagram rolls out shoppable organic posts

Facebook-owned social sharing app, Instagram, this month announced it was bringing its shoppable post feature to the UK. Shoppable posts have been available in the US since 2017 and were this month rolled out to Brazil, Canada, Italy and Spain, among others.

A blog post from Instagram’s Business Team describes the feature as “a visual shopfront [for users] to explore new products from businesses they follow”. The feature is expected to have a positive impact on businesses that use the app as part of their digital marketing strategy. “Tagging a product is as simple as tagging a person in a post. And for shoppers, a shopping post’s tags get rid of the guesswork and allow for easy access to a tagged product’s information”.

This focus on providing users with a seamless e-commerce experience is crucial to Instagram’s growth. US beauty retailer TYME have reported a 44% increase in traffic from the platform since implementing shoppable posts into their feed. And with an estimated 2 million Instagram accounts visiting one or more business profile every day, it’s likely that UK brands will be just as keen to get in on the action.

Google experiments with removing organic search results

Google ran a week-long test this month that saw zero search results being implemented for calculation, conversion and time-related queries. Instead, users were presented with a single answer and the option to ‘Show all results’, without those organic blue search result links we’ve become so accustomed to seeing on the site.

Following a rush of intrigue from users, Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed the test on Twitter, posting “For calculator, unit converter & local time, we’re experimenting with a condensed view to further speed up load time. People who search for these tools rarely use full search results, but the results will remain available for those who want them via the ‘Show all results’ button”.

The experiment didn’t last long, however, with Google pulling the zero results pages a week after they were rolled out. Citing a need to develop the feature further before rolling it out in full, it’s expected that it won’t be the last we hear of Google dropping organic results from specific pages.

For more information on any of the stories discussed, or to discover how Ad-Rank can help your business to stay ahead of the latest trends in search and content, get in touch today.

Thanks to its association with all things romance, brands and businesses have been competing to encourage feelings of love from their users in February – often with mixed results. With some Google updates thrown in for good measure, here’s a run down of February’s biggest headlines in marketing, content and SEO.

Google launches Mobile Scorecard and Impact Calculator

Back in January Google announced plans to make mobile page speed a key ranking factor from July, preparation for which stepped up a gear this month. The search engine recently unveiled two new tools that promise to give brands a better view of their mobile performance.

The first is aptly named the Mobile Scorecard. Here, users are able to gain an insight into their site’s mobile speed, as well as that of their competitors. According to Google, the tool extracts data from the Chrome User Experience Report to provide information on mobile speed for thousands of websites across the world.

Alongside the launch, Google has also announced a new Impact Calculator, which promises a real-world view of how much your bottom line stands to increase should mobile speed be improved on your site. By giving users a clear idea of the kind of revenue impact that mobile performance can have, the search engine can begin to encourage businesses to invest in improving mobile speed ahead of July’s algorithm update.

Search outranks social in referral traffic for the first time since 2014

Search has once again taken the lead as the web’s primary source of referral traffic, outranking social for the first time in three years. According to a recent report from Shareaholic, search was the driving force behind 34.8% of referral visits in 2017, compared to social’s 25.6%.

 

It’s perhaps unsurprising when you consider the rise of ‘fake news’ that has plagued social media channels over the last 12 months. Shareaholic’s Craig Zevin also points to the growing ability of search engines to include social content within their own rankings, commenting “Instead of searching for news and content on individual social networks, users can increasingly find it aggregated within search engines.”

Multifaceted featured snippets make Google debut

Google has long been associated with a desire to better improve its user experience features, with a commitment to delivering fast, targeted results to common search queries. When the queries are broad or open to interpretation however, the process can become more difficult. It’s just one of the reasons the search engine this month announced the launch of multifaceted featured snippets – providing multiple snippets that relate to the potential interpretations of any one query.

“We’re starting first with ‘multi-intent queries’”, explains Google’s Product Management Director of Search, Emily Moxley. “The query ‘tooth pain after filling’, for example, could be interpreted as ‘Why does my tooth still hurt after filling?’ or ‘How long should a tooth hurt after filling?’… [Then] we aim to expand multifaceted feature snippets to cover a broader set of nuanced queries.”

The results are expected to be rolled out across the platform over the coming months.

KFC ruffles feathers with tongue-in-cheek marketing apology

Fast food chain KFC hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons this month, when over 50% of UK branches closed due to a chicken shortage. However, some clever PR tactics helped the brand to make memories for all the right reasons. Less than a week after the shortage, KFC printed a full-page apology in both the Sun and Metro, putting a clever spin on their own brand name.

 

“FCK. We’re sorry” was the strapline of the campaign, which won critical acclaim from marketing professionals across the country for its timeliness, as well as the brand’s ability to poke fun at itself in the face of criticism. While the chicken shortage is unlikely to be remembered in 12 months time, such a well-known, recognisable brand playing upon the power of profanity promises to stay with audiences for a while yet.

Facebook cuts key business metrics in a bid to improve transparency

Social media giant Facebook has announced plans to remove approximately 20 ad metrics that they perceive to be “redundant, outdated, not actionable or infrequently used”. A full list of those pending removal can be found on the Advertiser Help Centre, with key losses including ‘button clicks’ and ‘social reach’ metrics, both of which Facebook has been quick to suggest alternatives for.

“Removing these types of metrics will make it easier for you to get the most actionable insights to improve your ad performance”, Facebook explained in a blog post this month. It’s just one of the ways that Facebook are showing a commitment to greater ad transparency, both from the perspective of users and the brands themselves.


In just two months, 2018 has already seen huge changes within the search, content and marketing sectors. For more information on how Ad-Rank can help you stay up to date with the latest trends, get in touch today.

The beginning of a new year brings with it a sense of change – and the marketing industry is no exception. From mobile ranking updates to voice search trends, here's a selection of the biggest headlines from January.

Google to make mobile page speed a ranking factor

Google have announced plans to update their ranking algorithm on mobile, with mobile page speed set to become a key factor from July 2018. For many marketers the decision feels long overdue – page speed has been a ranking factor for desktop searches since 2010.

Google have been quick to clarify that search intent will still be a key factor moving forward, and just because a site is slightly slower, doesn’t necessarily mean it will be penalised so long as the content is valuable to its audience.

“The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content”, write Google’s Zhiheng Wang and Doantam Phan. “We encourage developers to think broadly about how performance affects a user’s experience of their page and to consider a variety of user experience metrics.”

 

Google’s own PageSpeed Insights tool can give an initial view of how your site is performing on mobile, including relevant optimisation suggestions that could help you to improve mobile speed ahead of the update.

Facebook de-emphasises commercial content

Social media giant Facebook has announced plans to better prioritise updates from friends and family on news feeds, placing less emphasis on branded and commercial content.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg identified user feedback as a primary catalyst behind the change, as the platform makes a conscious decision to increase the time users spend on site and deliver a more personal, engaging experience.

 

“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us”, Zuckerberg wrote in a post earlier this month. “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands and media… it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

Just a week after the announcement, Facebook introduced additional plans to cut down on the amount of so-called ‘fake news’ being promoted on the platform. Instead, its algorithm will favour sources that users consider trustworthy and informative. It is believed that it will be up to users themselves to rate articles and publishers on their quality and value, improving the chances of the most trustworthy stories being promoted to others. With one of our 2017 surveys revealing that 57% of us use social media as a news source on a daily basis, it will be interesting to see just how much of an impact these changes have on the wider media.

Big brands turn their backs on Super Bowl advertising

America’s annual Super Bowl is renowned for attracting big name brands – the likes of which have been known to spend up to $4.8 million (£3.4 million) for a 30-second match-day advertising slot. This year however, many household names are shunning this more traditional form of advertising ahead of February’s big game.

“It feels very old school for a lot of brands”, explains Jennifer Zimmerman of advertising agency McGarryBowen. “It’s much more about finding new formats, finding fresh ground, finding new experiences.”

KFC, Honda and GoDaddy are among the big names opting out of Super Bowl advertising this year, months after a report revealed that just 10% of consumers can remember both the advert and the brand being advertised after the game. What’s more, as viewing figures for the Super Bowl have increased by 300% since its inception, ad rates have risen by an astonishing 12,000%.

Chrysler’s 2011 ad, ‘Imported from Detroit’, is acknowledged as the most expensive Super Bowl commercial to date. Featuring a brief appearance from musician Eminem, the whole ad cost a cool $12.4 million (£8.7 million) to produce and air.

Voice search users gain confidence using devices in public

A new survey by Stone Temple Consulting suggests that we’re gradually becoming less inhibited about using voice search in public spaces. The study revealed a significant YOY increase in people’s willingness to use voice search in different environments, including in restaurants, at the office and on public transport.

 

The only environments where voice search use is down YOY are “at home alone” and “at home with friends”. This suggests that people are more comfortable using voice commands in public, and no longer feel the need to limit the use of smart devices to the home.

The data also concludes that men are more likely to use voice search than women in all environments, both private and public.


We hope that these latest updates give you an insight into how to plan your digital marketing for 2018. For more advice, get in touch today.

As we close the door on yet another year, we've been keeping an eye on the digital marketing news that has been making industry waves in December. From new Google Analytics features to a crack-down on so-called 'engagement bait', here are just a few of the month's biggest headlines.

Facebook to penalise publishers found to be using 'engagement-bait' tactics

We're all aware of the controversy surrounding so-called 'clickbait' posts and videos. This month however, Facebook have gone a step further in announcing a stronger crack-down on brands and businesses that use 'engagement-bait' tactics on the platform. Over the coming weeks and months, individual posts that encourage users to comment, share, vote, tag or react will be demoted under the new system. Here are just a few of the post styles that have come under threat, as Facebook bids to increase authentic engagement and improve the user experience:

engagement bait

"People have told us that they dislike spammy posts on Facebook that goad them into interacting with likes, shares, comments and other actions" the company explained when the announcement was made this month. "Teams at Facebook have reviewed and categorized hundreds of thousands of posts... [those] that use this tactic will be shown less in the News Feed".

It's perhaps a natural step from a company that has invested heavily in denouncing spam and clickbait in the past. In January, Facebook altered their algorithm in a way that benefited authentic content. Pages that had previously never posted spam or solicited likes took priority on News Feeds, while those that had – or whose posts had been hidden by a high number of users – didn't benefit from the same level of increased visibility. This new announcement takes an altogether stricter stance however, with penalties likely to be long-lasting for Pages that frequently solicit inauthentic engagement.

Google Analytics announce 4 new measurement features

Google have confirmed the launch of four new features to their Analytics tool, as they focus on allowing users to more accurately measure the customer journey. These new features include:

Perhaps the biggest news of all however – particularly from an e-commerce perspective – is the introduction of Conversion Probability data and reports. Thanks to a revolutionary machine learning model, Analytics now has the knowledge to calculate the probability of an individual user completing a conversion in the future. An invaluable metric for any website with set conversion goals, the feature is expected to roll out across the platform in BETA form over the coming months.

A soon-to-be royal and the iPhone 8 top 2017's UK search trends

The iPhone 8 and fidget spinners made up 3 of the 5 top trending Google searches in the UK during 2017. Also making the list were Hurricane Irma and the Manchester bombings, which ranked at number 3 and 5 respectively. The top trending search in 2017 was Meghan Markle, with searches spiking dramatically following the announcement of her engagement to Prince Harry in November.

Meghan Markle searches

The top trends – announced in Google's annual Year of Search report – are proof of just how diverse our search habits can be. Also proving popular with searchers in 2017 were Wimbledon, Bitcoin and the Netflix original series *13 Reasons Why*. Among the most frequently searched 'How to...?' questions were 'How to make slime?' and 'How to stay young?', while 'What is a hung parliament?' topped the list of searches beginning with 'What is...?'.

Twitter acknowledge 'threading' with the launch of new publishing features

The social media platform once renowned for its 140-character post limit is giving users even more room to express themselves. Following Twitter's roll-out of 280-character tweets in November, the company announced the development of a new 'threading' feature in a blog post earlier this month. The feature will allow users to add to and expand upon tweets, using the new "Add another tweet" button. From there, entire threads can be created.

The feature is in response to a user-led trend, which sees individuals replying to their own tweets in order to stitch a series of posts together. "We're thrilled to share that we're making it simpler to thread Tweets together, and to find threads, so it's easier to express yourself on Twitter and stay informed", comments Twitter Product Manager Sasank Reddy. In much the same way as the increased character limit, the changes are expected to roll out gradually to users across the platform over the coming weeks.


For a more in-depth discussion on the digital marketing updates that affect your business, get in touch today.

The start of the festive season is an inherently busy time for the digital marketing industry. From Snapchat updates to controversial Christmas ads, here’s a look at the biggest news in SEO, content marketing and digital PR this November.

Google hones in on mobile shopping results this festive season

Google have this month announced new mobile features in a bid to help users nail their Christmas shopping. The aim is to enhance the overall shopping experience for mobile users – bringing the most essential product information to the forefront of SERPs. "We recently redesigned mobile shopping on Google" writes Jenneifer Liu, Product Management Director of Google Shopping. "Click the "Quick View" button in the Google Shopping ad to preview details like a bigger image, product description, reviews and seller rating".

Detailed buying guides and improved related search results are just some of the other ways the search engine is helping mobile users to shop smarter this festive season. Users will also be alerted when newer models are available for specific products, taking some of the guesswork out of shopping for the latest tech.

Snapchat pleases big brands with promoted stories

Snapchat is the latest platform to capitalise on promoted content, giving business users the chance to advertise products and services using the 'story' format. ASOS is among the first to sign up for the feature in the UK, which will allow advertisers to create three to ten individual 'snaps', to be promoted to users across the platform.

ASOS promoted story on Snapchat

Source: Campaign

Promoted stories combine the enhanced reach enjoyed by Snapchat business users with all the benefits of the Snapchat story feature. Stories can be viewed any number of times over a 24 hour period – a premise that Snapchat hopes will once again engage big-name advertisers with the brand.

Coca-Cola and Gogglebox lead the Christmas ad race

The battle for top Christmas ad has become as traditional as pigs in blankets, and 2017’s offerings have certainly delivered by way of talking points. Sainsbury’s, Debenhams and Pandora are among the brands using big-budget Christmas ads to compete for our custom, with the combined production spend expected to reach the £6bn mark this year.

Digital advertising is big business – and never more so than around the festive period. The brand often accredited with starting the big-money campaign trend is John Lewis, which this year introduced consumers to Moz; an unthreatening monster who lives underneath children’s beds.

The ad has been at the centre of numerous controversies since its release, including an accusation of plagiarism from Chris Ridden, author of 80’s children’s book Mr Underbed. It’s perhaps just one of the reasons behind the £1m festive campaign being voted the least memorable John Lewis ad in five years. 2016’s offering, Buster the Boxer, remains the most popular.

It’s better news for competing retailers however. Recent figures from Realeyes rank Gogglebox Meets Coca-Cola as the ad that viewers felt the strongest connection with. Also ranking in the top 4 are Vodafone, McDonald’s and Marks & Spencer, whose collaboration with Paddington Bear appears to be thrilling young and old viewers alike.

Facebook debuts VR experience on standard news feeds

Facebook’s venture into all things VR is nothing new, in fact the search engine giant has been investing in 360° video functionality since summer 2016. This month however, things were taken up a notch with the testing of VR experiences that can be accessed directly from standard news feeds without the need for a specialised headset.

The first content of its kind is an interactive 360° video scavenger hunt, created with Sony to celebrate the upcoming cinema release of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. “We were blown away with the technology and the fact that it could be easily accessed on a platform people use every day”, explains Elias Phiser, Sony Pictures’ Vice President of Digital Marketing.

Facebook 360 VR

Source: Oculus

Co-developed by Avatar Labs and the Facebook Creative Shop, the experience has been designed with the aim of making interactive virtual reality accessible for everyone – simplifying the VR process with the aim of building a fully immersive experience moving forward.

Search engines crack down on misleading event markup

Google is leading a crackdown on brands and publishers using event markup in a way that may be misleading to consumers, in turn negatively impacting user experience. The search engine is threatening manual action against any company seen not to comply with present guidelines. Forecasters suggest penalties may include suspending a website's ability to show up in rich snippets moving forward.

Examples of misleading event markup include websites promoting deals and discounts as an event. Within Google's guidelines, the company states that event markup should only be used for events which meet their requirements, excluding short-term promotions, coupons and vouchers. For more information on the do's and don't's of event markup, check out Google's guidelines.


To find out what other areas of digital marketing could impact on your business, get in touch today.

As Halloween season ends and the chaos of Christmas marketing begins, it’s time for the next in our digital marketing round-up series. Here, we take a look at some of the biggest news October brought in SEO, content marketing and digital PR.

Google have announced online-to-offline shopping features

Just in time for the festive season, Google have lined up new reporting capabilities and valuable new shopping features for local stores.

In AdWords, three new reports have been introduced for physical store visits:

Google is now adding reporting for impression-based store visits too, meaning they can be measured without the need for an ad click. As far as end-of-year developments go, it’s a big one!

Local inventory ads are also being stepped up, with Google Assistant and Google Maps results showing searchers a list of products that are in stock in their area, alongside location results. Any retailer who uploads their inventory into Google Merchant Centre is eligible for inclusion in the new local inventory search, which can also now be used to set up targeted local inventory display ads.

google_factchecking

The International Fact-Checking Network partnered with Google to tackle fake news

A new initiative from the IFCN and Google is seeking to increase the number of fully-trained fact checkers around the world, providing access to a range of fact-checking tools for free.

The overall aim is to identify and remove false or malicious news and claims online, yet the more specific focus is on fine-tuning Google Search and Google News themselves. After the 2016 presidential election in the US, which came punctuated with cries of ‘Fake news!’, organisations like Google, Facebook and Twitter are keen to show that they want no part in the production or distribution of unreliable and unscrupulous reports.

An increasing number of brands are tapping into the Flexitarian trend

New research from Mintel shows that 28% of consumers have reduced their meat intake in the last six months, with a further 14% planning to do so in the near future. But using words like ‘vegan’ and ‘vegetarian’ can still be a major turn-off in marketing. That’s where the Flexitarian trend comes in.

Brands that want to cash in on the rise of plant-based eating without putting off consumers who still eat meat some of the time are learning to do so using positive, indulgent language.

Rather than focusing on what you’re not getting - using simple explanations like ‘meat-free’ - or risking accusations of pushing an ideology by actually using the term ‘vegan’, brands like Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s are pushing flexitarian fun and flavours instead.

beyond_meat_burger

‘Flexitarian’ is a term used to describe consumers who follow trends like Meatless Mondays and Veganuary but who still eat non-vegetarian goods, whether that’s frequently or infrequently. Bloggers and Vloggers like Deliciously Ella and the Hemsley sisters have made plant-based eating fashionable again, with vegan food sales reported as being up by 1500% this time last year compared to 2015. That means there’s good money to be made by correctly positioning your brand.

The Better Buying Lab at the World Resources Institute are set to release findings later this year on exactly how best to turn consumers on to your brand through the interest spike in healthy eating and sustainability.

Thomson rebranded as TUI this month, and insist that package holidays still have a strong future

The final stage in a two-year rebranding process saw Thomson announce their new identity as TUI earlier this month. A huge multi-channel marketing campaign is ongoing to build awareness and modernise people’s perceptions of the brand, as well as positioning TUI as a global icon.

Around 60% of TUI’s bookings are made online, and this is one business who say they aren’t feeling the pressure of industry disruption from DIY brands like Airbnb. TUI’s UK Marketing Director, Jeremy Ellis, said in a recent Marketing Week interview that “People are starting to realise doing it yourself isn’t all it is cracked up to be. When you go down that route there’s too much choice and too many complications… a lot of time-poor people are realising a package holiday is the most convenient way to start a holiday"

Ellis also states that the market for traditional package holidays is in a period of growth once more, with sales boosted by video content and virtual reality.

“Where we add video to the booking experience, people are three to four times more likely to complete a booking. And our digital stores have three times as much footfall. The key will be to bridge content and video to help people experience a holiday before they book. You can test drive a car, but you can’t test a holiday before purchasing. We want to change that.”


The digital marketing world is constantly evolving, with Google and social channels launching new updates and algorithms, and the focus for branding shifting all the time. Get in touch to see how we can help you stay ahead.

With September nearly over and October ready to spring into action, it's time for the next in our digital marketing round-up series. Here, we take a look at the latest news from the worlds of SEO, content marketing and digital PR.

Google are ditching the 'first click free' policy

Up until now, news providers have been forced to offer three free articles a day before serving users a pay wall if they want to appear in Google results. To support the growth of digital subscriptions, this controversial policy has now been scrapped.

Publishers including Axel Springer and News Corp described the 'first click free' model as 'toxic', causing anyone who didn't sign up to vanish from online search. The purpose of this feature was to make sure that internet users could connect with important information and breaking news without the need to pay for it or sign up for a subscription, but some publishers felt that it was a step too far.

Google's vice-president of news, Richard Gingras, said that Google have been talking to news publishers about how to support their subscription businesses, and today it has been announced that the 'first click free' policy is no more.

As well as this, Google are now making it easier for users to subscribe to online services, in an attempt to take some of the annoyance out of information that can't be freely accessed. Using Google's existing payment technology, users will now be able to subsribe to news providers with just one click.

72% of consumers are now using Amazon to research products

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A September survey by Kenshoo found that Amazon continues to play an increasing role in our online lives, with 72% of people surveyed across the USA, UK, Germany and France stating that they use Amazon to track down products they want to buy online.

51% of respondents said that if they'd seen a product on another site, they'd look to Amazon for a price comparison and for alternative purchase ideas before making a decision, and 56% stated that they came to Amazon for information first before looking at other sites.

The importance of offering detailed product information on top of competitive pricing is clear here, with such a high percentage of shoppers referring to the site time and time again as a reliable source of information across vast areas of retail.

Amazon is now hot on Google's tail as a medium for online shopping research, with the search engine behemoth just in the lead as 85% of shoppers saying they research their purchases there as well. 27% of shoppers also turned to Facebook, 24% to Pinterest and 18% to Instagram.

With this in mind, brands must remember that focusing on search alone is not enough for a powerful e-commerce marketing strategy. Serious thought needs to be given to social media visibility and Amazon optimisation in order to connect.

Twitter have introduced 280-character tweeting...but not for everyone

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Select users around the world - so far, seemingly all 'blue tick' users - can now post tweets with 280 characters instead of the standard 140.

While the update is being trialled globally, the idea behind it came about due to issues with 'cramming' faced by users tweeting in certain languages. Twitter say that research has shown that the 140-character limit is "a major cause of frustration" for many users, particularly in languages that use the Latin alphabet.

Where 0.4% of tweets sent in Japanese use the full 140 characters, 9% of tweets in English hit the limit.

The larger character allowance is not being trialled in Japanese, Chinese or Korean versions of the Twitter app, but is expected to be rolled out in full amongst Western users.

Marketers should be ready to make the most of this extra space for information in an app that has always forced us to trim off everything but the crucial elements.

Dispelling past rumours of increasing the character limit into the thousands, Twitter's recent announcement means we can look forward to keeping the succinctness that their tool is famous for, while still enjoying more room to manoeuvre in social media marketing.


These are just a few of the latest updates in the ever-evolving digital marketing world. Check back for next month's digital digest and get in touch for specific advice on how to enhance your business' online presence.

As we wave goodbye to August, we take a look at what happened over the last month in the world of SEO, content marketing and digital PR.

 

 

57% of traffic now from smartphones and tablets

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It's been nearly two years since Google first announced that more websites are loaded on smartphones and websites than on desktop computers. However, despite the number continuing to grow, Google has not provided an official update for some time. In the absence of these updates, third party websites have been offering insights into traffic volumes. A recent report by BrightEdge confirmed the powerful and continuing trend towards mobile, with their findings concluding that mobile and tablet searches represent 57% of all search traffic. The shift towards mobile has highlighted new opportunities for businesses to answer questions faster and allow users to buy more easily.

 

BrightEdge also reported that mobile vs desktop search queries produce different rankings almost 80 percent of the time. The research found that the same query using the same search engine generated different results in mobile and desktop. Considering that proximity and location are ranking metrics for mobile, this should not come as a surprise.

 

Bright Edge conclude that businesses need to optimise and track separately for mobile and desktop. Failure to do this could result in businesses misunderstanding potential opportunities and threats.

 

 

Google rolls out 'landing pages' mobile assessment tool

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To help advertisers improve mobile performance, Google announced a new landing page tool, designed to assess the mobile-friendliness of individual URLs (rather than an entire site). The search engine announced that the roll out will begin over the next few weeks in the new AdWords 'experience'.

 

The tool will identify which URLs drive the most engagement and will also highlight the number of mobile visits that land on a mobile-friendly page. Evidently, bad landing pages on mobile devices can hinder conversions, so the report should allow marketers to identify which URLs need to be fixed to prevent high bounce rates.

 

 

More than a quarter of UK uses Instagram

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According to eMarketer's latest forecast of social network users, by the end of 2017 16.7 million people will be regular users of the platform.

 

Seemingly, Snapchat isn't be too far behind, with 21.1% of the population (14 million people) logging on monthly. Facebook, with an estimated 32.5 million users this year, remains the most popular social network in the UK. However, reports suggest it is losing share to Snapchat and Instagram among younger users.

 

This rise in Instagram users, indicates the app has morphed from a trendy teen hangout to a serious social networking site, with great promise for businesses. For marketers, Instagram offers a unique opportunity to reach new markets with visual content to showcase your brand and engage audiences. According to research visual content is currently the most important tactic for businesses optimising their social content. And with no signs of slowing down, businesses that aren't already using the platform need to start integrating it into to their content strategy if they wish to keep up with their competitors.

 

 

The power of voice search is changing the future of businesses

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Aside from the convenience of the technology, voice search has long been touted as one of the keys for SEO success in 2017. Largely, this is because it's improving in a number of ways, including the fact it can now understand some context.

 

According to Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, Google Assistant can take the context of a previous question to source answers to follow up questions, providing a more fluid search for the end user. With more and more people searching for content using their mobile devices, it's no wonder people have found it easier to use their voice to search. Google says around 20% of search queries on mobile devices are voice searches.

 

A key development in voice search is that queries are becoming more conversational. Due to the way users interact with voice search, queries are often longer and more detailed than a traditional text-based keyword search. Therefore, businesses need to adopt new strategies to optimise the way their business is found by long-tail phrases. According to Search Engine Watch, mobile voice search is three times more likely to be used for local-based queries, which means companies with multiple locations can benefit from voice searches by keeping their local profiles up to date, particularly with Google maps. In order to adapt to a more conversational search pattern, businesses need to create a content strategy that aligns to frequently searched questions.


Whether your business is looking to improve its social presence, work on SEO or launch a digital marketing plan, get in touch to see how we can help.

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