Content marketing best practice is rapidly shifting across industries. Naturally, brands and business are increasingly investing time and resources into the kind of user-led content favoured by search engines. No matter your sector, content that offers genuine value to its audience continues to win out over the sales-driven approach of yesteryear.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing has the potential to deliver conversion rates six times higher than traditional marketing methods. It’s just one of the reasons we recommend establishing a strong content marketing strategy moving into the New Year, as brand awareness, loyalty and trust can all be achieved through the provision of an effective, forward-thinking strategy.

With that in mind, here are just a few of the hottest content marketing trends to look out for in 2018.

The user comes first

online content

Content marketing has long been considered a favourite of smaller businesses – the likes of which don’t have the budget to invest in costly paid ads and marketing campaigns. In recent years however, some of the world’s biggest brands have adapted their strategy in a way that better incorporates unique content that is of genuine value to their audiences.

As Gary Henderson of the Forbes Agency Council explains, “It’s time to stop asking how your content marketing can drive sales and start asking what it can do for your audience. Stop talking about your brand, and start creating content people want to read, watch or listen to”.

Content that puts the user first stands a far better chance of gaining shares and engagement than that which clearly has sales at its heart. While the results may not be as instant, creating content which puts the user front and centre is your best bet for building authentic, loyal relationships with your audience in 2018.

The future is live

Live video boasts being one of content marketing’s biggest success stories in recent years. In fact, 82% of Livestream customers now claim to be more interested in watching a brand’s live video than reading more traditional social media posts.

Live video allows brands to interact with their audience in a way that’s both engaging and authentic. In addition, the relatively new introduction of live video on platforms such as Facebook means that any brand incorporating live streaming into their 2018 content strategy are likely to be a step ahead of their competitors.

The power of shoppable content

The benefits of shoppable content are vast, as the concept continues to bridge the gap between content and ecommerce. Shoppable content – or that which features a ‘click-to-buy’ link – is likely to push the boundaries even further in 2018, with video and editorial content just two of the formats already being turned shoppable by some of the world’s leading brands.

Industries that rely heavily on visuals to sell their products are naturally leading the way in this area. Examples include fashion brand Ted Baker’s #TEDPRESENTS campaign, which goes far in proving just how sleek and user-friendly shoppable content can be.


A focus on AI

While artificial intelligence may seem worlds away from traditional marketing techniques, 2017 has seen such technologies already begin to make their mark on the content marketing industry. Examples include the likes of automated customer service ‘chat bots’ and personalised product recommendations. Over the next few years, AI has the potential to revolutionise content marketing processes on an unprecedented scale.

Despite its associated benefits, the concept of incorporating AI into content marketing techniques is still very much in its infancy. For that reason, 2018 is likely to see brands continuing to experiment with the format, better establishing its potential and, quite possibly, its limitations.

User-generated solutions

84% of millennials confess that user-generated content (UGC) on a company website has the power to directly influence a purchase. As such, brands are finding increasingly inventive ways to incorporate USG into their content marketing strategies.

UGC also boasts being a time- and cost-effective content marketing technique, as utilising positive messages shared by already established brand advocates negates the need to invest in creating a fresh stream of content in-house.

A recent survey by BrightLocal found that 84% of respondents trust online reviews and testimonials as much as personal recommendations. UGC therefore not only brings the potential for increased brand awareness and visibility, but can help to build a positive perception of your brand and establish yours as an authoritative name within your sector as we move into the New Year.

2018 looks set to be another fast-changing year for the content marketing industry. With some of the world’s biggest brands shifting their focus to the production of high quality content, the need to stay on top of the trends has never been greater – especially for smaller brands that are hoping to compete. To discover how Ad-Rank can help your business to build a successful content marketing strategy in 2018, get in touch today.

It’s been predicted that in 2018 online purchases will account for 18% of all retail sales made within the UK. It’s great news for e-commerce businesses, yet the industry’s unprecedented growth has inherently led to a boom in the number of brands vying for valuable online real estate. The more competitors your business faces, the harder it is to grow your brand organically online.

Digital PR is one of the most cost-effective ways to boost traffic, improve brand awareness and encourage positive engagement from your audience. While the relationship between PR and e-commerce may not always be immediately obvious, we've proven that it's possible to achieve award-winning results when using digital PR as a tool to support your wider content strategy. With that in mind, here are just a few tips for growing your e-commerce business with digital PR.

The benefits of digital PR

The first question to ask yourself when working with a new content format, is 'how your business can benefit?' Understanding the process of digital PR, and establishing what you're hoping to gain from it, is vital to maximise content ROI.

The benefits of digital PR are vast. For e-commerce businesses, they can include:

printed and digital PR

Unlike print marketing forms, pickup from digital PR also generates links which can be tracked and monitored. This enables you to evaluate the success of your digital PR campaign in near-real time. All of this is great news for any e-commerce business hoping to enhance their digital strategy with PR.

Digital PR for e-commerce businesses

Depending on the scope of your e-commerce business, there are a variety of ways to incorporate digital PR into your existing content strategy. Whether you’re announcing the launch of a new product or service, or simply sharing some good news relating to your brand, digital PR is a great way to get your message out and showcase your brand identity.

Digital PR typically consists of three key steps – planning, implementation and measurement. Regardless of your industry, it's all about knowing how to tell a story in a way that engages its audience. Getting your message heard by the right people is an important consideration, while measuring the success of your campaign is vital to optimising future campaigns.

Top tips for growing your e-commerce business with digital PR

Put your story first


You've got a great e-commerce brand, so naturally you want to shout about it. The most important thing to remember however is that all successful digital PR campaigns are founded on a compelling story. Without one you run the risk of struggling to draw interest from journalists and publishers, the likes of which have hundreds of press releases land on their desks every day.

Even if your press release is announcing the launch of a new product or service, great storytelling is key. In the same way as other forms of content, digital PR is all about offering your audience new and valuable information. Let your story speak for you and increased brand awareness will naturally follow.

Don't neglect SEO

Gone are the days when PR and SEO teams worked in silo. Nowadays, there's a real focus on how one can benefit the other. Coverage and engagement which stem directly from PR coverage will help you to grow your e-commerce business, but so will reaping the potential SEO benefits of your digital PR strategy.

Understanding the relationship between PR and SEO is vital if you're to get the best possible return from your campaign. Backlinks and mentions from influencers and journalists are a great way to get your story heard. They're also effective at supporting SEO and driving increased organic traffic to your site over a long period of time.

Measure your success

There are multiple facets to measuring the success of your digital PR campaign, each of which can be used to improve your strategy moving forward. Taking a closer look at the publications that feature your campaign is a great place to start, giving you a clearer view of how valuable each backlink is and the level of engagement your story is likely to have generated.

You should use Google Analytics to view and analyse any spikes in traffic and metrics relating to your revenue goals. Adding a UTM code to links included in your campaign is one way of tracking how successful your campaign has been in contributing to your objectives.

Digital PR is often overlooked in the e-commerce industry, yet it can offer huge benefits when implemented well. Successful digital PR campaigns are a cost-effective way of growing your e-commerce business and establishing relationships with consumers and publishers alike.

For more information on how our digital PR strategies can help you, 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 has 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 Jennifer 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.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own SEO strategy, but if you really want to be successful it’s vital to look at the bigger picture. Even if your business offers a service that’s relatively niche, zoom out and you’ll see that your brand is just a small part of its industry and contends for digital real estate with both local and national competitors.

Once you start to gain a better idea of the businesses that make up your industry’s presence online, the need for effective competitor analysis becomes clear. A solid understanding of what is and isn’t working for key competitors within your field is a great place to start to help improve your own digital strategy.

Continue reading to discover the ins and outs of this cost-effective SEO strategy.

What is competitor analysis?

What is competitor analysis?

Competitor analysis is simply the process of analysing the digital profile of your competitors. The aim is to develop a deeper understanding of what does and doesn’t work within your industry, shaping your own digital presence in the process.

Competitor analysis can be as in-depth as you see fit, however a few key factors to take into consideration include:

• Keyword targeting

• Quality and length of written content

• Average search rankings

• Engagement rates

• Content structure and imagery

• Backlink profiles

The benefits of competitor analysis

Competitor analysis is a cost-effective tactic that will help highlight the strengths and weaknesses of your key competitors. From identifying content gaps that exist within the industry to giving some context to your own performance, the benefits of engaging in effective competitor analysis include:

• Gaining an insight into the performance of your competitors and understanding more about their SEO strategy

• Learning more about your industry as a whole, including what works and what doesn’t within the digital sphere

• Putting your own SEO performance into perspective and establishing new ways to improve moving forward

• Understanding more about your target audience and analysing their online behaviours and processes

Competitor analysis: a simple how-to

Ho-to guide to competitor analysis

By definition, competitor analysis is all about getting to know the brands that are directly competing for the same business as yours. We recommend looking at between five and eight key competitors - but any more than three is useful. Competitors can be identified as a result of your existing knowledge of the industry, or through tools that offer features relating to competitor analysis, such as SEMRush. (See more on tools to use below.)

First, analyse their strengths. Discover what’s working for the brands that currently rank highly within your sector and develop your SEO strategy to incorporate these.

Next, identify their weaknesses. Perhaps the brand ranking first on Google is particularly good at targeting keywords with a high search volume, but the content itself performs poorly at encouraging user engagement and conversions. Conversely, your primary competitor may have produced some great quality content that engages the audience, yet doing the same thing and building a stronger catalogue of backlinks could see your business overtaking them in Google rankings.

Once you’ve identified the individual strengths and weaknesses of your competitors, the final step is to collate your findings and make observations about the industry as a whole. Are there any specific gaps that you’re in a position to fill? Take the role of the consumer and ask exactly what information they’re likely to be looking for. If it isn’t currently provided, or the existing knowledge could be improved upon, this is the kind of content you’ll want to focus on creating in the immediate future.

The right tools for the job

Online tools

The breadth of tools you use are largely dependent on how in-depth you want your analysis to be. Looking at how well your competitors are ranking for specific keywords is as simple as performing a basic Google search, which is also the method to use if you’re interested in discovering how the quality of their landing page content stacks up against yours.

When it comes to delving deeper into the metrics and analytics however, there are a number of tools out there that can help to do the job. SimilarWeb gives good insight into site performance and traffic, enabling you to see which pages are performing well and exactly which channels users are reaching that content through. You can also benchmark your performance against other similar websites.

SEMRush is a valuable tool that provides data on competitor keyword rankings and performance. MOZ Pro and Majestic will provide information on the backlink profile of your competitors.

To discover more about how competitor analysis could boost your SEO efforts, get in touch today.

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