Archive by Sam Ernest-Jones

Passion bring Home Two UK Agency Prizes

14Sep

The UK Agency Awards brings the brightest and most innovative agencies in the UK under one roof for an evening of delicious food and vibrant company. Oh, and prizes!

Passion Digital was shortlisted for three awards:

– Rising Agency Star Award
– Most Impressive Small Agency Growth
– Best Social Media Campaign

We are delighted to announce we received two prizes:

– Rising Agency Star Award: To our Account Manager,
Atticus “Maximus” Peart
– Highly Commended: Best Social Media Campaign for Knight Frank

Massive congratulations to all those involved in the campaigns and awards. They were thoroughly deserved and we’ve made a special place in our office to put them for all to see.
Don’t forget to check out our prize-winning campaign for Knight Frank.

 

Who Uses Bing?

19Jun

Who uses Bing? In fact, people do – but just not very many in the UK (if third party platforms like Hitwize are to believed).

In other countries, the divide between the two search engines is not as bad but the UK seem to scoff at Microsofts’s Bing on a national level. Allegedly, in 2016 they received 33% of all searches in the Uk, which is up from 20% in 2015.  The truth is that there really isn’t too much wrong with Bing. The maps functionality is brilliant and in many ways, it’s regarded as better than Google maps by many. It’s extremely fast (try it out) and offers more data than Google maps for actually navigating your way around.

The search results are relevant and load quickly and, most of the time, it is possible to find the sorts of sites that you need. So the question you’re probably asking yourself is, ‘so why does everyone use Google?’ Well here are a couple of reasons why we think there has been a dramatic difference in the success of the two search engines.

Bing Vs Google: Who made the right moves?

As everybody markets for Google, this gives Google the search results with the biggest names and the biggest budgets. When did this start exactly? Well, it’s a bit of a ‘chicken and egg’ situation, but one of the reasons people started marketing and optimising for Google more than Bing is simply because Google provides better and more convenient search tools.

It’s vital to distinguish between these two search engines. Hot searches vary wildly across the two, as do the demographics. You cannot really optimise for Bing using Google’s keywords and the same goes for SEO or PPC, because the two search engines are so different. Getting useful keyword data specific to the terms you want to rank for is far, far more simple and detailed with Google.

Setting up your keyword and analytics tools has been made very easy by Google. You grab a Gmail account which takes a few seconds, log in, and get cracking. You can check the search volumes of certain keywords to find out what people are looking for and write content to suit those needs. Simple enough, even though Google changes its keyword tool functionality all the time. In contrast, Bing adds several additional layers of needless pain to get started. For one, it wants you to add and verify your site. How many webmasters does that immediately alienate? It also wants your address, company name and a whole load of other info. If you don’t sell a product, then you are likely catering for informational queries.

Bing needs these webmasters in order to snare more content to present to users. Webmasters publishing on a not-for-profit basis can’t make a return on advertising & won’t ever give Microsoft any money. So why force everyone to add their site and sign up for an account?

So unless people are truly dedicated to appearing on Bing (and nobody seems to be dedicated to appearing on Bing), Bing is going to lose these webmasters, as they won’t know the right queries to optimise for and won’t get much traffic. Google have the problem of working out who NOT to include in their results; Bing’s issue is that they lack the feverish base of content publishers vying for attention that Google have.

Microsoft is a dinosaur, and forcing this level of registration and desperately trying to monetize basic functionality like this is an evolutionary vestige that simply should not exist.

“As everybody markets for #Google, it gets the search results with the biggest names & budgets”

Silverlight (Microsoft’s web development tool) is as…

What happens when you take:

a)       a load of disinterested webmasters

b)       a barely used webmaster tools suite

c)        zero incentive to use that suite

… and then combine this with a requirement to install a completely redundant 3rd party application framework which has its own dependencies, install hassles, and which Microsoft intend to discontinue?
Some aging exec somewhere must have missed how Google effortlessly took over the mobile market with software built on open standards and wanted to stick to the “Embrace, Extend and Extinguish” approach they are infamous for.
Creating a fake web standard that nobody wants is to create one that, in the long term, nobody uses, so adding another (pointless) hurdle to the take up of your other features is as dumb as making a teapot out of chocolate.
We don’t want to install Silverlight just to use your webmaster tools!

Microsoft constantly rebrands everything

The lack of internal direction in the company results in baffling product and marketing changes that can be hard to keep up with. Take email, for instance. I used to have a Microsoft login, also known as a:

  • MSN Hotmail account
  • .NET passport
  • Microsoft Passport
  • Windows Live account
  • Microsoft Wallet
  • Microsoft Passport Network account
  • Windows Live ID

I have also used Microsoft’s search engine, known as:

  • MSN Search
  • Windows Live Search
  • Live Search
  • …and now, Bing

You compare this with Google, and you have “Gmail account” which became a unified “Google Account”. We’ve obviously seen some clumsy ideas from their end with Buzz and Wave (and of course there was a big uprooting with the introduction of Google Plus) but generally speaking, Google is Google and doesn’t seek to reinvent itself continually.

Fun fact: #Bing Live Search’s most searched for query was ‘Google’.

Chicken/egg issue: Everybody is on Google.

We can’t ignore the fact that Google is just more familiar. It’s a definite issue, but it’s not THE issue which is why we came to it last. The simple fact is that people grow accustomed to the big ‘player’ sites within a given niche that tend to crop up in Google search results.
As these sites are doing everything within their power to market for Google, there is a chance that quite a few of them will fail to appear on Bing for those comfortable searches that people do from day to day.
There are a fair number of folks who ‘Google’ the same phrases over and over to find long used web pages without ever knowing the exact URL of the page they visit, and asking them to ‘Bing’ for them is as alien as asking them what colours smell like.

Restrictive Versus Open: A forgotten history lesson

By being restrictive instead of open, Microsoft’s Bing restricted their ability to foster engagement with the webmasters they need to support their business model. It’s ironic that a company that rose to fame by giving away an operating system would add so many hurdles to this process. Simply put, make it as easy as possible for Webmasters to get some value from your search engine and they will actively make your life easier by paying more attention to the signals that help their sites to rank.
When this happens, you will have the content chicken that lays the golden egg of searchers. Or the golden content chicken that lays the egg of increased searcher engagement. Or something.
Further down the line, you’ll have to invest some time in quality control, but it’s better to filter the eventual hordes of content producers than do everything possible to alienate them from the start.

Do you think you can tell the difference between Bing and Google’s search results? Try this search quiz

Atomic Design: Why you should use it when creating websites

10May

What is Atomic Design?

Often, the process of creating websites involves a detailed step by step checklist of what you should be creating and when. This supposedly enables the creators to compartmentalise and categorise the different elements of a site from the beginning to end. ‘Atomic Design’, as discussed by Brad Frost, is one of the hottest trends in design and development thinking and applies a somewhat different method. Instead of understanding website creation as a linear process, Frost suggest we should take a more holistic view, seeing websites as a large and complex entity which can be broken down into smaller properties composed of increasingly fewer elements. Let’s start with the smallest and make our way up:

Atoms

Are our HTML tags. These could be a button, a label or an input. Like this search icon:

Molecules

Atoms are pretty useless by themselves, but combine them and they’ll make something useful. A button, label and input creates a search bar:

Organism

Formed of groups of molecules, organisms combine complex elements that might otherwise appear very distinct.

Templates

The first point at which we can see the how the design works in full. At this stage content should be being created which fits the layout design and style.

Pages

Put simply, pages are the template plus the content. This is where all the components come together to form the working model. 

Sounds simple enough doesn’t it?
After considering the list above, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the most logical way to begin building a website would be to start with atoms and work your way up. Humans have a tendency to categorise workloads into chunks because it makes things easier to understand. In many ways this a logical method, but having a picture idea of what you want your page to look like at each stage is imperative. For example, you cannot create page content without knowing the parameters of the design it fits into. Similarly, having an idea of what your molecules will look like will encourage you to create simple atoms. Atomic Design theory helps us understand why making clear-cut distinctions between stages is limiting to the process of website building as a whole.

Why adopt Atomic Design?

Understanding websites as made of many functioning parts, each one comprised of ever smaller elements keeps the creative methodology simple (especially when working on the smallest parts). Keep your atoms and molecules simple will mean the overall website is as efficient it can be.

Atomic Design provides us with a mental model, enabling us to understand the user interface as a cohesive whole and a collection of parts all at the same time. The whole influences the part and the part influences the whole. Nothing that is created, from the ‘button’ to the ‘content’, should be done so in isolation. That way the emphasis is on the finished product, not solely what you see in front of you as a designer or developer.

Atomic design should not necessarily be adopted as a substitute for the linear method of website creation. After all, working stage by stage has merits of its own. However, utilising this technique alongside your current design and development practice will keep your websites clean, efficient, and consistent.

If you are thinking about creating or redesigning a website, why not have a look at our web design and development services and get in touch.

 

Key Learnings from Brighton SEO 2017

11Apr

On Friday last week, some of the Passion Digital team took a trip to the South Coast to glean some knowledge from the expert speakers at the renowned Brighton SEO conference. Members from our SEO and Content Marketing departments attended insightful talks on a broad range of subjects from carefully selected industry leaders and entrepreneurs. These included:

Link Building
Content Creation
Making the most of Search Metrix Rankings
How to hack your SERPS using a Lean Approach


This article provides a round-up of the most useful information we can work into our strategies going forward.


Content

Tips for link building through outreach – Sam Charles of ‘Float Digital’ @SamCharlesUK

Speaker Sam Charles is an award-winning Content and Outreach specialist who has also set up her own successful blog which she enjoys updating and optimising but which also ‘pays her mortgage’. Having been successful in both outreach and as a blogger herself, she offered us tips on how best to approach bloggers and publications with content in order to make your email stand out. Even small website owners and bloggers often receive 50-plus emails per day so it is important to ensure your outreach strategy is equipped with the tools needed to achieve high-quality links for your content.

  • Be up-front – Too often are bloggers approached by people who are shady about their reasons for contacting or do not allude to where they are calling from. This is instantly off-putting to website owners.
  • Explain what you want in simple terms – Similar to the above, it’s important to let the blogger know what you want. Don’t pretend to be offering them a favour because they see through it. Be transparent about how you can both help each other. Keep the emails short and to the point.
  • Think ‘would I want to respond to these questions’ – Remember that these are people with little time. Ensure they can understand your request at a glance and they can offer you a short (and hopefully positive) response to your questions.
  • What else can you offer them? Incentivise them with services and time saving if you don’t have a budget – Bloggers are constantly wanting to perfect their website; to both improve its rankings and make it more appealing to their audience. What services can you supplement them with to ensure they give you the link? Create a banner image? PPC? Social promotion? Website design? Photography?
  • If the outreach email/call was honest, informative and eye-catching she would sometimes give them a link for free.
  • Ego Bait – Create a ‘top ten’ bloggers for a specific category and post it on your website/social pages. If you have a respectable DA or a higher number of followers than the blogger, they will be more interested in linking to you.


The 10 Step checklist for creating a show-stopping distribution plan – Julia Ogden of ‘Zazzle Media’ @Zazzle_Julia

Julia Ogden is a content marketer for Zazzle Media – She offered a checklist for creating content that is going to drive traffic and get links. If going viral is the aim then this is how to do it!
“Storytelling is as relevant today as ever. It’s just the platforms that have changed” she explains.

  1. Establish the objective – Do you want to increase brand awareness, build Links, or Increase keyword rankings? Having an idea of your end goal from the get-go keeps the project moving in the same direction throughout the phases of the project from ideation to implementation.
  2. Who are we talking to? – Persona insight programmes can help establish who is looking at what content. It helps to know the age, gender, marital status, and interests of your audience. The most popular tools for this are Facebook Audience Insights, YouGov, CamScore (paid), Global Web Index (paid). Once the persona has been created, some content marketing teams event print them out so the whole office can see who their project is meant for.
  3. Brainstorm – It’s important to be aware of news and seasonal events which can give your story traction. Think about the possibility of creating unique data to support your content. Also, remember your objectives from the beginning and consider the wider marketing plan. In a brainstorm, all innovative and crazy ideas should be welcomed!
  4. How to shout about it – Journalists are very under-resourced. Create pre-written feature articles which they can edit slightly and use. The less work for them the better. Offer them some video content to supplement the findings of your data and text.
  5. Ask yourself, ‘who else cares’ for validation – Do we have a ‘look’ that we’re wanting to mimic or create? Do we have unique data? Does it evoke an emotional response?
  6. Find out the relevant influencers – they’ll make the splash for you! Being able to contact those in positions of influence is important and it saves you time in the long run.
  7. Distribution – It is very important to use a variety of channels to promote the content. i.e. your own blog and social channels, Earned channels (PR), paid channels (native, paid social, PPC)
  8. Quantify what would classify successful results for the content – How many backlinks are you hoping to achieve? If you are looking to create more of a social splash, keep track of the amount of shares, likes, and views of your content on the platforms you are promoting on.
  9. Keep track of your content over time – Ensure you keep checking the results of past projects even well after the completion date. Old content might become relevant again and yield results months later which you should inform your client of.
  10. Measure – Depending on the distribution methods you’re using it is invariably important to measure effectively when gathering results. The primary results to bear in mind are organic referrals, social traffic, engagement, redirects, impressions, and backlinks.

SEO

Taking advantage of Google using Usage Metrics for Rankings – Polly Pospelova of ‘Delete’@polly_p

Polly Pospelova is a Head of Search at Delete agency. She is a search professional who thrives on finding the best route to deliver the client’s aims and growth.
Key question: What metrics do Google pay attention to & consider when creating their rankings?

Click through rate (CTR) – Arguably the most important metric nowadays for allowing Google to understand which pages users like. It’s proven that the higher the CTR, the higher Google elevates the page in search rankings! Make sure you write for humans, not for search engines. Write your meta-title and description in a way that makes sense to users and don’t keyword stuff them for the search engines. Ensure they make sense to anyone who reads them.

Short vs Long Click – The metric Google uses to determine search success is time to long click. A long click occurs when a user clicks on a result, remains on the site and does not return to the search results. Long click correlates to user satisfaction & success. A short click (when someone immediately clicks back after clicking on a result) tells Google that the site is not relevant and users are unhappy with it. To ensure more long clicks occur to your page – make it is user-friendly to read, view, take in.

Site engagement metrics (all metrics in GA!) – There are clear signs that behaviour signals are on Google’s radar. This stresses the rising importance of user experience (UX) in collaboration with SEO. Your website needs to be easy for users to navigate, accessible on all devices, deliver high-quality content and to keep users on the site! Sites that keep users on for longer are also elevated by Google.


How to hack your SERPS using a lean approach – Sam Auchterlonie of Skyscanner @s_auchterlonie

Sam is a Senior Growth Manager, who has been working at Skyscanner for the past 6 years and has helped to drive the SEO activity globally throughout this time.
“Doing nothing is painful; not learning can be fatal.”

  • Speak the language of the business – Think, first and foremost, about the business’ main metric. What is the main goal of the business? Is it newsletter sign ups? Focus on those, and work forwards from there. The main metric for Skyscanner is customer retention.
  • Developers need our help – They have a lot to do, so we should all try and understand what they’re doing and how we can help them.
  • Think lean – Start small. We don’t have to make changes to 500+ pages, instead, it is better to try out a technique, see whether it works, and then apply those to more pages.
  • Experiment – Find the shortest path to validate ideas with experimentation. Build, measure, learn – constantly try to learn from the things we do (always using metrics) and then improve upon them.
  • Don’t be embarrassed by version 1 of your idea – Making mistakes is the best way to learn. Caution means that you’ll never go out of your comfort zone and never create anything new. All ideas started somewhere, and the best among didn’t come out in their final form – it takes time to become great!

How to Rank in the Answer Box – Adrian Philipps

Also known as “position 0”, the answer box is often seen as the pinnacle of what Google considers good content. Good enough to rank above even the first position, most users immediately go here in order to get an answer to something like “how to hard boil an egg”.

Competition has no direct impact on whether you rank in the answer box or not, but it doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them!

  • If they rank in the answer box for a specific question, exactly what is their content doing that yours isn’t?
    Not only that but do they have any other pages on the 1st page of Google?
  • There have been some tests to study exactly what influences having an answer box.  Naturally be on the 1st page of Google for terms related to the query. No PPC being used for those terms. Be above the fold for the page that’s ranking on the first page of Google.

So what else can we do to rank in the answer box?

  • Address the question in the 1st 100 words as well as the title! Also, ANSWER the question within the 1st 100 words. Answer multiple questions in the article, potentially linking out to other relevant resources. Linking out shows that your content is confident enough to link out to other sources, and also tells Google that this page isn’t just to rank, it’s to help inform users.
  • When answering multiple questions, if the query is “how to hard boil an egg” and you rank in the answer box, by writing and answering queries like “how to fry an egg” or “how to poach an egg”, you can also rank in the answer box for those queries too! Use multiple headers (h1, h2, h3) to help Google organise your content and make it easier to read for users.
  • Minimum 1,000-word article in order to be as informative as useful, and to show Google that your content is detailed enough to be featured in the answer box.
  • If possible, in the content use have available calculators (like a BMI calculator, which is on the page that ranks for “how to work our BMI”), graphs, images, charts etc. To show Google and readers that your content is authoritative.
  • In the end, as is everything with Google, it’s all about the user and their intent. If you can answer the question they’re asking in a detailed manner, providing resources where necessary, you should be able to rank in the answer box.

SEO Insights from Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines for High Ranking – Jennifer Slegg @jenstar

Google have their 160-page search quality guidelines, (Jennifer actually wrote about this and the latest update here) but the most important part about it is the importance of EAT and YMYL sites:

EAT stands for sites or content which show off their expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Having a good EAT will make you rank higher.

  • Show off your expertise through posts where the author has a detailed bio about their professional career, where they’ve written, how many years’ experience they have etc. This not only reinforces expertise for the user reading but also to Google!
  • Show off authority on your about us page, even through videos or quotes. The about us page is the perfect place to brag about what you’ve done that warrants authority in the industry.
  • Trustworthiness comes with the above two, and also applies to metrics like DA and Trust Flow.
  • Having a good EAT makes it more likely for sites to link to your content, and also makes it easier to gain links through outreach (if you have someone who’s an authority in the industry writing for a trustworthy site with a lot of expertise, it’s easier to get a link via that than your random Jo Blogs writing an article).
  • Your Money Your Life sites (YMYL) such as e-commerce sites, medical sites, legal sites, insurance sites etc. MUST have a higher level of EAT, or Google won’t rank them as highly.
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