Welcome to 2015! It’s the first day back in the office and I’m looking forward to what’s to come this year. As such a fast-moving industry, digital marketing changes all the time. It can be hard to keep up.

That’s why I’ve put together this list of ten things you need to do in digital in 2015:

1 – Focus on responsive mobile sites and multi channel experience

Mobile and laptop user

This is an absolute must. Technically it was an absolute must for 2014… but now it is 100% top of the list to sort for 2015, if you haven’t already done it. Your site needs to work on different mobile devices and tablets in order to be able to compete with your competitors and Google’s algorithm updates.

Users are more choosy than ever and don’t hang around on a website if they don’t get a great experience. Google has realised this, and in order to try and provide its customers (the searcher) with a good experience, it factors in what device they are browsing on and favours sites that will function well on it.

We have seen Google experimenting with various different search results, which either show a mobile phone with a cross through it or say “not mobile”.

So make sure, if you haven’t already, that you are moving to a responsive site design to give you the best chance of ranking well, as well as encouraging customers to stay on your site.

2 – Use multi layered paid search

Gone are the days when you picked a bunch of keywords and chucked a bit of budget at Google AdWords and got great results. The paid search space has become more and more complicated over the years as more and more companies embrace it.

But wait, before you shut up shop and never again consider PPC as a viable option, this is actually good news. This added complication gives us much more opportunity to be creative and meet our clients’ advertising needs.

Particular features that we like are: remarketing, remarketing for search and the integration of video promotion and advertising into the AdWords interface.

These more advanced features allow you to change how you target your audience and can make sure your budget is only spent on the people most interested in your product or service.

3 – Implement structured data (rich snippets)

Bridge structure

Personally I feel that this is an area that will continue to develop over the next five years or so. Google has so much information to try and sort through in order to try and provide good search results to its users that it is asking for a bit more help from website owners. Structured data or “rich snippets” are a way to help the search engine categorise your site and display it to the right users.

If you don’t categorise the information properly, you don’t stand the best chance of ranking. You are able to tell Google about information including your website authors, opening times, ticket prices and product types.

Here are some examples of schema in action:

The Hobbit rich snippet

Ashford cinema rich snippet

You don’t have to be too specific with your search in order to find this level of information. Google is trying to preempt why you are searching for a local cinema, in this case “Ashford Cinema”. In all likelihood it is probably to go and see a film! They try and give you additional information to save you time and drop you deeper into the website.

4 – Don’t do link building!

Link building is old school. You should not be link building. Let me repeat that for impact… you should not be link building. Google knows all about the dodgy little tricks that people used to do in order to manipulate the algorithm to try and rank higher.

Don’t get me wrong, people still do them and sometimes benefit in the short term. However, in the long term they don’t! They get slapped on the wrists and pushed down the rankings and their traffic and business subsequently suffer.

Our view on this is not to focus on links. Focus on creativity, adding value to your customers and producing great content that will build engagement with users. You do that and you will benefit long term. Google factors social signals within its algorithm; social shares are an important element of SEO now and are difficult to fake.

That’s why a genuine bit of quality content that connects with your users will bring genuine return. Sorry all, no short cuts! But then again, anything good in life is worth working for.

5 – Use social media and emotional digital storytelling

Vintage typewriter

As we have just touched upon in point five, social is part of SEO. SEO is part of social – essentially they are almost the same conversation. We all feel that social will continue to play an increasingly important role within the SEO signals as it is an authentic measure of quality content.

In order to rank well, you need to be running effective social media strategies and producing relevant content within social. This content needs to be creative and relevant to your audience.

Storytelling is a bit of a hot topic within content marketing at the moment. This age old tradition of creating a narrative to convey a message is one of the best ways to deliver marketing communications. Stories make the viewer feel something, and remember both the story and the brand behind it.

Some excellent examples of storytelling are the supermarkets’ Christmas television adverts. Who doesn’t find a penguin love story heartwarming?

How does this relate to digital marketing? Tell a story and get your followers engaging in the conversation and sharing your news.

6 – Practice outreach via social media (digital PR)

Paperclip heart

Not only are SEO and social media sitting in a tree, k.i.s.s.i.n.g, PR is also trying to join the party! In order to truly maximise the value of your hard written content you need to spread the word. You need to find the right people to share your content with, who will in turn share it with their followers or fans.

This is the basic principle of PR. Create something interesting and send it to media types who would feature it in their magazine, newspaper etc.

Outreach is the process of connecting with people who have online influence to try and encourage them to post your relevant content via their own channels to their followers or subscribers.

In the olden days, relationships were forged over a drink in a pub. In the digital space relationships are built on a mutual appreciation for topical content. You have to make the approach, offering them something of value. Ideally something of value to their users, which they are then likely to share.

But like any relationship, you can’t open with a marriage proposal. You have to build the relationship over time, and then once you know each other better, pop the question. “Will you share my content?”

7 – Do paid social promotion

Social is great as a channel for client retention and customer service, but it is often asked how it can be used to reach new people and attract new customers. Firstly, social is not a direct sales channel, but could be a great way to start the conversation with potential customers. But how do you get in front of them in the first place? Well, creating great relevant content is a must, but even then there is no guarantee it will be picked up and shared around the web.

Paid social promotion is a great way to start the ball rolling. Once you have something great that your customers will love, you can use social channels to promote the content and put it in places where your customers will be. Then, if it is as good as you hope, they will shout about it and share it with their network. Hopefully this starts a cascade effect where your content is shared again and again – eventually reducing the need for further advertising spend. But without that initial push your content wouldn’t go anywhere!

8 – Become a hub of information

Library

Google is loving sites that provide detailed information about a topic area or particular niche site. Your site should be full of long form and short form content, but focused on adding value to your customer. In search for increased traffic, website owners often go off topic and talk about content that is popular, but at the same time not really that relevant to them or their business..

Google isn’t that appreciative of this approach, and there has been recent comment in relation to its latest panda 4.1 update which considers more about the context of your content and the validity of each piece within the whole.

Simple message for next year… keep your content focused on what you offer your customers. Be creative with it, but don’t go too far off topic.

9 – Put the customer first (audience engagement)

Digital marketing has become great again! It was annoying for a while, as there was a phase where technology was the main factor of digital marketing. It was all about being techie and finding loopholes in the system in order to outrank your competitors. Fortunately, those days are gone and common sense has prevailed.

Google realised that people were manipulating the system and has adapted its algorithms to help the great sites and businesses outperform the techie nerds who didn’t care about the customer, but just how to rank well.

Digital marketing is all about the customer again. Understand who they are, where they go online and what information they are looking for. If you can answer their question effectively as well as bringing your site inline with the technical elements that Google is looking for then you are onto a winner.

10 – Create video content

Zoella youtuber

According to invodo, retail site visitors who view a video are 64% more likely to convert than visitors who don’t see a video.

This is one of Google’s key areas of development for the next year. Have you seen the YouTube ads running on primetime TV? They ran an advert in the break between X-Factor showcasing YouTuber Zoella.

Vloggers are becoming the new PR contacts of the future. They are often more authentic than the major news outlets and recently fashion vloggers have had first look at fashion lines before the mainstream press. They are the influencers of the future, and online video is the channel of the future.

Your business needs to be producing video content, and not that typical company introduction type. Turn your blogs into videos, think about how you can provide your customers more information about the service or the product, and be creative.

Good luck with your digital marketing in 2015!

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