About alicereidmorgan

I'm a senior freelance digital marketing consultant specialising in the automotive industry. My areas of expertise are content and search, user journeys, analytics, training and overall strategy. I started out in advertising and still draw very heavily on my experiences. I now provide support on the client side.

Bloggers need to be careful

“Professional” bloggers have been getting more and more powerful. Their “impartial” views are highly sought after by consumers looking for product endorsements and reviews to support purchasing decisions.

What’s not clear to many consumers is that very often these reviews are not perhaps as impartial as they seem. Money has often changed hands. Let’s be clear. Traditional auto-journalism is not exactly impartial, either. Advertising spend often dictates editorial opinions… There’s really not much distinction, because, after all, everyone’s a journalist these days. And just as with an auto journalist, I think it’s more or less OK if the journalist or blogger has been behind the wheel and had the car for the weekend. And is transparent about it (“I was approached by x company and asked if it would road test their new y model”).

But what’s definitely not OK is when the blogger (or journalist for that matter) writes a stellar review without having actually tried the product in question – by regurgitating a press release for example. It happens. Also bad are obviously over-inflated reviews.These happen too.

These are the two main misdemeanours now being clamped down on by new Austrialian government legistlation. And rather than the brands taking the flack, it’s actually the bloggers themselves who risk being fined.

Up to now, Google has been the polcing the use or mis-use of blogging, using de-listing the brands involved from search results as the sanction for spam blogging of all kinds. It’s really worked, too, because now few brands contemplate incurring the wrath of Google – ranking is so vital. It means that brands now produce much better offsite content as a result and focus on social media much more. Transparency has won the day.

So good on ya, the Australian government for tackling the problem from the other side! I thnk this is a very good move.

Read the article here.

With thanks to Emilia Rossi from the Linkedin Marketing Communications group for shaing this.

Onsite content – the battle for leads with a lot of help from Avinash Kaushik

End of year stress

I don’t know about you, but I always find November and December stressful. There’s always something big happening in January that has to be ready before everyone starts to disappear any time from mid December, the days are short, there’s… well… Christmas to deal with too. All too much. Definitely no time to read stuff. And even less time to write anything.

So it was with present-opening-delight that I found some time to read Avinash Kaushik’s blog in the downtime over the Christmas break. It’s called Occam’s Razor (you can read why it’s called that on his site. Something to do with a Medieval monk).

The article I read first is called Digital Marketing And Analytics: Two Ladders For Magnificent Success. It’s got something for everyone and is as useful – in my humble opinion – for those who are relatively experienced and for others who need the basics.

Don’t raise unrealistic expectations. Get the basics right

Essentially, Avinash is saying “get the basics done before you start doing the fancy stuff”. This is both in terms of the content and marketing you develop and the way you measure success (these are the two ladders he’s referring to). It’s such a simple message, but so often there’s senior management pressure to strive on, to be seen to be making progress – before anyone’s actually ready. This might work in some sectors, but just as in the often-drawn-on analogy of house building, it doesn’t work in digital because you’ll end up raising unrealistic expectations and you’ll annoy people who won’t come back. Here comes the cliche… You have to have the foundations in place. You do. You just do. And to do this you also have to have the skill to explain (again and probably again) to senior management why you can’t race ahead…

The relative importance of lead generation

But apart from this basic message, I think everyone will get something slighly different out of the detailed content in this article. For many people it will be the message he delivers about mobile, but here’s what really pressed my buttons and it’s to do with what Avinash calls “micro and macro outcomes”. Macro outcomes are onsite conversions – the booked test drive, the quote requested – the leads. It really got me thinking about my own area of interest: automotive.

Let’s get back to management pressure for a moment. Leads = sales, right? So, make the website generate leads. The macro outcomes. It’s easy to see why this happens, but Avinash reminds us that – at best (I think in autos it’s even lower) – only 2% of visitors will become leads/complete the macro outcomes.

My controversial view about lead generation

Before I even go to the question of what to do with the 98% of people who won’t complete a macro outcome, I just want to touch on this: I know lead generation is important on car websites, but, having been a car buying customer myself (and having talked to countless more), I know that this isn’t the only reason why people come to car sites and, even if they’re very close to making a purchase, many people still want to deal with a human being either in person or on the phone.

The gist of what I’m saying is that I don’t believe we should obsess about generating leads on our sites. We do need to sell. Yes, that’s a commercial imperative, but we should want to get people to phone up dealers, walk into dealerships or email dealers as much (or even more) than we want to inflict an online form on them – with an unknown response time…

Back to the 98% of people who won’t convert

So, regardless of whether a macro conversion is a test drive booked online, a quote requested (or indeed a call to the dealer, a visit to the nearest showroom or an email inquiry sent off), the vast majority of site visitors – 98% according to Avinash -  will not be ready to take this step. It’s a 98% for whom we must make the website content/experience relevant. This is where we the micro outcomes come in.

Avinash categorises all outcomes into “see, think and do”. (The macro outcome (the test drive booked online) is the most important “do” outcome.) What’s so clear is that we must not forget to provide plentiful, but relevant things for site visitors to see/think/do that require less commitment than than the “ultimate” goal our senior managment is judging us on. Configurations, videos watched, reviews read, wallpapers downloaded and so on.

Meet the needs of the less committed

The reason why this presses my buttons is because – all too often – there is so much focus on the online lead and the needs of the less committed are obliterated. Pop-ins with screaming calls to actions that might appeal to someone who’s really, really “in-market” but not to the first time browser just looking for information. This latter group will surely be put off, won’t return to the site, won’t become part of that 2% who do book online. We know there’s a strong correlation too, between configurations and lead generations. It’s so important to offer the right content at the right moment.

Personalised content – a way to meet everyones’ needs

This is surely the right way to go about it. Using segmentation, we should be able to serve pop-ins with screaming calls to action to people who will appreciate it – and softer “how can we help you” messages to the less committed, pointing them in the direction of content that will help to convince them that this new model with all its gizmos and equipment is just what they’re looking for. This is simplfied of course, but that’s what it should be: as simple as possible.

And it should also work for senior management too. Let’s hope so! Have a great 2014. Alice Morgan

Will consumers tire of customer reviews?

It all started with Kia. They were the first automotive company (that I know of) to fully grasp the benefits of using Revoo, a company that interviews people who have recently bought a product, collates their reviews and feeds them to the website of the company in question. In Kia’s case, they really made the most of it and developed a TV campaign to tell people about the mainly positive reviews they were getting from their customers. Sales increased by 18%. Good for them for being the first (or for being my impression of the first) major company to exploit this.

kia

But what happens when you see other companies – with perhaps not such great reputations – Beko for example – adopting the same approach? Using Revoo, creating a TV campaign which includes a strong reference (it’s not as single-minded as Kia’s execution) to their 9 out of 10 Revoo score.

Will we get to a point where everyoBekone has jumped on the band-wagon and this review commodity becomes redundant, expected or even mistrusted?

I think we need to watch this one.

Responsive Web Design – Chevrolet Germany goes live!

A culmination of months of exciting work with our super agency Ignition, based in Frankfurt: Chevrolet Germany – http://www.chevrolet.dere-launched as a fully responsive website. All our other European websites will be rolled out in the coming weeks. We launched Germany first to coincide with the first public days of the IAA – the Frankfurt Motor Show.

But it’s not just that we’ve gone responsive. We’ve also made some important brand-content decisions too – rather than expecting our visitors to navigate to our Experience Section to read the stories that define the brand, as we did in the past, we’re now helping them to passively discover them instead. There’s a lot more to do content-wise – and it’s been fun planning that too.

This is what the website looks like in its 3 main states – but check it out online too.

Chevrolet Germany Big BrowserChevrolet Germany Mobile Chevrolet Germany Tablet

Off to online – why don’t more people do it brilliantly?

This is such a hot topic – and one that’s only going to get hotter as more and more (OK, sad and me among them) people sit at home watching telly and playing with a tablet at the same time. See something, search it.

It’s there in the data for us to see. We get more traffic from search and direct entry when we run TV campaigns. Great. But, really it’s more accidental than intentional – certainly at this stage and we should be doing so much more here to find creative that resonates with people enough to make them want to engage with our content. Yes, it does boil down to having really good creative that picks up on some consumer insight, truth, shared experience, is amusing or even inspiring. Or just plain informative and useful.

This is a great example. It’s not a TV execution, but it is something that I found professionally inspiring. It’s how BBH transitioned a radio commercial to video and in doing so managed to communicate the key product benefits of a rear parking camera in a way that’s both striking and memorable.

See what you think.

http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/article/1208473/skoda-converts-radio-spots-animated-digital-ad

Discretion seems to be the better part of valour

I read a fascinating article today on LinkedIn by Jeff Haden about discretion. It’s called “Want to achieve a huge goal? Start by shutting up!”. In a nutshell, Jeff Haden says that if you talk a lot about doing something big (the example he gives is walking the Apalachian Trail in the US), the reactions you get from the people you tell (“Wow, that sounds amazing, that’s great”, etc.) reflect back on you in such a way that you feel you’ve actually achieved something without actually doing anything. And this feeling makes it less likely that you’ll achieve the goal at all – or even undertake it in the first place.

I recently had an experience like this, but I’d better keep it to myself!

 

 

 

Keywords for natural search – what’s the optimal number?

Quite a few people have been asking me this question lately.

Experience I’ve had over the last few years of running a centrally-managed pan-European SEO programme for Chevrolet Europe has taught me a lot.

We need to focus our energies

With so many markets on the programme (19 in 16 languages) and such a small team, we can’t afford to waste time or effort. We need to focus on what will bring us results. I can confess that I’ve learnt this the hard way…

SEO keyword lists are not the same as paid search lists

Natural search keyword lists should only ever represent an indicative target. One look at Omniture, or whichever analytics tool you’re using, will show you that there is a multitude of keywords people use to find you. So we now no longer include every possible permutation of every brand term in our lists.

This kind of coverage is actually important – to start with at least – for paid search. But natural search requires a different attitude when it comes to keyword lists.

So, what do I mean by keywords that will bring us results?

Our SEO agency Performics use various tools to identify keywords that – should we rank for them – would give us a traffic increase. This applies to both brand and unbranded keyword selection. It’s a strong and pragmatic approach.

Impact on content

If we’re not ranking for a term that the agency have identified as a potential traffic booster, we look at developing appropriate, relevant and useful content around that term, so we can rank for it. And, if necessary we build links too.

A good example of this the work we’ve done at Chevrolet with our unbranded category car pages. Here’s an example: http://www.chevrolet.es/nuestros-modelos/coches-de-7-plazas//. We’re also looking at other content development at the moment.

So, what of the results? Pretty damn good so far

I’m going to focus on the example I gave in the previous paragraph. By ranking no.1 for “7-seat car” (and related terms), we attracted an incremental 34,000 visits to the 7-seat car page on the Chevrolet Spain website in Q4 2011. I’ll say that again: incremental traffic. For a brand like Chevrolet Europe, with very low media budgets, this is an important step in generating awareness and getting our cars in front of people who would otherwise not have considered us.

I will admit to cherry-picking the best result we have. Not all our markets have performed like Spain, but in every market we’ve adopted this policy, we have seen a steady increase in traffic that goes back to a small, targeted set of keywords.

Paid and natural search alignment

And it’s part of our paid/natural search alignment project. All the unbranded keywords we’re targeting are expensive (but effective) in paid search. If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know that we’re testing an active bid management system which will allow us to determine the optimum relationship between paid and natural search. Spain is one of our test markets and the results are looking extremely positive.

So far, it’s showing that we can radically improve traffic and conversions to the site by being present in both paid and natural search. Performics will be writing a white paper on this test later in the year.

Why is bad to target a large amount of keywords for natural search?

OK, back to the beginning. This is the question that people often ask me too, in relation to the main question “what’s the optimal number”?

Well, for starters, it’s very wasteful. But much worse than that, is that it can be very content-destructive. If you’re under pressure to rank for a huge number of keywords, the temptation is to produce content that’s not consumer-focused (i.e. it’s not useful for the consumer, isn’t easily readable and so on).

So, my advice is

…keep the lists to under 150, including unbranded terms, be highly selective and write content that satisfies consumers’ needs first. If you get it right for consumers, you’ll generally also get it right for search engines.

There is also a social element. Where you think your content is sharable, or likeable, do give people this opportunity. But use it judiciously. Nothing worse than seeing “Likes 0″ on a page.

Let me know what you think about this article!

SearchCenter+ test is underway

After a couple of frustrating weeks, our test is live in the UK, France and Spain. Credit to Sam at Performics, Rina at Chevrolet, Frank at Ignition and the team at Omniture for overcoming the last few difficulties to get started.

We’re testing our hypothesis (that you can dial back spend on paid search when you’re ranking well for natural search) using SearchCenter+. It’s one (big) strand of the integration we’ve driven between paid and natural search at Chevrolet Europe.

More on this as we get results!

Pan-European Linkbuilding

In my last post I outlined plans for Chevrolet which are about to get underway for testing an active bid management tool – SearchCenter+. I mentioned in passing that we’re doing linkbuilding to boost our natural search rankings for generic keywords, allowing us to get into the position of being able to adjust our paid search bids. I’ll keep you posted on this. (Inevitably, there is a hold up – not of our making.)

Frustrations aside, I want to give a bit more of an insight into what we (that’s Perfomics, Chevrolet’s SEO agency in the main – and myself) are doing on the linkbuilding side, for those of you interested in this topic.

Chevrolet is a real branding oddity. Amazing spontaneous awareness for the Chevrolet brand on the one hand, with virtually zero awareness for the cars we sell in Europe on the other. Back in 2008, our digital agency, Ignition, ran some consumer testing. A mix of Chevrolet and non-Chevrolet owners was recruited. When we asked the owners if they could name a Chevrolet model other than the one they owned, the answer was a prettty unanimous no, they couldn’t. This has changed somewhat and awareness is steadily growing, but from a very low base. Currently Chevrolet’s market share in Europe is just too low to get serious “on the road presence” (though, judging from the cars I see around London, I believe this may be changing too). And then there’s the question of money. There isn’t enough for us to break through into broadcast or any other meaningful interruptive media. We can’t book the Champions League half-time break. Especially not right now.

That’s all a rather long-winded way of saying that we need to find other, more cost-effective ways of gaining awareness among people who don’t already know us. And one of these is to do linkbuilding.

A Starcom stat I picked up about a year ago claims that 88% of the 7 billion automotive searches each year are generic. That’s quite an opportunity. Another eye-opening view comes from Searchmetrics, who have devised an algorithm which estimates the traffic increase if your website ranks no. 1 on Google – by keyword that does so. The bottom line is that you don’t have to rank high for many popular generic keywords to boost traffic considerably.

But why linkbuilding? What’s the matter with regular SEO techniques? SEO-ers among you will already be well aware of the answer. Ranking for generic keywords using content alone is virtually impossible, especially as we want to target quite a range of them. It’s obvious that generic keywords are much more competitive, so it’s always been quite difficult, but Google has made it even more so with its last few algorithm changes. Mayday in 2010 was the real deal-breaker and this year’s Panda has just consolidated it. Google’s focus is on the delivery of excellent content for consumers: not helping big brands rank well in natural search. What is required are external links which confirm the relevance of our content. And Performics have a team of people patiently, persistently nurturing bloggers to do just this for us in 13 markets across Europe, including smaller ones like the Czech Republic and Austria. We don’t get the instant gratification of paid search. It takes a considerable amount of time and effort, but once in place, it’s sustainable visibility.

Finally, I just want to return to one of the topics in my last post about our one-search experiment. Our linkbuilding strategy has always been the first step along the road of establishing a symbiotic relationship between paid and natural search. And as such, our linkbuilding keyword recruitement criteria keywords are paid search keywords we’re already bidding on, which we know are effective at driving traffic and conversions, but also very expensive. And that, along with the Starcom stat, is our big opportunity.

Paid and natural search integration – testing SearchCenter+

Everyone working in Search should want this: make paid and natural search work together in a symbiotic way that leads to spending either less money on paid search, or at least spending it more efficiently.

It’s something we’ve been trying to get going for some time at Chevrolet Europe. It all sounds so simple: reduce spend where we consistently rank well on natural search and redeploy the budget. Let me tell you: it’s not simple, especially when you have 20 markets to consider.

Convincing new technology
So I didn’t have that much hope when I went along to a seminar hosted by Adobe and SearchMetrics in London in September. But I came away from it convinced that the technology we’d been shown could work for us. SearchCenter+ pulls in SEO analytics from SearchMetrics to create a platform that allows paid search positions to be automatically adjusted according to the natural search position and other competitor factors. More on this active bid managment tool.

A search industry first for Chevrolet
Tamara Warren, Strategic Digital Marketing Manager, and Rina Patel, Website Marketing Manager (who knows a hell of a lot about paid search) were very enthusiastic about the idea too. Such was the momentum we created that the test will start without delay in January 2012. Managed by our SEO agency Performics, it will be the first of its kind in Europe because – right from the start – we’re testing in a mulitple market environment: Spain, France and the UK.

Our “one search” keyword selection methodology put simply
For a few months now we’ve been running active linkbuilding campaigns across 13 European markets, targeting mid-funnel generic keywords. The selection criteria for these keywords were paid search keywords with:

- high search volume (opportunity)
- but high cost per click and cost per conversion

This approach lies at the heart of our “one search” test because right from the start, our keyword selection has been tied to our paid search activity. It’s the natural search positions of these linkbuilding keywords which we hope will provide the right testing conditions.

Updates as we go
I will publish updates as soon as we get an indication of whether the theory of active bid management can be proved or disproved.