Business Performance Natural Search Marketing Paid Search Marketing Search Engine Marketing

Looking for a RBYes Mortgage or Rabies? RBS Campaign Fail

In my previous post, I talked about how Natwest’s new ad campaign fell short because TV and digital were not integrated. The TV advert creative contained the call to action ‘Search NatYes‘ yet NatWest did not have a listing in the organic results for that search phrase. They effectively paid twice by running PPC ads to try convert the visitor.

The post generated a lot of shares, comments on the blog and some twitter conversations. Whilst reading further around the subject I discovered a couple of interesting things.

Firstly, Natwest are owned by RBS and it transpires that the same advert has been shot twice – once for NatWest and once for RBS – with different accented boy actors to cater for different regional markets.

Both use a similar call to action in the TV ads – either ‘search NatYes‘ or ‘Search RBYes‘.

Secondly, as you’d expect given the same marketers & agency, both campaigns experience similar digital integration problems. However, to compound it, the RBYes campaign has encountered another unfortunate issue.

When you type in ‘RBYes‘ to Google, the search engine has tried to helpfully correct what it believes to be a misspelling. So instead of information on RBS mortgages you get…


I’m guessing this isn’t what the bank wants prospective customers to see.

There is another link that says ‘search instead for rbyes‘ but it is below the adjusted search term and much smaller. By this point the searcher has already noticed the links to rabies information and the YouTube video thumbnails of unfortunate canines.

To RBS’ credit, they do have a PPC ad present in the top slot, albeit surrounded by less appealing links.

In my Natwest NatYes post I was critical regarding the lack of a listing atop the organic results. In that instance it would have strengthened their position, reduced their dependency on a 24/7 PPC presence and protected against guerrilla shenanigans by competitors. With the RBYes campaign, an optimised landing page in the organic listings is again a necessity but it wouldn’t help one bit with this particular issue.

Now, you could defend RBS by saying who could have predicted this? And that may well be a fair comment. However, I can’t help but feel this could have been discovered a lot earlier in the planning and preparation stage – before the ads and tag lines were signed off. Surely someone typed it into Google when the idea was to proposed to include ‘search RBYes’ in the TV advert?

Though tangential, this brings to mind the classic mistakes companies have experienced when trying to launch products into foreign markets without doing thorough research into the local translation of the brand name. Whilst amusing to read, it can be embarrassing for the business and costly to remedy.

So what happens if you click the ‘search instead for rbyes‘ link?

Thankfully a RBYes mortgage page appears near the top of the organic listings (as well as a PPC ad). Over the course of the past couple of days I’ve watched it move up from the bottom of page one to the number two position behind a Youtube video. I’m sure it’ll only be a matter of time before it takes the top slot, as the algorithm adjusts.

Incidentally, I performed the same search for ‘rbyes‘ on Youtube to find the TV advert video to embed in this post and the same unfortunate substitution occurs:

So what are the lessons to take from this for your own campaigns?

Preparation and detail. The planning stage of a campaign is crucial, especially when you need to account for customer journeys across multiple channels and platforms. You have to map out exactly where you need to be, with which assets and with a clear, consistent message. All that requires an eye for detail. The big themes, the messaging, the story, all are obviously essential for a campaign, but it’s the little details that hold it together and influence the outcome.

Business Performance Customer Experience Search Engine Marketing

NatYes or NatLess: NatWest Campaign Lacking TV & Digital Integration

From personal experience, I know TV campaigns cost a lot. Digital campaigns can be no small change either. But regardless of the size of your budget you need to be smart about getting maximum return on your spend.

This requires joined up thinking across your campaigns (or preferably your single integrated campaign) and plenty of forward planning.

With this in mind it’s disappointing to see the latest campaign from NatWest.

Check the video below of the new TV advert and watch out for the call to action in the penultimate ‘frame’.

Did you catch it? ‘Search NatYes‘.

Go search for NatYes – what do you find?

Nothing. Well, except for that paid adwords ad at the top of the page. Absolutely nothing about NatYes in the free listings.

This is a missed opportunity for NatWest – and an opportunity for a competitor to jump in and steal some traffic.

  1. If you’re going to ask your prospective customers to search for a keyword, then you need to make sure your website or landing page appears if someone searches on it. This requires preparation. You need to create your landing pages in advance of your campaign and given the gap between storyboarding a TV advert and the ad going live you have plenty of time to get this sorted.
  2. The advantage of using a phrase like ‘NatYes’ is that it is a unique word that no one is using – see the above search results as a case in point. Therefore, it should be easy to optimise for your chosen term(s)and get a top listing quickly.
  3. You might also want to go grab the URLs –,, etc. Customers will likely just search for the phrase, but you never know if some cheeky competitor or affiliate marketer might jump in and secure a higher listing than your page
  4. At the very least NatWest have sponsored the term on Adwords. This is essential if you have no organic listings. Even if you do you’ll need to be prepared to spend some money on PPC to support the campaign just in case any of your competitors decide to sponsor the term too.

Where NatWest have done well is the landing page. Whilst you can only get to it from the paid ad, there are a couple of things they’ve got right:

  1. Firstly they have scent. They have continued the visual design from the ad onto the landing page, using the image of the boy actor in the Indian headdress. This gives the user confidence that they have arrived in the right place. Removing doubt in the customer’s mind is a key objective of every landing page.
  2. They have reused the slogan ‘NatYes’ from the TV ad on the landing page. The only thing I’d suggest is using it a little higher up the page. Currently it is beneath the fold and not visible in that crucial first second when the user scans the page.

In summary, think about the customer journey from end to end. Everything must be consistent and flow. At no point do you want the flow to be interrupted – those are the moments you lose your customers. Even worse, is if you lose the customer to a competitor who was smart enough to optimise their activity around your campaign.

Say Yes to smart, joined up thinking.

Update 10/06/13:

The story doesn’t stop there. NatWest’s sister brand RBS are using the same approach, with a call to action of ‘Search RBYes’ in their TV advert. This time though there is a rather unfortunate run-in with Google spelling auto-correct feature that renders quite different results…

Social Media Uncategorized

Digital Marketers: A Call To Advocacy

You’ve seen it before, the head-shaker. The comment left in social media that makes you roll your eyes and mutter “FFS!” under your breath.

It’s usually either blatantly wrong, unfair or just plain moronic. Either way, there just isn’t anything you can do about it.

As a representative of the brand you know you can’t retaliate, you can’t appear defensive and you can’t tell them where to stick their custom if they’re not happy with your perfectly reasonable offering. It won’t reflect well on your brand and you have no desire to be lampooned as the next brand #socialFAIL.

So you bite your tongue, cast a few colourful expletives into the wind and try to move on.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. There is another way.

Give a little love

Did you ever see the Kevin Spacey film ‘Pay It Forward‘, released in 2000? The film centres around a boy doing a social experiment to make the world a better place. Rather than repay favours he pays a favour forward to three other people. They do the same in turn. And thus the good deed spreads.

Okay, think that, but with less sugar coating.

My idea is for digital marketers to unite to defend their league. To say the things to your comrade’s customer that cannot easily be said. To defend other brands in their moments of need.

We see this advocacy from consumers, from fans of brands. A sour comment gets quickly countered by a handful of positive reviews. Sadly, not every brand has the devotion of fans of Cadbury’s, Innocent Smoothies or Apple and those that do engage in conversation and debate are few and far between.

This is where we must pay it forward. To defend our brethren in the hope that one day they will defend us.

This is no chaotic, mob mentality. There are rules to this uprising. It’s not about being abusive to a brand’s consumers or customers. It’s about pushing back with reasoned arguments, with logic. It needs to be sincere. You need to have a connection or emotional investment in the brand you’re defending. Otherwise, it’s fake and counter to the spirit of advocacy.

So each and every digital marketer needs to take the following vow:

I will defend the brands I love with reasoned, well constructed debate and I will do so with a smile on my face and a glint in my eye.

Fight with logic

The genesis of this idea came from a recent personal experience. A local independent cinema, fighting to stay alive in today’s competitive entertainment market, had generated considerable community support through a number of initiatives, including a Saturday Kids Club showing old films for a £1 admission. Recently it announced on it’s Facebook page that the Kids Club would be taking a break until the Autumn to enable them to fit in the considerable array of major Summer releases.

All hell broke loose in the comment section.

From my perspective, the business decision was evident. A small, financially strapped company has an opportunity to generate much needed revenue by increasing the number of showings of popular new summer blockbusters. To do so they need to pause – not stop – the low revenue discounted showings. By increasing revenue in the Summer it increases the likelihood of the business being able to continue to operate in the long term and provide year round good value entertainment. I should add that the standard ticket prices at this particular cinema are £2.50 off peak and £3.50 at peak times. It’s not like they switched to the £9.30 ticket prices of the Cineworld down the road.

After 10 negative comments ripping the independent cinema, defended so vociferously by the community in previous months, I’d had enough. I should add I have an emotional investment in this old fleapit – it was the cinema of my childhood. The place where I began my love of film.

I said the things that perhaps could not be said by the staff. I pointed out the business need, the need to generate revenue to enable the long term survival of the cinema and to enable them to continue the fantastic pricing on offer. In essence, I told them to calm down, stop complaining and start supporting.

Within hours there were more Likes on my comment than negative posters and even a few supportive comments posted from other customers. The Cinema never responded to the post, they didn’t need to.

Call to arms

So, my fellow marketers it’s time for action. We need to step forward when our comrades cannot. We need to defend the brands we love from the irrational, from the over-empowered, from the individual who wants something for nothing but with a premium service. We have to stand tall. We will put the customer at the heart of our business and look for long term win-win solutions but we will not stand for your crap.

Let’s do this! Who’s with me?

Business Performance Customer Experience Mobile Product Development Social Media

3 principles of realtime interaction in an Always-On culture

It’s remarkable how quickly the Always On culture has established. It’s insinuated itself within our lives to the point people often remark they cannot remember what they did or how they coped before it. Social and Mobile are, of course, at the heart of its meteoric rise. The adoption of both as ‘must-haves’ in our lives has changed the way we, as individuals, behave.

As a consequence it has also changed our expectations. Urgency and immediacy are the expected norm. Like much in modern life we want things now. The big difference is that the new channels have given the consumer a voice. The relationship between brands and people has changed. The message – controlled by the brand – has now become a conversation, with the individual exerting more influence than perhaps is comfortable for brands. Brands need the individual. They must work together in collaboration. And that’s not the future, that’s now.

Shifting the approach

So, if the behaviour of the comsumer has changed, has your brand adapted and followed suit? Sadly, brands are often hippos to the consumers’ gazelle when it comes to changing behaviour. Look at mobile: consumer use has reached a hygiene level and many brands are still discussing the need for a mobile-friendly site.

What’s needed is a shift in thinking from top to bottom through your organisation. We can’t keep doing things the old way.

Here are three principles to consider…

1. Understand the moments that matter for your audience

Success in business stems from having a clear idea of who is your intended audience and what need your product or service fulfils. That concept extends throughout your company whether it’s Sales, Marketing, product development or customer service.

Regardless of your department, you need to answer the questions: Who, what, where and when? Who is your customer? What do they need/want? Where will you find them and when do they need you?

To be particularly effective in this ‘Always-On’ culture, you have to understand the moments that matter for your audience – when is it they need your product or service (or those of your competition)? If you can deliver at that time, you’ll develop / strengthen the relationship between the customer and your brand. Likewise, fail at that moment and the customer will be gone.

Let’s consider Product. In this case, for an insurance company. As the brand I may think that I should simply replicate my desktop site onto a mobile site, complete with its homepage sales messages. However, as a consumer visiting via my phone, am I there to buy a new insurance policy? Maybe, but unlikely – it doesn’t strike me that that is something I’d want to research on a small phone screen.

So as a brand setting it’s mobile strategy, I need to think about what my customers are likely to want in the moments that matter and prioritise the appearance and functionality accordingly.

If I’m already a customer, the moment that matters to me would be an emergency situation, such as a burst pipe, where I want to be able to use my phone to quickly find your telephone number, be able to access my policy details and maybe even a simple way to file a claim or record the damage. I don’t want to find a site unoptimised for mobile that requires me to hunt for a support number and with no help information easily available.

2. Anticipate & Prepare: Realtime is too slow

Real time is too slow. Your response is a reaction to something happening and this can take time. The gap between the event and your response can often determine the success of your activity. This applies to responding to a comment in social media, content marketing, your promotional mix or product functionality. So it becomes more about anticipating what your audience wants  – and when – and then being ready to answer the call when the moment that matters arrives.

For instance, if content marketing is part of your strategy you’ll want to be aware of and prepared for the conversations you know will be happening – Oreo’s set up for the Superbowl is a great example of the big pay-off of anticipation and preparation. You’ll need to determine which of those conversations are relevent for your brand to participate in. However, more importantly, you need to be prepared for the conversations you don’t know are going to happen. They will be the true test of your planning, structure and resources. Can you react in time?

An example:

Within minutes of the Pope resigning earlier this year, (my employer) began to see tweets linking the brand to the news (i.e. jokingly wondering if the job would be advertised on Jobsite).

Firstly, it was great to see our brand-building work paying off by being mentioned, but also it presented us with three opportunities:

1) to engage with our existing social community

2) to produce sharable content that’ll reach a wider audience

3) an opportunity to generate valuable social signals for the search engines to help our rankings

With the help of our agency iProspect, our team produced a spoof job ad advertising for the role, but using modern business language (i.e. ability to build a global strategy, whilst recognising local differences, strong negotiation skills, office with a view, use of a company car, etc.).

From the news breaking to posting the ad on our blog was about 3 hours. It would’ve been quicker if I hadn’t had to deliberate over whether it was right for the brand to have a little fun with a religious subject. Which illustrates a key point about being prepared – yes, you need ideas people, creatives to produce assets, a clear and responsive sign-off process, but you also need to have a clear idea of what you’re comfortable doing with your brand. How do you want to behave and how you want to be perceived?

To answer my Pope question I referred back to one of my own principles: I won’t take advantage of or mock someone else’s misfortune, particularly when someone has lost a job. However, in this case, the outgoing Pope resigned by choice and we weren’t ripping religion, so I was comfortable to sign off the creative.

The response to that post was fantastic. We had more shares of that post in the first few days then we had for all blog posts over the previous 12 months. To top it off, 77% of the traffic to the blog post came from new visitors to the site, so we’d succeeded in reaching in the new audience.

Awesome Reactive Content from @jobsiteuk – Seeking New Pope For Immediate State #contentmarketing

— Chelsea Blacker (@ChelseaBlacker) February 11, 2013

The principle of anticipate and prepare also extends to your advertising mix. Are you prepared for what happens after your audience see your advertising?

Take TV advertising for example. Your ad appears on screen – what happens next?

Whilst TV is often used as a tool to raise brand awareness, it can prompt realtime action.Depending on what you’re selling this can be difficult in the space of an ad break.

So you have to anticipate and prepare.

1) Can your audience find you? Make sure your web address is in your advert for starters. Bear in mind though, people don’t always type in the URL directly. Sometimes they will do a brand, product of keyword search. With competitor bidding allowed on Pay-per-click you can’t just rely on being no.1 in the organic listings for your brand name. You also need to be in the first paid slot. So make sure you’re using day parting on brand term campaigns, giving you 100% visibility for a period after your ad airs.

2) Once the visitor lands on your website, do you make it easy for them to achieve their goal or have a process in place to capture their details for future activity?

3) Is your site mobile friendly? Increasingly consumers will be visiting via mobile devices – what will they see? Is it usable?

4) Anticipate they won’t have time to purchase / sign up to your site before their programme re-starts, so deploy behavioural retargeting to reach those that did not convert first time around.

3. Bring value to a customer at a receptive moment

Value = answering a question, providing a service, providing escapism (i.e. a game or humour)

Receptive moment = at the right time rather than realtime

The absence of value for the customer makes your interaction spam, noise or frustrating, and doing it at the wrong time can be instrusive.

Providing customer service via social media is considered a best practice no-brainer, even if its still not actively happening in many companies. However, according to a consumer privacy study by Netbase and JD Power there is perhaps a disconnect between what businesses think should happen and what the consumer wants. The conclusion of the study was:

Consumers find social listening intrusive…except when they don’t.

It’s obvious when you drill down that us consumers are fickle creatures, who clearly want things our own way – in part, a result of the empowering nature of social.

The study showed:

  • 51% of consumers want to talk about brands without the company listening in
  • 48% want companies to just listen in to improve products
  • 64% want brands to respond to social comments only when spoken to

So you’re kind of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. That’s why it’s important to understand what your audience needs and provide value at the right time.

Another Jobsite example. We monitor and engage via a product called Radian6. One Easter I’m standing in line at Starbucks playing with my phone as I wait. I open Radian6 and see a jobseeker venting on Twitter about our service. There are several tweets getting progressively worse about the jobs we’re sending her aren’t in the right location and she’s ticked off.

On a normal day our customer service team would respond and fix the problem. But its Easter and I don’t want to leave it, so I respond back to her, calm her down and promise we’ll fix it when the office opens on Tuesday. She was appreciative and said something that stayed with me “thank you, I just wanted someone to listen“.

As it turns out, she hadn’t actually told us where she wanted to work, so it was easy fix to remedy the situation. This became a win for us because we’d anticipated the need to monitor, we engaged at the moment that mattered and we provided value by listening and delivering on a promise.

Away from social listening, another good example would be National Rail Enquiries.

They know that travel can be frustrating – customers are sensitive to delays, cancellations etc.  – so they’ve developed a number of realtime services that are there at the right time to make the experience better. This includes a mobile app, a text service, a phone line and social media updates.

Personally, I use the mobile app to plan journeys – even when sat in front of my PC – it’s just quick and simple. I use it on trains and on stations – it can be quicker and more informative than the departure boards.

National Rail Tunnel Damage

Interestingly, they even share photos of damage to tracks and tunnels with customers via Facebook. Brands usually prefer to hid defects in their service, but in this instance I believe it’s done to make the delay more tangible for customers. If you can see why a train is late, you may be more understanding of the situation. Whilst National Rail Enquiries can’t make the trains run on time they can at least keep their audience informed in the moments that matter to them.

Your happy customer

Times are a-changing. You can’t just rely on your advertising budget to win new customers. The one way broadcast is on the decline. You’re now part of a conversation. Are you ready for it?

Remember, know who your customers are and what is important to them. Know how you can help. Be ready for that time. Look for the moment they need you and then deliver.


Our Future Technology: It’s Child’s Play

Me: what did you do at school today?

Son: Learned about the world using Google Earth.

I really hadn’t expected that answer. If you think about that for a moment it’s quite staggering. My son is 5 years old and in his first year of school. When I was 5 I can’t imagine I even knew what an atlas was and maybe I didn’t know the world existed outside my town, let alone my country.

So after dinner we took a trip up and around the top of Mount Everest. We also visited Ayers Rock in Australia, the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and my personal favourite, we zoomed in to the 50 yard line of Soldier Field, home to the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

Ain’t technology awesome.

From the past

Three years ago in the early days of this blog I wrote an article entitled ‘Sticky Fingers: Our Children’s Technological Future’, in which I marveled at my then 2 year old son’s intuitive use of my iPhone and his frustration with the ‘archaic’ non-Touch television we own.

I also wrote this:

From a school perspective, it’ll be interesting to see how it develops.

I still remember the excitement of being allowed to use a calculator in class for the first time, I can’t imagine being able to open up a browser to access the web via the school WiFi.

Much will depend on education funding, but isn’t it likely that within just a few years all school children will be working from laptops or iPad-like devices in class, rather than with books and pens?

Much of this technology is already available, but what else is to come? How about…3D experiences of faraway places, visiting the Pyramids or back in time to ‘witness’ historical events?

Funnily enough, I recall on the day we took the tour of the school, chuckling at the line of kids that passed us in the corridor each with a school laptop firmly grasped in their little hands. Now to hear my son has regular tours of the globe via Google Earth makes me think again about the impact of technology on our children’s lives.

To the future

Sometimes I feel we don’t see the speed of technology evolution. In a similar way, as a parent you don’t always see how your baby changes over a few months when you see them every day. So in some ways, we take tech for granted. The development and adoption curve of new technology is moving at such a rate that I think we lose sight of those ‘WOW’ moments (consider the arrival of the video player, the Walkman, the ipod). Today, we get excited by an announcement of a new phone from Brand X, but its quickly replaced by a ‘phablet’ from Brand Y the following week. We become a little blind to it.

So for our children – at least in certain parts of the world – technology is a hygiene factor. It’s there and will be used everyday. To them its no different than when we used our pencil and notebooks.

As a parent I think it its important to help your child develop the right skills for this future. It’s why the initiative caught my eye and is worthy of support.

If you haven’t heard of before, it’s a non-profit foundation dedicated to growing computer programming education. It’s supported by luminaries from the world of tech, business, politics, sports and entertainment, such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, President Bill Clinton, Richard Branson and Stephen Hawking (check the incredible supporters list). Their goal is to get computer science and computer programming into the curriculum of every school.

Yes, this would help address the worldwide shortage of computer programmers, but for me it’s not just about that one profession. Regardless of role, it would equip our children to be part of the future conversation, to be the instigators of new businesses and innovations.

As it happens, Steve Jobs agrees with me:

“I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”
— Steve Jobs, the Lost Interview

If your child understands technology, they can shape technology. They can see its possibilities and address its weaknesses. They can speak the language of those that will build it line by line.

Parents and schools need to go beyond the code, however. Kids need to be encouraged to question, and not to be rebuked for challenging the status quo. They need agile minds to be able to solve puzzles. Creativity needs to be embraced – not just through technology but with good old fashioned pencil and paint. Let them get messy, stretch their imaginations.

And please, teach them the value of money and of investment. Help them develop a strong work ethic and the importance of not giving up.

Technology is awesome, but not as much as those creating it.

Business Performance Customer Experience Social Media

Smile! You’re Feeding the Facebook Machine

Yesterday Instagram revealed that  as of January 16th, it will have the perpetual right to sell users’ photographs without payment or notification.

This disturbs me.

I’ve been a fan of Instagram for a long time, though not a prolific user. I admire their journey, how they built this incredibly popular tool and network with just a handful of staff.

The day they sold to Facebook, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, the founders got their big payday, the pay-off for all the hard work they put in. Can’t blame them. On the other hand, I had a sense of dread that Facebook were about to royally fuck it up.

Guess what? I think that just happened.

I’m a believer that a company can’t create a community. You can *faciliate* a community, by giving common-minded individuals a platform and the tools to connect. But you can’t force them to talk to each other; you can’t make them share their personal stuff.

For every Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, there are thousands of empty social network platforms that just didn’t take off or thrive (jury is still out on G+). All those successful platforms worked only in part due to the technology and tools. It’s the users that have made them successful.

Today, I think the community of Instagram users are feeling a little betrayed. Today is the day they realised they are in fact the product.

If you’re not paying for the service you are the product. These businesses have to make money eventually and the data you give up as a user is like crude oil to these new business giants.

Facebook paid $1Bn for Instagram and now they want some return. It had to come evenutally.

It’ll be interesting to see if any details emerge regarding the number of accounts deleted due to this change. I’m already seeing tweets and posts from individuals to that effect. I for one haven’t decided what I’m going to do with mine yet.

However, I suspect it won’t kill the network. Indifference is likely to be the common response (or lack thereof). The masses are generally unaware of what is happening to their data – they don’t see their holiday photos as valuable data – so I can’t see them leaving in droves.

There will be some media outcry, blogs will be written, indignant tweets will posted, then it will fade away. And the oil will continue to flow through the pipeline.

UPDATE: 9:20 am 19th Dec. 2012 – Last night Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom issued this statement to clarify the situation. He says there is much confusion in the media and it is easy to mis-interpret legal language. He acknowledges they need to behave like a revenue producing, sustainable business, so changes will be necessary. This was the section that drew my eye ‘it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.’

So there you have it. It’s not their intention to sell your photos. But then, they didn’t exactly come out and say they would not sell your photos. If their paymasters at Facebook say they have to do it, then I guess…

So we’re none the wiser really. Guess we have to wait and see how the language changes and then make a decision before the 16th January.

Business Performance Conversion Testing

Challenging your routines for performance optimisation

When we do something for long enough, we start to find ourselves falling into routines. It’s how we get through the day, the week, life, without having to over-analyse everything. The problem is those routines aren’t always for the best. We take shortcuts, connect dots where they shouldn’t be connected and hold on to conventions.

We believe what we’re doing is right. It only backfires when we’re completely wrong. Most of the time we don’t really notice, as the consequences are either too small or we don’t know what we’re missing.

In business though, it can make the difference being bad, good or even great at your job. You can continue to move along being average, getting average results for your average company or you can stop and question what you’re doing.

Let me give you an example. One of the websites I work on has a daily email process that has traditionally taken a long time to run due to the volume of recipients. It’s a core process, with a big return for the business. We’re pleased with the contribution it provides. We accept that it’s going to take all day to run, but that’s fine as long it gets sent to the customer.

There are a number of big assumptions in play here: 1) that’s how long it has to take to get through that volume 2) the business impact is optimal 3) daily is the important time factor for the customer.

Then one day, we upgraded the hardware running our core email process. Overnight, a 12 hour process was reduced to 4 hours and all emails are now delivered before 9 am instead of 4 pm.

Take a look at what happened to the traffic (split by hour of the day)…

Why was the behaviour so dramatically different?

Well, in a moment of serendipity, the hardware upgrade occurred at about the same time new customer research landed on my desk that revealed distinct time of day differences in user needs and behaviour. To quote a few lines…

Before work: This is the most common time to check email alerts. Many jobseekers rely solely on alerts to learn of opportunities, saving them having to check the source repeatedly. Reviewing alerts often takes place on the move using mobile or tablet devices to bookmark interesting roles and positions for further research at a later time.

So our acceptance of the previous process – the routine we had established – had in fact throttled user behaviour. Customers had wanted their email early, before work, and we’d only fulfilled that for a minority. Removing this limitation meant we could deliver on their needs and they responded eagerly.

This was fantastic news for the business, but I’d have to admit, it was a stroke of luck rather than genius. We made a change from a backend technical need and we were fortunate to see a positive business performance uplift. With the user research to hand we were able to understand the reason behind the performance change. But it could so easily have been very different – what if we’d set the process to run at the end of the day instead? It also made us realise that we’d been sitting on a missed opportunity.

That said, this was actually a very positive experience, as we got to learn some valuable lessons that influence our thinking and approach going forward:

  1. Just because something is done one way it doesn’t mean it’s the best way or that it will continue to be the best way. Things change.
  2. Don’t assume you know what’s best for customers. It’s important to keep searching for insights. Ask them what they want.
  3. Bear in mind that what people say and what they want isn’t always the same thing. You need to verify that the actions match the words. You can mitigate the risk of change by running A/B or multi-variant tests – show a sample of your audience the new version and everyone else gets the default, existing version. Opinions lose out to results.

Those might seem rather simplistic – and perhaps obvious – suggestions, but can you honestly say you’re talking to your customers often enough or testing your changes to see if they’re actually improving your offering?

We’re all pushed for time, so going with what we believe is right or maintaining our routine is often seen as the quickest and easiest way of getting things done. But so much of this is a mind-set rather than reality. We need to change the way we think. Research and testing need to inform our decisions, not routines and opinion.

If you want to give your routines and assumptions a rude awakening, get yourself along to the Conversion Conference in London on 27-28th November. The past two years it has proven to be the most valuable conference I’ve attended for challenging my views on business performance. You’ll come away exhausted, but full of questions and ideas.

You’ll look even more of a genius in the office if you use this discount code – ITSDIGITALMARKETING2012 – when booking to get a 15% discount on your tickets.

Die Hard Natural Search Marketing Search Engine Marketing

10 Things Die Hard Will Teach You About SEO

We all know the film Die Hard. It’s the iconic 1988 action movie starring Bruce Willis, where an international band of terrorists hijack an entire Los Angeles office building and get their asses handed to them by a seemingly unstoppable, quick-witted John McClane.

Now, I’ve watched Die Hard more times than I care to admit to, but just recently, I realised SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and Die Hard have a lot in common.

Here are 10 of the similarities I spotted. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

1. Wear A White Vest. Cover It With Blood, Sweat and Tears

By the end of the film, John McClane’s vest looks like it’s been used to clean the floor of a slaughterhouse. It’s covered with blood (including some of his own) and grime.

What this teaches us SEOs is that we need to be prepared to get down and dirty. Optimising a site for search will require you to get involved at the most granular detail.

2. Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson

He’s a douche. He hasn’t got a clue what he’s doing and he goes out of his way to make John McClane’s life difficult.

As an SEO, you’ll encounter people that may not ‘get’ what you’re doing. More often than not, it’s just a lack of understanding that’s the issue.

Whilst I wouldn’t suggest blowing up half a building to make your point, you will need to be able to demonstrate how important SEO is in a way everyone understands. After all, not everyone knows the difference between a permanent and a temporary redirect.

3. International Terrorists

John McClane collectively lands a right-hook square in Terrorism’s mouth. Along the way, McClane skools baddies from most countries around the world: snapping German necks, blowing holes in Italian sweatshirts, and laying waste to American and Asian wrong-do’ers in all manner of testosterone-fuelled ways.

Along your way as an SEO, you’ll meet with resistance too. Now you shouldn’t have to deal with C4 or sub-machine guns, but you will get grief from sales departments, from legal, from brand, from pretty much everywhere. You’ll need to be prepared to do everything just short of leaping off the roof with a fire-hose tied around your waist to make the changes you deem essential.

4. Flat-footed Sgt Al Powell

He loves twinkies and he drives like an OAP, but he’s John McClane’s mate. And without him, John would have lost his mind.

Just like John, you won’t be able to tackle the world of SEO on your own. You’ll need friends, allies and sounding-boards. Your brothers(or sisters)-in-arms will come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but they will be crucial. Getting impartial advice on technical implementation or content strategies will help you overcome the burden of knowledge and subjectivity.

5. Have a 9mm Berretta stuck to your back with Xmas tape

SPOILER ALERT: As soon as 9mm Berretta and Xmas tape are mentioned in the same sentence, you know Mr Bad-Guy is going to end up falling out of a skyscraper window. There are some things you just can’t compete with.

As an SEO, you need a proverbial 9mm taped to your back. In the ever-changing world of SEO, an opportunity to improve your rankings may appear at any time. You need to be prepared to react at a moment’s notice and fire two of your best right between that sucker’s eyes.

6. “Ho Ho Ho. Now I have a machine gun”

Throughout the film, McClane is laying down the one-liners, thick and fast.

You will learn fast that as an SEO, it helps to have a sense of humour. Not everything will go your way. Learn to smile.

7. Make Fists With Your Toes

McClane meets a guy on the plane. He learns the best way to get over a stressful flight is to go barefoot and make fists with your toes on the carpet. “Trust me I’ve been doing this for 9 years”. Later on, John ends up having to pick bits of broken glass out of his feet.

Experience for SEO is just like this. We learn some things work really well so we rely on them. But this lethargy can cause our un-doing. As SEOs we need to use our experience to do what’s right, but equally, we need to be constantly aware of what lies in store, just around the corner.

8. “You asked for a miracle. I give you the F.B.I”

In short, the FBI are even bigger douches than Dwayne T. Robinson.

What does this mean for the average SEO? External forces will throw curveballs at you. Often. Google, Bing and the other search engines update their algo’s constantly. This means the SEO landscape is constantly shifting. You’ll need to learn how to interpret the changes quickly and adapt just as fast.

9. “Hans, booby, I’m your white knight”

Ellis is the slick, mouth-moves-faster-than-mind sales exec. He reckons he can talk his way out of trouble. He gets shot in the face.

Ellis teaches us SEOs a lot about content. Some general rules are: talk in a language your audience will understand; don’t pretend to be an authority on something you know nothing about; don’t fill your content with waffle, jargon and bull. Or you’ll get shot… in the rankings.

10. Yippee Kiiyay

McClane sees himself as a one-man cowboy-style wrecking crew. Just like Roy Rogers.

This is another content lesson for us SEOs. When trying to create content that resonates with your audience, tell a story. A story that involves a blood-stained, bare-footed cowboy, wielding a machine and has a 9mm taped to his back. Do that and you’ll never have to beg for attention, or another backlink, ever again.

So there are my 10 things that Die Hard can teach us about SEO. I’m sure I’ve missed some, so if you have any to add, please leave them in the comments.

Geronimo, Motherf*&ker!

– Gary Elliott

Conversion Testing

The Recruiters Guide to Optimising Job Ads

Smart ecommerce retailers enjoy healthier profits by employing conversion rate optimisation techniques on their websites. Smart recruiters could do well by following suit.

If you’re new to the term ‘conversion rate optimisation’, its essentially getting more people to do the thing you want them to do. In retail terms, getting more people who land on a product page to place the item in their basket and pay for it.

If you flip the retail scenario over to recruitment, browsing shoppers are your candidates, buyers are your applicants and product pages are your job ads. From all the jobs on the display, you want the jobseeker to select yours. The transaction, in this instance, is made with the CV.

Of course, it’s clearly not just about the volume of applications, relevancy is crucial too. So you also need to ensure an accuracy match between the ‘buyer’ and ‘product’.

So how do you get more relevant applicants to apply for your jobs?

The Ad Content

The most important element for aiding conversion is the content of your advert. It makes the ‘sale’.

Focus on the information important to jobseekers – the three most important criteria for job seekers are 1) the job title 2) the location and 3) the salary. It’s essential you consider all three; without them you’ll struggle to get the conversion.

So this means no in-house job titles – use standard, recognisable titles. Not only will they turn up in searches, it’ll give the jobseeker a clear idea of the responsibility level and position within the company.

With locations, nothing frustrates a candidate more than to see multiple locations on an advert. You may think you’re increasing your chances of applications by having your ad show up in a variety of candidate searches, but in reality you’re just introducing doubt into the jobseeker’s mind. Where exactly is this job? Do I need to travel to all these locations? Every instance of doubt reduces your conversion rate.

When it comes to salary numbers are always best, not ‘negotiable’ or ‘competitive’. People want to know how much they’re going to earn. Are you going to go to the effort of applying and interviewing only to find the job pays less than your current role? No.

Benefit not feature-led text – anyone that’s ever written successful sales copy knows this rule – its about them not you. Tell them what the job will do for them. What can they get from working at your company? Opportunities, renumeration, culture, progression, empowerment. Start your job ad copy by addressing their needs. Using your opening couple of paragraphs to talk about what your company does is a wasted opportunity to make a quick, positive impression.

The Ad Design

Whilst the content makes the sale, the design of your ad creates the first impression and promotes movement through to the next stage.

What does the appearance of your ad say about your company? If your ad is designed and branded, rather than just text, what impression is it conveying? Professional? exciting? innovative? cheap?

Include a strong headline – not always used on job ads, but common place on high converting commerce sites, a headline can be used to tell the visitor exactly what you can do for them. You have a fraction of a second to grab their attention – the headline will stand out on the page and if written well will entice them to read on rather than hit the Back button.

On retail sites and online banks, Trust Marks (e.g.padlock security symbols, Association membership logos) are used to reassure the visitor the site is safe and trustworthy to use. Does the same work for recruitment? Its worth a test. Try adding your Investor in People logo, membership badges for industry bodies, and any awards you have won. Giving a little insight into your company’s heritage could demonstrate your stability and pedigree to a potential recruit.

Use a strong, clear Call to Action – I can’t possibly overstate the importance of the call to action element in any page design. You’d be surprised how often this is overlooked. If you want the visitor to do something after viewing the page, then make it blatantly obvious what to do next and how to do it. Invariably this involves a button, so make sure it really stands out on the page. The wording is crucial. Don’t use dull text like ‘Next’ or ‘Application Form’, tell them what to do – ‘Apply Now’.

There is a whole load of science behind the use of imagery to aid conversion, but let me distill it down to this: people respond well to images of real people.

If you’re using photos in your company’s job advert, don’t use stock library images. Nothing says impersonal like cheesy grins on besuited models. If you want to use visuals in your ads, use photos of your real staff. Show me the people I’ll be working alongside.

Test it

I’m confident that applying the advice above will help increase both the volume and the relevancy of your applications. But don’t just take my word for it, test it. If the job ad is up on your site and gets a decent volume of traffic, try using an A/B testing tool like Google Website Optimizer to measure it.

If your advert is on a job board, try running two versions of your ad at the same time and see which performs better. It’s not quite as scientific, but will give you a good idea of whether it’s worked.

Conversion rate optimisation is not just for the likes of retailers like Amazon. It can be applied to any industry or business model that involves an exchange of information or a transaction. The smart ones are doing it already. Be the smart recruiter.

Social Media

Are you a Facebook Fanatic?

It has been suggested to me on more than one occasion that I may be spending far too much time in social media. And they may have a point. I have five accounts on Twitter, two on Facebook, plus underused pages on Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Foursquare and Quora. I’ve at least kept away from Pinterest.

Whilst I do have quieter times, I just can’t help coming back. I blame my iPhone for that.

Thankfully, I’m not alone. Take a look at the infographic below from

Whilst some of the numbers are incredible, I can’t help but feel an affinity for my fellow obsessed social souls.

How bad is it for you?