10 Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Digital Marketing In 2016

10 Digital Marketing Tips for 2016

2015 has been a great year for Fully Charged Media. I have been lucky to have been asked to do many digital audits during the year, and this has given me great insight into the current state of digital marketing particularly around tourism and hospitality.

The main reason I started my business was to provide an impartial advice on digital marketing to ensure businesses are using each platform to the best of its ability, and getting maximum exposure online to increase sales and leads.  Unlike many digital marketers, I’ve came into this sector from a technical software development and business analysis background which puts me in quite a unique position.

The other reason I started my business was I realised for many years some of the information in the marketplace was either exaggerated, not true, or agencies weren’t providing a cohesive, transparent, approach to digital marketing for their clients.

Sadly I’ve seen many incidents this year where public talks or consultants have given very poor or even completely incorrect advice or information, denying the client vital information about their online performance.

During 2015 I also encountered many online presences they were just not set up to perform at the best of their ability and some fundamental processes were not in place.

Based on these experiences, here are my 10 tips to get the most out of your digital marketing in 2016 to ensure you increase your profit through 2016 and beyond.

1. Write Your Website Brief With Marketing In Mind

How your website is structured from a content, layout, and technical viewpoint has a direct impact on the success of the website, and your business’s revenue.

Don’t design a site based on the look of it, and don’t just leave it to developers or graphic designers – they are not marketers.

You need to consider your calls to action, how you are going to track the success of the site, and the impact of the design on your advertising costs. If you are running paid advertising campaigns, one of the factors that can reduce your spend is to increase the quality of landing pages and copy easily. If you can’t maintain this content easily, it’s an expensive fix.

After dealing with many businesses over the last year and more, I have never seen one that has had Google Analytics configured correctly, or had ideal search engine optimisation. I’ve even dealt with website briefs that didn’t factor in essential elements for one client as the right answers weren’t asked at the initial stages.

You should factor in all your online efforts into your website brief as it’s like building a house. It’s far more expensive to change your house after it’s built, than change it during the planning process. Elements such as search engine optimisation shouldn’t be things that are done after the site is built – it’s a fundamental part of your brief.


2. Pay to Play for Local Advertising

Google has been experimenting with local search results a lot during the latter part of 2015. There used to be a local seven pack of results that were sourced from Google my business listings, however this has been limited to 3 and ads have been appearing in a more prominent position. With mobile traffic increasing dramatically throughout the world this year, it is not uncommon to see a full page of search results on a mobile device that doesn’t show any organic results.

google-local-search-results-experimentWhat Does This Mean To You As A Business Owner?

To dominate local search results there is a need to have more locally focused Google AdWords campaigns as well as a strategy to improve your business listings and reviews. Google hasn’t helped the situation by moving reviews from your business listing to Google maps which has confused the marketplace. Cynical commentary on the web said this is a way for Google to increase ad spend revenue as Apple and Facebook makes more moves in this marketplace, however if you overlook local advertising, you are missing a key touch point and one of the critical moments that matter in the online user journey.

Many surveys have indicated that searches on a mobile device with a local intent have a far higher chance of looking for something to purchase within the same day so ignore this at your peril.


3. Businesses Paying Commission Should Run Branded Advertising

Branded Google AdWords Campaigns for Hotels & Tourism

A mockup of a branded Google AdWords Campaign

If you are running a business like a hotel or tour company that pays commission to agents or resellers (such as online travel agents, or tour agencies), you should run branded advertising campaigns. Branded campaigns are advertising campaigns that bid against your own brand or business name and show up ads for those searches, and it’s not just hotels and tourism companies that can benefit.

Most business owners question why they should pay to advertise against their own name when they may well come up first in organic search. There are a few reasons for this.

1. Your competitors are likely bidding against your name already
2. Your agents, such as online travel agents or resellers, are likely bidding against your name too.

Unless you are experienced in AdWords you may not realise that Google really do care about the user journey and relevancy of ads and landing pages. When setting up an account, it’s care like this that makes you ad budget go further. It also has the side effect of meaning that searching for your brand, showing a relevant ad, and landing on a website all about your brand is probably the cheapest form of digital advertising out there. But why would you do this?

Many searchers still don’t realise (or care about) the difference between ads and organic listings. If you don’t advertise against your own brand name, you are running the risk of loosing customers to third party that you will have to pay commission for a booking.

If your average booking is $500, there’s a good chance your commission is around $75 (assuming 15%). This means if you spend less than $75 to acquire the same customer, you’re better off. The reality is you’ll probably spend way less than that which means more profit in your pocket. It also means the customer is yours, not theirs, so you have more chances of upsells to increase the value of that customer even more.

By running branded advertising it also means when you get the top spot you are taking up more real estate on the searcher’s screens, pushing your competitors further down the page, you can tailor which website links are shown to a searcher, and make it easy to find directions to your location.


4. Own Your Digital Marketing Data

Any data relating to your digital marketing is yours. Your Google Analytics, business listings, AdWords accounts and others should all be under your ownership. If it’s not, what happens when you fall out with your agency, or some catastrophe happens? You loose access to that data, and have to start again.

If you are running paid advertising and can’t access your own AdWords account, consider if you are with the right agency. This setup is against Google’s recommended practices. I understand that agencies want to protect their IP (it takes a lot of knowledge to set up a good account), but not having access to your account isn’t very transparent. It’s like handing ownership of your bank account to your accountant.

For Google Analytics, your account should definitely be under your control, and you should have full administrative access. Without this level of access you cannot add filters (e.g. to filter out internal or spammy traffic) without going back to your agency.

To check if you have admin access to your account, you can check by following these steps :

  • Log into Google Analytics, Select Admin Tab
  • Click Account -> User Management
Google Analytics Administrator Access

Check if you have Google Analytics Administrator Access

If the Account Settings is greyed out, or the only option under User Management says “Remove myself from this account”, this means you do not have administrator access.  You should call up your agency and ask them for admin access.  If they won’t give it to you, it more than likely means they have set up multiple clients under their account and it has been set up incorrectly.  This means you are ALWAYS under their control and can’t add filters and other essentials into your account without their help.

If you don’t think this is an issue, I’ve had to reclaim access to several Analytics accounts via Google this year when logins were lost due to agencies being bought out. It’s a real problem.

Unfortunately it isn’t possible to move Google Analytics IDs between accounts, so the worst case scenario is you may have to start a new one to own your own data if your agency hasn’t set it up correctly for you initially.

For the same reason I’d question if a developer builds a new website on a proprietary in-house content management system. If it’s a great system and meets your needs then at the end of the end of the day all its doing is delivering content. However are the inhouse team really capable of delivering a better experience than the hundreds or thousands of developers supporting other platforms such as WordPress of Silverstripe? If you’re stuck on a proprietary system you’re effectively locking yourself into that supplier.

PS : Don’t believe the hype if agencies say WordPress is a poor choice of platform. It’s been used by the New York Times and Mashable. They probably have far more traffic than you ever will. There are plenty of ways to make it secure and plenty of ways to increase its functions with the right extensions and plugins.


5. Track Your Return On Investment

Of all the businesses I’ve worked with, only one has been tracking their return on investment online correctly. If you have a website, you’ve spent money on digital marketing, and you should be tracking the returns from it to ensure you are spending your money in the right place.

Tools like Google Tag Manager can make this tracking a lot easier, and removes the reliance on your web developer to implement changes.

If you use a third party booking engine, you should ask them if they support ecommerce and conversion tracking and get some assistance to implement it to ensure it is set up correctly.

Your booking engine software will be able to tell how many direct bookings you got, but they won’t be able to tell you if that booking was started from a social media link, referral or a direct visitor. This information would come from your analytics software, and it will help guide where your marketing budgets should go, or even better, help justify your marketing spend.

As well as this you can track enquiries, phone call clicks and more. It’s even possible to track phone calls resulting from paid advertising and link that back to specific keywords. With one client, tracking phone calls brought the return in investment from 310% to 940%. Without the correct tracking in place this 630% ROI would have been completely overlooked.

You can track almost everything online with a little bit of effort from revenue generated from enquiries, email and phone number clicks through to cost per conversion from an online advert.  The problem is, you generally can’t trust your web developer to do this properly as it’s not their area.  I recently asked a developer to track events so I could pull through actions into an advertising account to show the returns from the ads.  The response I got was “I don’t think that’s necessary”.  I was tracking phone numbers for a client and due to inconsistencies in how the number was displayed on the website, it lead to difficulties tracking it.

Start tracking your digital ROI today, and make justifying your marketing budget easier tomorrow.

Start tracking your ROI today, and make justifying your marketing budget easier tomorrow. Click To Tweet


6. Don’t Build A Website, Build An Online Presence

Most clients approach me saying “I need a new website” which really isn’t the right approach to online marketing. What you really need is more sales, more leads and more profit.

Sure, a website is a key component of this but you need to have a cohesive approach to your online presence to ensure it all operates together and you factor in absolute essentials such as business listings, third party websites, reviews, email marketing and paid online advertising if relevant.

If all you do is focus on the website, you’re more than likely going to get something that looks good, but doesn’t perform nearly as well as it should as it’s not been optimised with calls to actions, SEO and for all the touchpoints consumers need to see your brand.

I think the best approach to your online presence is to treat it like an employee. Many business spend as much on their online efforts as they would on an employee so you should make it work like one. Get it to answer common questions from your customers (FAQs) et it to convert leads into sales (Conversion Optimisation), and get it to do follow ups for you (email automation).


7. Websites For Hotels Will Become More Like Commodities

Hotel Website Solutions

I used to follow and admire a hotel website platform called Buuteeq. It was a great system and it delivered best of breed user journeys online through their content management system and analytics. Sadly the platform was bought by Booking.com, and is now called Booking Suite. Other providers are jumping onto the bandwagon as well with Sabre and Siteminder also launching similar products that allow templatised websites to be delivered quickly.

There are pros and cons to this. I’m not a lover of site builders and templates normally, as it tends to further remove business owners from the elements that really matter to making your online presence work. However these sites are industry focused and will hopefully mean that is frees up some budgets to allow investment in other areas such as analytics and paid advertising to improve your bottom line.


8. Email Automation

Email is often surveyed as the most powerful marketing tool, with the highest ROI yet it is also one of the most underused. Most of us write many emails a day yet email marketing seems to be one of the easiest things to put off.

With the right investment up front you can have great email automation in place with tools like Active Campaign, and with the right tracking set up, follow these campaigns through to online conversions and sales.

If you can integrate your email marketing into your online sales (which is why it’s important to think of the bigger picture during your website brief), you can tag individuals as leads or customers and sent targeted messages to each segmented group to have better marketing messages.

(Note : MailChimp is one of the most popular email platforms as people get sucked in by a free plan, but they are being forced to play catchup on the automation front as others have far better facilities in this area).


9. Get Specialist Help – Free Can Be The Most Expensive Choice Ever

Unless you have a large team of specialists in house you really should invest in specialist help for your digital marketing.

Many teams suffer from having an endless number of tasks to do on a daily basis, and more often than not, digital marketing seems to fall into the hands of someone doing a ‘Sales & Marketing’ role. Traditionally these are two very different skillsets, and it can often be the case when someone’s in this role that digital marketing may not be an area they excel in….either due to being super busy, or potentially beng forced into doing it.

Digital is a fast moving area and you need to be listening to podcasts, attending webinars, masterminds, conferences and more to keep up to date.

Just because someone posts on Facebook, doesn’t mean to say they are the best for digital marketing. Where’s the return on those social posts, how is your SEO, are you spending too much because your AdWords campaign isn’t optimised?

Why Should You Get Help When You Can Do Things For ‘free’?

Over the last few months I’ve seen DIY websites built by very happy business owners because they have ‘saved’ money building a site. Sadly, almost every time, the same sites are not optimised, and other essential elements are overlooked. Sadly, a cheap website may end costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars over the year.

I often wish each platform would charge $300 for a login to make users think why they are using it. I’ve seen AdWords accounts set up for ‘free’ by the business owner being guided by a random Google rep, and the resulting campaign is set up a really basic manner meaning far too much money is being spent. I asked one business owner recently how much they spent advertising last month. Their answer was ‘around $500’ where it was really $1600, and half of that money was being wasted on irrelevant traffic. One quick audit saved up to $1000 per month.

I see the same with YouTube all the time as well – an uploaded video thats not optimised, so it will never be found.

Start tracking your ROI today, and make justifying your marketing budget easier tomorrow. Click To Tweet

10. Take Digital Marketing Seriously

If you aren’t already taking digital marketing seriously, 2016 is the year to start. Think of online as a marketing platform and ask appropriate questions of your agency or in house team.

I’ve seen too many businesses who think that digital is easy and throwing up a website is the fast answer to their business dreams. Unfortunately this approach is likely to cost you dearly by not having the right exposure, and providing a poor user experience which leads to lost sales. To use one of the most common quotes I’ve seen recently, in 2015 us humans now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. If you can’t capture people’s attention online quickly in the moments that matter online, you’re losing business.

Remember your web developer isn’t a marketer. Their job is hard enough as it is. Make it easier for them and yourself by getting specialist help at the start of your digital project.

That’s my summary of top tips to get the most out of digital marketing in 2016. I could write far more based on the situations I’ve seen recently, never mind the whole year. Where do you think you rank compared to your competitors?

I wish you all the best with your marketing in 2016. If you’d like me to help you optimise your online presence, from website briefs through to digital audits or running a paid advertising campaign, get in touch today.

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Darren Craig

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