Ann Stanley Discusses the Advantages of Online Marketing 
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BC: How important are the not provided keywords in your SEO work?
A.S.: We’ve been using SEO Monitor to solve that for us. So one of the reasons why we are now reselling that tool in the UK is because we think that it’s really helpful. I guess people had just lived with the not provided for the last 18 months or so and tried to find ways to get around it. But actually when you have a tool that shows it to you again or the majority of them again, you suddenly realise what you’ve been missing so I personally think that it’s very important and it is frustrating that Google has gone down this route. We’re quite lucky that most of our clients do paid search so what that means is that we get quite a lot of data from that side of it. We tend to integrate our paid and our organic SEO as much as possible and use one to influence the other so I guess that might help as well.
BC: What’s the biggest challenge in today’s SEM and how can we surpass it?
A.S.: There are two things for us. First of all, it’s really difficult to make money in the UK at the moment because it’s so competitive so what we’ve found was that the cost of a click and the return on ad spend are always working against us. With an ecommerce website we want to make at least 5 to 1 but oftentimes that is not possible because the click is so expensive so achieving the targets that the clients want in a very competitive environment is much tougher than most other places in Europe because our market is much more competitive.
The second challenge for us is quality staff. We’re in a very strange position because we are in the middle of the country outside of London so there aren’t really good agencies in the area. We have to train our staff which is great but every now and then somebody will leave and you’ve got to find a replacement and there is absolutely nobody around to bring in and it’s really difficult to find good quality staff. As we grow we have to have more graduates and more training programs and develop our own people but it is really hard for me to find, particularly in paid search, anybody in ecommerce marketing. It’s a bit easier with SEO because SEO and PR and Content Marketing overlap so much so it’s much easier to get a good quality writer. But training somebody in ecommerce marketing and Analytics and tech manager and paid AdWords is really tough.
BC: What do you think is the most underrated marketing strategy that we should use more?
A.S.: Email marketing, I think. It is somebody that nearly everybody could do, most people don’t do it very well or don’t do enough of it or tend to ignore it.
That would be my first choice. My second choice would be affiliate marketing because affiliate marketing particularly in the UK is very successful. This is where other people do the marketing for you and there are really good affiliate networks in the UK and it’s very low risk because you are just paying mainly commission. I think many ecommerce websites should be doing it and a lot of them aren’t.
Those are my 2 recommendations because they are relatively low cost and low risk whereas social media for ecommerce websites is not very effective in the UK at the moment. We don’t get a huge amount of traffic from social media, it converts around 2%, whereas from affiliate marketing and email marketing you get 10%-15 % traffic each. That would be a much better way of spending your time than maybe spending all your time on Facebook.
BC: What social media platforms do you use and in which do you think we should invest time?
A.S.: Well, traditionally most of our clients were in B2B, now it’s 50% / 50%. I personally spend a lot of time on LinkedIn and very little time on Twitter but our approach to social media will change. It has been very site centered, about your blog and the quality of the content on your website and broadcasting it out. So it depends on what the content is about. If it’s a fashion or a cooking site, you might be using Pinterest or if you do “how to” videos then you use YouTube. Until now, what we’ve been preaching is do the content on your website by writing quality content and then post it out. However, the reason I’m saying that things will change is that we’ve just brought a new head of social in who’s done a lot more community management, customer relationships side and I’m sure that that will change. But as a search agency, our strategy has been mainly site-centered, a combined integrated strategy of SEO and social.
BC: Do you think that social media will overpass Google Ads or traffic coming from Google?
A.S.: I’ve recently presented an interesting state of the nation regarding shopping Ads and buy buttons and all the new stuff that’s happening so Google is going to allow you to buy directly from the mobile ads, there are new buy buttons on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram so I think that what will happen is that ecommerce will start to become more social. However, from my experience, these platforms can assist in a conversion but they are not very good at getting a direct return on ad spend. So if you looked purely and say Facebook remarketing and you looked at people coming from that ad, you wouldn’t get the return that you get from Google search. So I believe that for e-commerce it’s going to be a while before they become competitive. In the UK, we have the people that go to Amazon or Asos but the majority of them will always go straight to Google. I think that Google is clever enough to reinvent itself fast enough to combat the issues brought by other social platforms trying to compete. It’s definitely a direct response versus branding issue because if you look purely at the sponsor promoted posts on Facebook and LinkedIn, a lot of them don’t get the returns you need. So I think that people are doing them for awareness rather than direct response. So I think that Google will always be ready to compete. However, as an agency, we can’t be so Google-centered anymore, we have to diversify. That’s why my advice now is: don’t put your eggs in the Google basket because it’s really important that you get people who can do Facebook advertising and Twitter advertising, Pinterest, Instagram. Otherwise, your customers will feel that you’re not offering them the complete range of services that they need.