Knowing where to invest resources is a fine art for any branch of digital marketing. For Brand Marketing, there are unlimited ways for you to throw money at the internet and hope that it makes a difference. Recently, it has come to the attention of marketers that brand CPC seems to be on the rise. With that in mind, we thought it would be useful to consider where it’s worth investing your money, to make the most impact on your Brand Marketing efforts.

Pay your dues to PPC

Purchasing ads for your brand terms may seem like basic Brand Marketing stuff. But since Google has been cranking up the CPC on many brand terms, there have been those who’ve questioned whether it’s still worth the money to bid on these terms.

The received wisdom is that even if you don’t bid for any other PPC terms, you should bid for your brand name. Doing so makes it difficult for competitors to advertise on your brand terms, and makes sure that even if you don’t rank well organically, users still have a chance of finding you when they search for your brand.

Now that CPC seems to be skyrocketing, there are those who are hesitant to keep paying out. Some businesses will argue that it’s not worth the outlay, especially if they already have brand recognition and very few competitors. But really, how many of us are in that position? For the vast majority of companies, brand PPC should still be part of the agenda. Make sure that you aren’t lured into bidding too much for your terms, but definitely keep this cost in your budget.

Great content isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it

It should come as no surprise to anyone that you get what you pay for when it comes to content. Plus, while I’m never going to spout the old cliches at you, we all know that content has an important role to play in all digital marketing efforts. But when it comes to building a brand, content becomes even more vital (if that’s possible).

Expressing who you are as a business, and sharing your values with your audience successfully, is achieved with great content. Sure, it’s awesome that content can improve your authority with Google, and we’re not questioning that it’s an asset to your SEO, but let’s come back to the people who are actually going to spend money with your business.

To connect with people, you need great content. You need to speak directly to them, to get into their heads, if you want to leave an impact. The best way to do that is by telling them a story that will resonate with them, and that they will remember. Move away from the jargon and the tech-speak and engage your audience on an authentic, personal level. This is one of the most important things you can spend your budget on when it comes to Brand Marketing.

Listen to your audience

Social media is a blessing and a curse for Brand Marketers. It’s an unprecedented way of finding out exactly what your audience think of you – the good and the bad! But it can also be an ungoverned wasteland of complaints and slurs, if you’re not careful.

To make sure you get the best out of social media, and keep on top of the chaos, you’re going to need some kind of listening tool. While you might be able to manage it all yourself in the early days of a small business, you’re going to need some help very quickly.

There are some brand tracking tools available for free, such as Social Searcher. These types of tools will probably be enough for a little while, but as things ramp up, you might find that it’s time to invest. These tools don’t have to be expensive. Sure, some of them will set you back a few hundred a month, but there are others available in the ballpark of $30 per month.

The key is to be honest about what you really need and make sure your business priorities are covered. If your audience isn’t that active on Instagram, don’t shell out just for that platform. Have a go at a few free trials if you want to get a feel for user interfaces, and do your research. To make these tools work for you, you’ve got to invest in the services that will give you the best ROI.

Explore other avenues

As with most of digital marketing, there is more to brand marketing than meets the eye. So what other tactics are worth exploring in the face of changing times and trends?

Building on social listening, social influencers are also a lucrative avenue if you manage them well. There are thousands of people on social media who have huge followings and captivated audiences. If you do your homework, you can reap the rewards of their hard work.

The most important thing about working with influencers, is finding the right fit. Authenticity is key in so much of brand marketing, and influencer partnerships are no different. Your brand has to fit well with their image, or their audience won’t care and the influencer might even lose followers – nobody wins. But if you find the best person to represent your brand, you could be onto something great. Depending on the influencer, it might not even cost you that much in terms of budget, but make sure you dedicate the time so you can do it well.

Another great tactic is to sponsor events. Depending on what kind of event we’re talking about, this can get pricey, but if the ROI is right, it’s well worth it.

You could be looking at impressive footfall, giving you great exposure. It might be that the event draws your ideal audience, giving you the chance to make real leads. Or it could be that the event stands for something your brand believes in, and that the association would do your brand reputation wonders. Whatever your brand needs, sponsoring events can often provide an answer. Think outside the box a little, and see what you can gain.

What can you afford to scrimp on?

As with any industry, there are going to be some techniques that are less valuable to you, and provide less ROI. So what are the areas where you can scrape back a bit of budget?

Market research is one of them. Now before there is an outcry at this statement, let me clarify. You don’t need to pay a massive cheque to a market research company, because you know your audience better than anyone else. If you don’t, you should. Save on paying an external consultant by speaking to customer services staff, reading reviews and social media mentions, and looking at your analytics. A few days of work internally will be infinitely more valuable than any external market research agency.

There will be plenty of other techniques that are a waste of money for your specific brand marketing efforts. The thing is, they’re going to be different for every business, every industry and every niche. As with all methods in the digital marketing world, the trick is to test. Have a go with any free trials you can get your hands on and track the analytics. Speak to other brand marketers in your niche and see what has worked for them. If something seems too pricey, look for other alternatives. There’s always something out there, you just have to be willing to try it. That’s why we all love this industry so much.


By Lizzie McCauley, UnGagged

Upcoming Conference: UnGagged Los Angeles 2019

Anyone who has even dipped a toe into the world of local SEO, will know that a strong Google My Business listing is a core part of the arsenal. If you want any local business to succeed online, of course they need a decent and accurate presence on GMB. But is GMB all it’s cracked up to be? Has the power and importance of this Google service been exaggerated?

As with any branch of digital marketing or SEO, it’s easy to get swept up with supposed best practices. However useful these things may be, we simply cannot forget the end user. If we don’t please the user, we don’t get customers, no matter how well we rank or how much we appease Google.

So it begs the question: what do users actually think of GMB?

Is GMB useful to prospective customers?

When you work in this industry, it can be easy to assume everyone uses the internet the way you do. They don’t. So when BrightLocal did another one of their surveys, asking consumers how they use GMB, the results were pretty interesting. It’s time for local SEOs to sit up and pay attention.

It turns out that the biggest thing users want from a GMB listing, is contact details. In fact, 64% of the surveyed consumers are using it for exactly that. However, GMB isn’t the only place people are getting this information. 87% of consumers have looked for a phone number or address online. Of those people, 49% visited local business websites to find what they’re looking for, and 23% used an online business directory. What does this all mean? While it is undoubtedly important to get your details right on your GMB listing, you’ve got to be thorough and make sure they’re right everywhere. Different people are looking for you in different places.

An interesting addendum to this point: 60% of users would prefer to call a business, 16% would send an email and 15% would visit the business in person. So make sure the phone number is correct wherever it appears, and make sure there are people staffing that phone line! You can’t afford to miss out on 60% of potential customers for something as simple as that.

Aside from contact details, consumers seem to consistently want three other things out of a GMB listing: opening hours, directions, and reviews. Yet again, it’s the basic stuff GMB offers that people like to use. They don’t really care about posts or Q&A or any of the other, newer functions. They want to know how good you are, how to get to you and if you’re open. For these things they seem to trust Google over anything else. With a lot of SMBs time and resources are tight, so spend them where they make a difference. If there simply isn’t the bandwidth for Google posts, don’t use them. Make sure reviews are responded to, and keep the basics on point.

All that being said, 13% of the survey respondents hadn’t ever used any of the GMB features. While you do need to get the foundations right, there are still those people that aren’t using GMB at all. So how do we capture those people?

Don’t forget your business website

It might sound so simple that it’s bordering on stupid, but all business websites have got to remain the number one priority. We can all get distracted by the other elements of local SEO, but we have to catch ourselves in the act. Come back down to earth and remember how important the website is.

Jamie Pitman also discusses the BrightLocal survey. He points out that 56% of users trust a business’s website over its GMB listing. That means more than half of your potential customers need your website, now matter how good your GMB listing is. In fact, 38% of consumers are only using the GMB listing to get to the business website. GMB is nothing more than a jumping off point for our customers.

Only 8% of consumers never look at websites when choosing a local business. Now, it’s staggering that there are still 8% of consumers who don’t look at websites, but that’s where word of mouth and recommendations have so much sway in this niche. Besides, it still means that 92% of consumers are looking at business websites. 50% of them would be deterred from using a local business if contact information was out of date on their website, and 39% would be put off by typos. All of this is just yet more reason to go back to your website, give it some TLC, and make sure it’s the best it can be.

Is GMB just clogged with spam?

If we’re taking a hard look at GMB, we certainly can’t forget the other GMB users. The ones who are claiming listings in the spammiest possible ways. As much as we love *ahem* alternative techniques at UnGagged, nobody likes spam.

Google supposedly hates spam more than anyone else in the industry. So why is it, that their spam-prevention is so lackluster when it comes to GMB? Back in the day, there was a pretty handy forum where local SEOs could report and discuss issues to try and get them sorted out. But that was replaced by a simple form that barely did the job. It’s no surprise that GMB spam is still going strong, a lot of it left unchecked.

This isn’t just the issue of obviously-fake businesses that clog up the listings so that real businesses are impossible to find. This is also an issue when legitimate business are affected by incorrect information or falsely claimed listings. This spam doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, in fact it only seems to be getting worse. And when customers see a GMB listing before they see a website, what does that mean for small businesses? As Jamie Pitman puts it, the “first impression now belongs to Google” but you can’t necessarily intervene when something goes awry. That’s a frightening and sobering thought.

TL;DR? Think beyond GMB

No good SEO would put all of their eggs in one basket, and the same is definitely true for local SEOs too. We all know that, and we all know how important a business website is, but sometimes we need a reminder. In the wake of Google’s GMB survey this March, we got to thinking about the state of play with this tool. With new user statistics and a sharp look at the situation, it becomes clear that GMB isn’t the be-all and end-all.

Obviously, you’ve got to optimise your GMB listing and optimise for Google Maps. Make sure all of your information is accurate and be vigilant against spam where you can. But remember that there’s more to local SEO than your GMB listing. Keep pushing, keep testing, and keep learning all the new ways to game the system. Because the great thing about this industry is that there’s always something new just around the corner.

By Lizzie McCauley, UnGagged

Upcoming Conference: UnGagged Los Angeles 2019

Everyone makes mistakes, it happens. But when Google gets it wrong, Digital Marketers who are beholden to their every whim and wish will jump on the opportunity to rub their hands together with a bit of glee. Schadenfreude, my friends, schadenfreude. It’s refreshing when they’re the ones scratching their heads or scrabbling to fix things.

Last week, it was announced that all of the data in Google Search Console, for pretty much the entirety of April, was wrong. It turns out there was an indexing bug which caused a data outage for most of the month. Although the situation was rectified on April 26, the data for that period is totally gone, never to be retrieved, never to be seen again.

Needless to say, this is going to make for some tricky reporting for SEOs, and is sure to have messed with some campaigns running through the month of April. If you are one of those people currently dealing with the backlash from Google’s mistake, we feel for you and send you good vibes and beer tokens*.

While we don’t have an answer to this particular f*ck up, it got us thinking about all the other times Google have made themselves look a little foolish this year (so far). So let’s indulge in some of that schadenfreude-like catharsis, shall we? It’s Friday and we deserve to let off some steam.

*Beer tokens aren’t actually real but we think you definitely deserve a beer, so that counts right?

March 2019 update or rollback?

In March 2019, Google supposedly rolled out another update. It was the usual scenario: SEOs started noticing some fluctuations, Google announced the update and the expected mild panic and avid analytics-watching ensued. But was this actually an update or was it something slightly different?

Barry Schwartz and Search Engine Land put out a call to SEOs to find out their experiences of this update. Barry and SEL are the first to admit that their data may be somewhat biased, but that doesn’t change the fact that the results are resoundingly inconclusive. There’s no trend, no average, nothing concrete that can be taken from their findings. Even in the murky world of digital marketing, that’s unusual for the wake of a Google update.

Others out there have come to the conclusion that we didn’t see an update in March, so much as a rollback. Brett Tabke thinks Google were simply undoing some of the work they’ve done in the past. What makes him think that? The people who seemed to have done the best out of this release from Google, are the very same people who suffered the worst at the hands of previous updates. Not everyone is convinced either way on this one, but it does seem odd that there’s no clear result from this update.

Whether Google released a crappy update, or undid the work of previous updates, this has got to be a booboo in everyone’s book.

Local SEO survey

Towards the end of April, Google compounded their ‘Oops no data in Search Console’ fandango, by missing the mark with Local SEO specialists and SMBs alike. They put out a 40-question survey, trying to ascertain whether SMBs would be willing to pay a monthly fee of $30 for certain Google My Business features.

While it’s a good sign that Google are actually asking their audience what they want before they introduce a new service, the GMB survey hasn’t quite hit the right spot. Specialists in the field seem to be wondering who the hell wrote this survey (because they certainly don’t understand Local SEO and SMBs), and who it’s trying to please.

Sure, Google have got to do something to cash in on subscription fever, but they also need to get the fundamentals right first. If they can’t provide decent GMB support, how do they hope to provide all the other newfangled features the survey hints at?

We admire the ambition that this survey shows, but the execution has left something to be desired. Just another hiccup for Google to chalk up to experience this year.

OR are these all excuses to sell SEO?

What about a view from the other side, before we finish this all off?

There are those who believe that the furore that often surrounds Google updates are actually just opportunities for SEOs to push their services a little harder. If Google changes the game, then clients will need more SEO advice, and in-house SEOs will need more training and information. So is it really that much of a stretch to believe Barry Schwartz’s theory that kicking up a fuss about Google updates is all part of an SEOs agenda?

Patrick Reinhart is of a similar mindset. He believes that SEOs shouldn’t be panicking every time Google makes an update, because these algorithm changes are always intended to improve the quality of the search results delivered to users. If you’ve been knocked by an update, Patrick argues it’s because your website quality wasn’t good enough. He even goes as far as saying that naming Google updates makes us fear them more. So by his logic, Google haven’t messed anything up or even got anything right because it doesn’t matter as long as your website is sound.

While some SEOs might be opportunistically making the most of Google updates to get more clients, it’s a little bit too simplistic to claim that quality trumps all else. Google is a business at the end of the day, and they are out to line their own pockets as well as improving search results. So their updates might be about quality, but they are most certainly about profit, and the two can’t always line up perfectly.

TL;DR? Google has had a rough start to 2019

What with the imperceptible impact of the March update, the loss of Search Console data in April, and the misguided and poorly executed GMB survey, it’s fair to say 2019 hasn’t been the easiest year for Google so far.

For us in the industry, it’s pretty reassuring to see that even the great behemoth Google can mess up sometimes. But even more importantly than that, this is a reminder that nothing in our line of work is a given. We’ve got to be constantly vigilant, constantly out-thinking Google, and constantly keeping our eyes on the horizon. That’s the fun part, right?

By Lizzie McCauley, UnGagged

Upcoming Conference: UnGagged Los Angeles 2019