Drum roll please! Our very own MD, Ann Stanley, has been shortlisted as one of the top 100 experts in search by Drum Magazine. The poll features some of the biggest names and brands in the UK, including Debenhams, Adobe, Microsoft, Google and Lastminute.com â and has been created with the sole aim of finding the most influential figures within search.
Ann Stanley is well-known within the industry as an expert â but we were keen to ask her a few questions to extract some of her wisdom and give you a reason to vote for her.
Q1: How did you get into marketing?
I used to work in research for the leather industry (BLC Leather Technology). I was responsible for growing contract work for projects to test new chemicals and processes. So I needed to learn how to market our contract services to B2B clients. As a result I later took my Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) exams and became a Chartered marketer.
My career in marketing really took off around 1998, when I moved onto clinical trials for testing new pharmaceutical medicines. I was responsible for marketing and recruiting volunteers to take part in these trials, using radio, press and a range of other techniques – so this is how I learned all about offline marketing.
Back in 2001, I was then seconded into the BD department of Pharmaceutical Profiles in Nottingham and started to explore this new big thing called eMarketing – to try and attract new business from international pharmaceutical companies. I eventually got head-hunted to work for a great SEO company called MediaCo, as their business development director.
After nearly 5 years at MediaCo my friend and business partner, Alex Fowler and I set up our first company to sell buy-to-let property online. Unfortunately this was not good timing, so we formed Anicca Solutions in 2007 to offer web development, PPC and SEO services to clients.
Q2: Where do you think search will be in 2020?
I don't think we will go to a search engine like Google to look for information, I think the ability to search will be integrated into everywhere else we go online. Therefore, I think the process of searching for information, products or service will be very personal, available in every situation and similar to Star Trek! This is because I already see the advantage of “voice search”, where we tend to ask questions rather than type in keyphrases. I also think there will be a return to more sector-specific search, for example LinkedIn might offer a job aggregator engine.
For advertisers, the emphasis will be more on the characteristics and behaviour of the audience i.e. what is the individual looking for, rather than targeting the keyphrase they use. It will be about context; for example, searching for “apples” will give different results depending on whether you are making a pie or buying a new phone.
Targeting ads to specific audiences is a main feature in Facebook advertising and other forms of paid social. Google Universal Analytics already has a tracking feature, which allows you to understand the demographics and interests of your website audience. You can then use this data to find and advertise to similar audiences in the Google Display Network.
The next step would be to cross this demographic and behavioural targeting over to the paid search results. For example, a dating website wants to target single males in London, aged 18-25, to attend a speed-dating event. Therefore, their ad would only be shown to searchers with these demographic criteria, when they also search using a relevant keyphrase or voice query. This advance could happen if everyone has to be logged into a search engine or website to use the features on that site (hence the importance of Google+ and search in social platforms).
I also think that “free advertising” (like listings in the organic search results from search engine optimisation) will be a thing of the past. You will either have to pay to develop your brand or pay your way to get visibility in whatever form search results take.
Some of this is happening now, but if history has anything to go by then the rate of change will be so fast that I also expect the unexpected will happen.
Q3: What is the most cost-effective thing I can do which will have an immediate impact on my search results?
Here are two immediate ideas:
- Sign up for reviews.co.uk or TrustPilot. If you can get more than 30 reviews your advertiser rating (of 3.5 or more) will show in your AdWords PPC ads, and you can also show your stars in your organic listing. These will both increase credibility, click through rate and conversion rates â because people are more likely to trust the comments of their peers or previous customers
- Implement a blog on your website, write every week about something that will interest your audience and make you stand out as an expert. If you then link this with Google+ and develop your profile/contacts on this social platform, you may achieve Authorship status. Your image will show up next to your organic listing giving you credibility and increasing click through rate.
Q4: Where do you see SEO in 2015?
Going forward the term SEO will become less common. We might refer to technical SEO, but with an emphasis on creating useful content and improving the usability and authority of a website, we will be thinking more about content marketing and branding.
I believe that Marketing Automation (and integration with all the other channels) is going to revolutionise the way that we do marketing and business online.
Marketing Automation software allows marketing teams to automate many of their regular activities, saving time on routine tasks. Another major advantage of using this integrated software is that you can track individual leads, so that leads are fully qualified before being passed over to the sales team (via the CRM). Read my presentation on SlideShare
This software often has functionality to manage your content marketing and social marketing, which will have a big effect on SEO. It also allows you to track individuals and see how individual campaigns have worked.
Marketing Automation software such as Hubspot, Marketo and Eloqua, can have quite a high monthly fee (<Â£1000) and can be quite time consuming to implement but there are now some more cost effective alternatives.
In fact we are now in a position to offer marketing automation campaigns to our clients with our agency package from SharpSpring
Q5: Where do you see PPC in 2015?
PPC is becoming ever more complex! Shopping ads are dominating all ecommerce sites, so the quality of product feeds is more important than ever. Google will be forced to display shopping comparison engines in their results (European anti-trust rules), so these will become important again.
We are having to invest in more tools and automation to help with product feeds and bid management. This has become necessary to try and free up time for more strategic tasks and testing.
I expect there to be more polarisation of account management; more technical agencies like Anicca will work with larger clients who can afford the amount of time and effort required to get the best out of an account.
At the other end of the spectrum smaller accounts will need to undertake training or employ their own team to manage their accounts, as they will not be able to afford a specialist agency to run their account on their behalf. Fortunately we cater for this as well by providing bi-monthly boot camps with intensive 5âdays of practical cost-effective training.
Q6: Does the industry you work in effect the success of PPC?
Yes, definitely. Each industry has different levels of competitiveness affecting CPC's. In addition conversion rates tend to vary as well, due to the behaviour of buyers. For example fashion, travel and electronics (where buyers shop around), often have conversions rates of <0.5% (unless they are a big well-known brand). Whereas more niche B2B on one-off purchases like gardening, home wares, office equipment may have 2-3% conversion rates.
This can have a big effect on the cost per acquisition and in the case of ecommerce site the Return On Ad Spend (ROAS). If this is combined with low average order values, it can make PPC non-profitable.
Q7: For businesses with limited budget for SEO and who can't afford to outsource to an agency â what are their options?
Our SEO boot camp is 5 days of theory and practical and will give you the tools and techniques to do the SEO yourself. For a small investment of Â£750 you will be able to get started. The next SEO boot camp is 11th August http://www.anicca.co.uk/seo-bootcamp.htm
Q8: Limited PPC budget, what's the best way to spend it?
If you have an ecommerce site you need to set-up Shopping ads, as these are quicker to set-up and have better conversion rates.
If you are a lead generation site and get a reasonable amount of traffic to your site from other sources, then you need to set-up remarketing.
To be honest you need to work out your budget based on the number of leads or sales you require and how much it will cost to acquire these (cot per acquisition or CPA).
Q9: How do you know a good agency from a bad?
Accreditation â is the agency a Google Partners. They should display a badge like the one below. If you click on the link you will see how many staff have passed their annual exams. We currently have 10 members of the team that have passed their annual exams – making us the biggest Google AdWords partner in the midlands. Note last October Google removed about two thirds of the agencies that had the previous accreditation as their accounts were not up to the required quality standard.
Experience â staff and accounts. The quality and size of the team plays a big part in this, however it is just as important that the agency has worked on bigger clients with bigger budgets. If an agency or freelancer has only worked on small accounts they will not have had the opportunity to test all the different features that AdWords has to offer or had enough time to carry out a full SEO or content marketing strategy. Having experience in the same sector can also help as the agency will know the dynamics of the industry.
Results and reputation â our aim has always been to try and increase conversions and revenue from a website, whether this is through PPC or SEO. This results focused approach and tried and tested processes, has meant that we have had some amazing results which you can see in our case studies; e.g. Experian we achieved a 50x increase in the number of conversions from PPC. We have achieved top 10 rankings for very competitive theatre term for a new London theatre ticket site.
The quality of our results and our reputation can be seen by the reviews and testimonials left by some of our clients: http://www.reviews.co.uk/company-reviews/store/anicca
Q10: What makes Anicca different?
We have been around for a while now. I started in the industry in 2002 and we founded our first web and digital agency in 2007. Anicca Digital celebrates its 5th birthday this year on August the 7th.
Our main focus has always been to maximise the client's results to meet their specific objectives – whether it is conversions, ROI or visibility. One way of achieving this is to charge our management fees based on the amount of work rather than a percentage of ad spend. This way we are always working in the interest of the client to maximise their results not to maximise their ad spend.
Our philosophy has always to do the techie stuff that clients can't do themselves, whilst being helpful and educative so they also develop their own team. We always try and be as helpful as possible so that clients continue to work with us for many years or refer us to their colleagues.
Q11: What does the future hold for Anicca?
This is a really exciting time. We are about to move into a bigger and nicer office at The Crescent, giving us space to expand and a bigger training room for all our boot camps.
On the 1st July we will be splitting the web side of the business into a new company called Web Juice. Our IT director Alex Fowler (and my business partner) will be take control over the new web company, leaving me to run Anicca as a dedicated search agency. We will both retain a small interest in each other's company and Anicca will still provide their marketing, with Web Juice delivering web projects. Web Juice will continue to provide our technical support and also assist in the other technical aspects of PPC and SEO â such as product feeds and AdWords Scripts.
Anicca will then have a dedicated focus on search. We have also got our senior management team in place so our objective is to double the business in 18 months. As part of this we have set-up a recruitment and training plan; as we will be employing a new SEO account manager every 4 months, and running an AdWords Apprentice boot camp every 6 months, (in order to select and employee 2 new graduate trainees after each 2-week training session). If you are interested in any of these roles, please email me your CV ([email protected])
Q12: Why should people vote for you?
I would just like to say that getting nominated was a big surprise! I have been doing lots of speaking slots at conferences, so I think I have been noticed by someone on the panel at the Drum Magazine.
Already loads of people have emailed and told me they have voted for me so thanks to everyone who has already made the effort.
There is some stiff competition from some massive international companies like Google and MSN. So I hope people will support me because they have enjoyed a training course or presentation they have attended, or I (or one of the team) have helped them at some point over the last 12 years.
Q13: Where do you go to vote?
You need to vote by Friday 20th at http://www.thedrum.com/news/2014/06/04/drum-search-top-50-vote-decide-most-influential-individuals-search-marketing-and-seo. You only need to nominate one person if you do to know anyone else on the list.
Q14: How do I get in touch with you?
You are best to reach me on my email [email protected] or my mobile 07930 384443.
If I don't answer my phone then I may be in a meeting or training and I will call you back. Alternatively you can call the office on 0116 298 6460.