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2017 Reflection and 2018 Freelance Goals

2017 was the most significant year in my career to date. In January 2017 I made a very difficult decision to hand in my notice at a Digital Marketing agency that I loved. I’d spent around 4 years working in a great place, achieving several promotions whilst working with amazing colleagues and high-profile clients but I had an itch. I wanted to do something different and challenge myself.

By April I was fully self-employed working under my limited company; LMc Digital Marketing. With just one client to my name, it was a big leap for me. Since then things have all been a bit of a whirlwind so I thought now is a good a time as any for a bit of reflection – and also to write a long overdue blog post!

2017 was filled with lots of highlights, and with that naturally comes a few low points, all of which have been great learnings for me.

Overcoming my fears & challenging myself

A few years ago, I would never have imagined working in isolation and being in full control of all decisions I make but at the start of last year something told me I could do this and can achieve what I wanted. Fast-forward to a year later, and I’m working with clients in a range of different industries on a retainer basis.

2018 will also start with a brand-new client for me which I’ve needed to employ two members of staff to fulfil the work. Signing with this client in December was one of my highlights of 2017.

Public speaking is something I’ve lacked confidence with but in May I was invited to an event to speak about PPC Advertising. It was fantastic to speak about my passion in front of lots of different businesses, and it got some great feedback so would say it was a successful first speaking event. Though, there are lots of things I wouldn’t do at the next one!

PPC speaking event

Realising health, family & friends are more important

I was quite lucky in my first few months to find myself with abundant work and was putting in 60+ hours a week but that came at a cost. I was running myself to the ground, and whilst quality of work wasn’t sacrificed I wasn’t switching off and it just wasn’t healthy.

At the same time, I had a little bit of a health scare (all fine) which made me sit back and realise what’s important. I’m now learning to get a good work/life balance and get a routine that allows me to enjoy both. Making time to do things I enjoy has been important as I started to cancel a lot of plans I’d made to work instead. I know block out time in my week and work around this, and not the other way round.

Learning to say no

As a new freelancer it is very easy to not turn down any work, and say yes to everything. I was definitely this person at the start, and though I still struggle a little bit to say no, I’ve turned down a couple of projects recently. The above point has helped with me being able to do this now and so has the next…

Working on projects I enjoy

One of the biggest benefits about working for yourself is that you have more flexibility in the types of work you take on. Before I started, I had an ideal client in my head, but this has developed quite a lot over the last few months and I’m now learning much more about the type of projects/clients I enjoy most, which ones are best for me and realising that for some there are others that can do it better than I can – something which I’ve now had the courage to tell prospective clients, and work with others in my network to still be able to help.

The range of different clients that I’ve worked on; agencies, SME’s, developed businesses, other freelancers, has helped me discover this and see where there is a gap for my skill set.

Realising that you’re not actually alone as a freelancer

My one fear of freelancing was that I’d feel alone and miss the office environment. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. I work out of the office of an agency which means I work independently but still benefit from interacting with others. There are loads of co-working spaces too, which I never realised.

Despite working from an office, there are still times that I’ve felt alone and not having colleagues to be able to help. It hasn’t happened often but sometimes I have ran into problems where I’ve needed some advice. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support available from other freelancers. My favourite network for this is the Freelance Heroes Facebook group. The community is incredible, and everyone is in the same boat so want to help others; freelancers are not all just competitors, which is something I’ve learnt.

I’m not one to set New Year Resolutions as such, but I’ve got a few loose things that I want to focus on this year:

  • Get better at networking – When I first started out, I attended quite a few events but since I’ve got busy I haven’t made time to go to them so this year I want to pick this back up again and meet new people
  • Write more – I’m not going to commit to doing a certain amount of blog posts as client work will always come first but I do want to get back writing blog posts this year – watch this space…
  • Personal branding – Definitely something lacking at the minute… I had plans for this but again client work got in the way. A revised website, testimonials and logo are on the list to do very soon
  • Speaking events and workshops – I had some events lined up but haven’t been able to commit the time so I need to pick this back up again
  • Prioritising and managing my own time – One thing I need to get better at is prioritising my workload a little better and not doing the things I enjoy more first

Thanks for reading. Got any 2018 goals? Feel free to drop me a note below!

freelance working

3 Months into Freelance Life

This week marks 3 months since I left my role at a Digital Marketing Agency and ventured out on my own as a freelance Digital Marketing Consultant. Time has flown by and I haven’t had much time to sit back and reflect so thought I would write a long overdue blog.

Granted, I’m only 3 months in so it’s still early days but here’s what I’ve found so far:

 

Things don’t go to plan

In the months running up to me going freelance I spent my evenings and weekends building up contact lists, updating my website and planning my approach. I got some quick projects through as soon as was full time freelancing and I have barely used that contact list. I’m also not working on anything I thought I would be but it’s probably turned out better than I could have ever planned for – so I’ll happily take that!

I also had done a monthly schedule of blog posts and topics I wanted to do… until now I hadn’t done a blog post since March! Woops – another thing that didn’t go to plan!

freelance planning

The flexibility gives you unexpected benefits

The flexibility that the freelance lifestyle gives you wasn’t really on my thoughts when deciding to go freelance. For me, I knew I needed to move on from my current role but couldn’t find one that was suited to me. I wanted to work in a role where I could be the client facing person, help develop strategies and do all the daily tasks that I’ve enjoyed doing for the last 6 years – this role didn’t really exist, so being my own boss and working with clients on all aspects of their business was the perfect job for me.

So in all honesty I hadn’t really thought about the benefits a freelance lifestyle brings but they are now a huge plus for me. I love being able to work when I’m most productive, go for long lunches, not having to ask someone for time off for an appointment or to work from home to wait for a delivery, not feeling guilty for staying in bed an extra hour and generally not having to stick to a 9-5 schedule just because that’s the norm.

working from home

Work comes from unexpected places

As I said, my original plan of getting work didn’t happen because work came from places I hadn’t planned on it from. Contacts from years ago have got in touch with me since going freelance, I’ve got work from Twitter (and not from business conversations) and had some conversations with people in unexpected places – one of them at a football game whilst queuing for a burger! So I’ve learnt to always have a business card on me!

It’s important to make time for yourself

A lot of people had told me this but I neglected the importance of it and spent pretty much every bit of time I had working and as a result was running myself to the ground. In the last few weeks, I’ve tried to make more time for myself. That includes not sitting with my laptop open all evening, making time to go out for walks and I’ve started meditating in a morning.

meditating

Tools are your best friend

Any tools that will save you a bit of time are worth investing into. Two of my favourite bits of software are Freeagent and Trello. Freeagent is an accounting software to help keep on track of expenses, invoices and can be linked up to a bank account to give you a view of anything finance related. Trello is a project management tool to keep track of to-do lists – literally a lifesaver for me when I’m working on multiple projects at one time.

marketing tools

It’s hard work and you never really switch off

Despite what I said about making time for myself, in reality when you own your own business I don’t think you ever really switch off. I work all hours, wake up thinking about what I have to do and spend most of the time thinking about work but right now I don’t mind that and I love every part of what I’m doing.

And lastly people do actually pay on time!

Contrary to what I had been told, I’ve barely had to chase for an invoice to be paid! Lucky me I guess – fingers crossed it stays that way…

Why The Google Exact Match Changes Are Not That Big A Deal

This month, Google announced that exact match variants are changing, meaning that the way that exact match keyword variants is now different. Currently, any abbreviations, plurals or typos will still be picked up on the exact match keyword. However, the change now means that Google will now ignore word order and function words, which means exact match is no longer exact match.

Here’s an example of what the change means:

  • [red dress wedding] could be shown for a search of ‘red dress for wedding’
  • [running shoes] could be shown for a search of ‘shoes running’
  • [car insurance] could be shown for a search of ‘insurance car’ or even ‘insurance for car’

There has been a lot of panic in the industry around this, but on reflection the changes shouldn’t impact advertisers that much, and here’s why:

The Intent In The Searches Are The Same

For the most part, and yes there are exceptions, the intent of these searches are exactly the same. Just by adding words like ‘for’ or ‘to’ the intent involved in the search hasn’t changed. In the example above the user is still looking for a red dress for a wedding so wouldn’t expect this user to behave in a different way.

By swapping the orders of the words, the vast majority of industries shouldn’t see a change in search intent. Let’s look at a few examples:

New cars to cars new – No change in intent

Sky broadband to broadband sky – No change in intent

Carpet cleaning to cleaning carpet – No change in intent

House valuation to valuation house – No change in intent

Football tickets to tickets football – No change in intent

However, the biggest change is in the travel industry a search for ‘london to new york’ isn’t the same as ‘new york to london’. For a start, a company may not sell flights in both directions and it is certainly not what the user is searching for so doesn’t want to be seeing an ad referencing flights to new york – it’s simply wasted ad spend, cue my next point…

Negative Keywords Can Combat This

Now more than ever, negative keywords need to be utilised effectively. If the search intent of your keyword could differ with the change, then this should be placed as a negative keyword. Some Excel trickery can be used as a starting point to reverse the orders of the keywords as negative and add variants with the function words as negatives.

Following this, search query reports should be looked at to show exactly what terms your keywords are showing for. From this, any search terms that you don’t want to show your ads for can be placed as a negative keyword either at an ad group or campaign level.

I’d always ask yourself whether you’d change the messaging for the different keywords, if not then it may not require you to treat the keyword differently.

What Else Does The Change Mean For Advertisers?

The change highlights that Google can change anything they want to and advertisers have to be agile enough to deal with this. Google can, and will continue to make advertisers work harder but for now the control is still in the hands of the advertiser (to a certain extent!).

Not sure on how the change will impact you and your business? Feel free to drop a comment below!

Adwords Search Certification

Google Qualified for Another Year

I now have my Google certifications for another year, passing all 6 of the Adwords Certifications and the Analytics exam.

While there are much better ways for me to show my credibility within Google Adwords and Analytics, the qualifications set me on my way to achieving a Google Partner status and also reaffirm that I know my stuff across Google Adwords and Analytics.

You only need to pass the Google Fundamentals exam and one other to become Google certified but there are 7 qualifications to take:

  • Adwords Fundamentals – Covers the basics concepts of Adwords advertising
  • Search Advertising – Covers basic and advanced concepts on managing and optimising campaigns on the search network
  • Display Advertising – Covers advanced concepts for the Google Display Network
  • Video Advertising – Covers basic and advanced concepts for video advertising on YouTube
  • Mobile Advertising – Covers basic and advanced concepts of advertising on mobile, including how to optimise and measure mobile performance
  • Shopping Advertising – Covers basic and advanced concepts for Google Shopping campaigns (formally known as Product Listing Ads), including how to work with Google Merchant Centre
  • Google Analytics Individual Qualification – Covers basic and advanced concepts for using Google Analytics – from set-up to management and reporting

Adwords Search Certification Google Analytics Certification Google Display Exam Google Shopping Exam Google mobile exam Google Video Advertising Exam

Want to test my Google Adwords skills? Get in touch for an audit of your account.

google data

Digital Marketing News February

The headlines in February were dominated by Fake News (thanks Trump!) but there was also lots of actual news and updates in the Digital Marketing World. The most significant digital marketing news for February is below:

 

AdWords Ad Label

Google are no strangers to changing the way the paid ads are shown within the SERPs (cough, i.e making them look less like paid adverts and blend in with organic results!). They had been testing showing the ad label from a full green text label add white text to just having a green background, but Google officially launched last month that this would now be rolled out on all devices globally.

New Ad Label

Google ad label

Old Ad Label

google serp

Read more about the ad label changes

Google Data Studio – no limit

It was music to digital marketers ears when Google Data Studio announced that you can now build unlimited reports within the free software. Previously this was limited to just 5 reports without paying for the software as part of the Google 360 product. The reporting can be linked to the majority of Google products (shocking!) including Search Console, Doubleclick, Adwords and YouTube. Google sheets can be used to pull in data from other sources.

google data

Jaguar Land Rover Ad Suspension

Jaguar Land Rover suspended all their digital display adverts following an investigation that the ads were helping to fund terror groups. This was following a Jaguar F-Pace ad was spotted on a pro-isis video. JLR confirmed they had pulled all digital ads whilst this was investigated.

Google & Bing Demoted Piracy Websites

Both Google and Bing announced they would be demoting piracy and streaming websites within their search rankings. This is in an attempt to prevent users from visiting sites with such content. Read more about the clampdown against piracy here

Google adds a new carousel to let you expand the search results

Google have been spotted testing a new way of expanding the search results to give users more options of product types to scroll through, with a new carousel feature. Screenshots of the new feature is shown in this article from Search Engine Land

Google ad label

Google Remove The Green Ad Label

Starting a few weeks ago, Google Adwords started to roll out a new ad label on Google’s paid ads. Instead of using the solid green background showing, a new format has been rolling out with a white background and green outline.

More users were starting to see this change and Google have now announced that this new look will be rolling out globally. Google have said:

“We routinely test potential improvements to the look and feel of our search results page. After experimenting with a new search ad label with a green outline, we’ve decided to roll it out. The new ad label is more legible and continues to make our results page easier to read for our users with clear indication of our ad labeling,“

Here’s how the new ad looks:

Google ad label

In comparison to previously:

google serp

This isn’t the first time that Google have changed the ad label with a few changes to this over the last few months. But this change arguably makes the divide between the paid and organic adverts more subtle. Though, the last time they changed the way the paid adverts were show, Google denied that the change had no link on whether users ability to distinguish ads from the organic listings.

Remember when there used to be a big pink background around the paid ads? This was a seveal years ago now but just shows how much Google have changed to make the ads merge in with the organic ones. More recently Google have stopped highlighting the users keyword in the headline

Search Engine Land have posted a great blog on the changes of the history of the ad labels here

So, what’s next for the ad labels? And how far can they push it without them being compliant?

How Has Joe Wicks Become An Online Sensation?

If you haven’t heard of Joe Wicks then you must have been living under a rock for the past year or so. Joe Wicks, known as The Body Coach has managed to become a multi million pound brand from utilising social media. Working as a personal trainer 3 years ago he was unknown. He has quickly grown into an internet sensation, all from social media.

With 2.4m+ likes on Facebook, 1.7m+ followers on Instagram, 258k+ followers on Twitter and 290k+ subscribers on YouTube and 14 million views, it’s safe to say Joe Wicks has harnessed a huge, loyal fan base. I’ll admit I’m a huge fan myself following him on all social media platforms and all 3 of his books, and even getting up at 6:30am to do his live workout!

One of his cook books sold 70,000 copies in the first four hours and all three books were in the best seller lists of 2016. He has even sold more than Delia Smith and Jamie Oliver. So how has personal trainer with no previous cooking experience managing to become a multi millionaire?!

How has he managed to do it?

  • Quality content – The first rule of social media and content marketing is to create quality content (Content is King and all that..). His short cooking videos which are actually shot himself with one hand are inspirational to thousands of  people. And, believe me the food from his books is amazing so I’ll definitely vouch for the quality content!

Joe Wicks Social Media

  • Timely content and regular posts – Social media accounts fail when they are set up but neglected with posts only made every couple of months. There is a fine line between posting too much and too little but Joe Wicks has the balance spot on. His Instagram usually has about 4 posts a day with these spread out across the day.
  • Shareable content – The nature of this quality content means that people want to share this and eliminates the need for paid advertising to reach a wider audience. His current customer base does this for him and that’s what makes Joe’s social media so successful; it’s the modern way of word of mouth advertising, though that exists too, I have told countless people how much I love Joe Wicks books and work outs.

Joe Wicks Instagram

  • Engagement – With so many followers, he receives more comments than he can answer but his ever growing team seem to do a good job in answering some of these. The loyal customer base he has built also helps with this and people often answer others’ questions.
  • Right channels – Key in a succesful social media strategy is to use the right channels, targeting the right audience. Facebook, Instagram and Youtube are perfect for the audience. More recently Joe has utilised Snapchat to harness a slightly younger audience to engage with.
So, what’s next for Joe Wicks? He has more books signed off and more TV appearances on the way, but how long is his lifespan as a standalone brand? It’s already starting to take it’s toll with other people picking up his fitness workouts as he works to build up his reputation oversees.
grow your business

How to Grow Your Business Online

Online marketing can be difficult for small businesses to get to grips with. Should you run pay-per-click advertising in Google, focus on improving keyword rankings organically and what about Facebook advertising? If so, how much money should you spend and how do you track it all?? Then you add in all the jargon that we use in the industry (cvr, ctr, cro etc) and it’s easy for it to feel a million miles away from what your forte is. The reality is if you keep things simple, it can be surprisingly easy to start.

These few things should be at the back of your mind when thinking about how to grow your business online:

1 – Who is your target audience and what are they doing online? Are they using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc? Identifying the types of people who are relevant to your business is a good starting point in growing your business online.

2 – Why should they buy from you? When adopting any marketing techniques, this needs to be clear in all messaging. Identify what your USP’s are before starting to sell products or services online.

3 – What do you want to achieve from growing online? Businesses need to be realistic in terms of what they can achieve. Things don’t happen overnight, unfortunately. Map out your plan for the next year or even longer as a starting to point to work out what your KPI’s (sorry started with the jargon) are and what needs to happen when.

4 – What are your competitors doing? Use search engines to see where competitors are using paid search adverts or are appearing organically. Check out social media profiles too. This can show you opportunities and also give you something to aim for if competitors are active in multiple marketing platforms.

There are competitor tools which can do some of this for you.

5 – Is your website fit for purpose? If you haven’t already started focusing on sending traffic to your website or even if you have, it’s a good time to sit back and review whether your site is functional and can actually convert traffic (whether than be from direct sales or lead generation). Google Analytics will show you current performance but I also recommend using other tools to show what people are doing on your site and where they are dropping off. HotJar is one of my favourite tools to understand how people are using your website.

ppc solutions

New Year Solutions For Your PPC Campaigns

Forget setting New Year’s resolutions that you’ll give up half way through the month, this year why not focus on your PPC campaigns and make them work even harder this year!

Here are just a few solutions to give your Google Adwords / Bing Ads accounts a good start to the year:

1. Review Your Landing Pages

You may have the best ad copy in a well-structured ad group, but that means squat if you’re not landing them onto the best page possible. Take the start of the year as a good time to review all the landing pages you link to. Do you have custom page pages for certain keywords? Or are you using generic pages that were set up for people already on your website?

Landing page A/B testing is the best way to establish which landing page is best. Use the same ads and make the only variant between them the URL. Remember it doesn’t have to stop after one test, you can take the top performing landing page and test that against another and keep going until you think you’ve optimised enough (not that it can ever be enough in paid search marketing!).

2. Test Your Ad Copy

How many A/B tests do you have running across your PPC campaigns? The perfect ad copy doesn’t exist, even if you think you’ve got great clickthrough and conversion rates, ad copy can always be improved and testing shouldn’t stop. A/B testing can be used to establish the most effective headlines, descriptions and display URL’s – particularly with new expanded text ads.

PPC Solutions
New Year PPC Solutions

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