Author: Jamie Swain

Digital Marketing Executive at Pixel Kicks, focusing on SEO, PPC and Social Media.

What Content Management System (CMS) is best for your business?

Which CMS is best for your business website

Getting a new website isn’t a simple process. There’s plenty to consider from content and costings, to domains and deadlines. Our team can make getting a new website a stress-free experience, here to answer your questions and help you get the best results.

In the past, we’ve put together guides covering website briefs and costs, and now we’re looking into the many choices of CMS you’ll find.

CMS stands for content management system, this being the software that runs your website, enabling you to make changes to content, such as writing blog posts, editing information, or adding new product photos. There’s a large variety of systems available, all of which offer different benefits that will be more relevant to different types of business.

We’ve listed some of the most popular content management systems around, helping you to decide which is best for you and your website.

WordPress

WordPress is by far the most popular CMS around, taking a market share of more than 50%. This is for very good reason, that being WordPress is one of the most simple, yet effective forms of content management around.

WordPress works alongside a library of more than 55,000 plugins, created by independent developers to make your site work better. They all offer a variety of functionalities, enabling you to pretty much do everything and anything you require on your website.

Wordpress content management system

WordPress is a great option for any standard brochure website. Any website that runs with a handful of pages of information and images is perfect for website, with the content all very easily amended by anyone in the business – you don’t need to know a thing about web development.

It’s not just brochure websites though. WordPress is also a good option for an eCommerce site – click here to read more.

Craft CMS

WordPress provides a wealth of functionality from the off to aid even the most novice of users, and for the most part this will do the job for any and every web project. Craft, on the other hand, is simplistic and stripped back in its approach. This affords developers the benefit of being able to consider which functions will be useful and develop their optimum CMS accordingly.

As a CMS it starts with only the fundamental building blocks and default settings, allowing a developer to utilise the sections and fields necessary to build a custom CMS dashboard. This can be especially important for projects that will have no use for the abundance of blog-friendly features that WordPress revolves itself around.

Aesthetically, Craft is stunning. It is an incredibly user friendly platform with a sleek, simplistic interface that minimalises clutter. Additionally the platform boasts a ‘live preview’ function that gives users a real time look at the entry they are creating. This makes content creation that little bit easier.

Wix

Wix technically isn’t a CMS system.

It is a website building platform and works in a different way to your typical CMS platforms like WordPress and Craft. You can utilise the components and applications of the Wix page-builder to manage your content, and that is what this section will focus on, but strictly speaking Wix is more design orientated than content.

Users may experiment with page builder plugins like Divi and Elementor when operating a WordPress website, and these will usually get the job done, but Wix’s on-page editor is very powerful in terms of what you can do with your content.

What CMS is best for your business

Some of the main Wix features include a personalised SEO plan for each page, innovative on-page design freedom and a responsive media gallery to manage all uploaded assets. Where Wix really excels is in the plethora of technical components they have built in to the back-end, where WordPress or Craft may have required a plugin. Wix Chat gives users the opportunity to install a live chat system into their site direct from Wix themselves, and their contact management system helps you to build and manage the subscriber base you are generating from your site.

As Wix are on the ball with their customer service and support, they are always on hand to help you with any of their features.

Squarespace

Squarespace is another platform for users to build and manage their own website, and each site is accompanied by a flexible, hosted CMS.

With Squarespace users can upgrade or downgrade their websites by adding Squarespace-created features. As a website builder it is a step up from Wix in terms of operating power, but the additional functionality doesn’t mean the platform is complicated and cluttered.

One of the main benefits of this product is being able to manage content via a ‘cloud’ service meaning you don’t need to download or install any software, and you also don’t need to purchase separate web hosting. Much like Wix and WordPress, this can be covered by the provider which is reassuring if you are looking to keep things in one place.

 

eCommerce Content Management Systems

If you sell products online, you need an eCommerce website. While a standard CMS is perfect for a standard website, an eCommerce venture needs something more technical to handle online ordering, payments, and product information.

eCommerce CMS options

There are many CMS options out there tailored towards eCommerce retail businesses, all of which offer different pros and cons:

WordPress with WooCommerce

Earlier on, we talked about the marketplace leader WordPress. It’s the perfect CMS for brochure, non-retail businesses, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be used by eCommerce sites too.

One thing we mentioned earlier was that WordPress works alongside a library of more than 55,000 plugins, one of which is “WooCommerce”.

WooCommerce is almost a CMS in itself, but instead integrates into WordPress to offer an eCommerce option.

Like with the main WordPress platform, WooCommerce is incredibly easy to use, and you don’t need any experience with websites to be able to customise your product listings and online store settings.

This is the perfect option for smaller eCommerce sites that aren’t dealing with too many products or anything overly technical. More in-depth CMS options such as Magento are recommended for the more complex eCommerce businesses.

Magento

A leader in the CMS field for eCommerce businesses, Magento is a powerful open-source platform offering a host of different features to provide online shoppers with a seamless buying experience.

Magento, however, isn’t for everyone. The sheer complexity and power of the system means that it requires a great level of technical expertise and PHP knowledge, therefore isn’t necessarily aimed at small, start-up businesses who don’t have these expertise or the revenue to hire someone who does. So, if this sounds like you, you’d be much better looking towards a more user-friendly system such as Shopify or BigCommerce, otherwise you’ll find that the functionalities of Magento will be a little too overwhelming and under utilised.

eCommerce CMS's

For mid-sized eCommerce businesses and established retailers looking to create a personalised shopping experience, you can expect that Magento will cover all of your requirements and then some. Two tiers of the platform are available, the free Magento Open Source (originally Magento Community) and Magento Commerce (formerly Enterprise Edition), aimed at well-established, larger organisations and carrying a price tag of around £20,000 per year.

The features and functionalities of Magento makes it the perfect fit for businesses who envisage growth and the evolution of their website, which has to meet their demands and changes in requirements later down the line. A huge win for Magento in this area is its ability to integrate with third party systems, unlike many of its competitors.

Magento has all of the other basics covered too, from handy features to optimise your website for SEO, to marketing tools such as private sales & multi tier pricing, and mobile-friendly responsiveness as standard. Customised access also ensures all information holding customers details, orders and transactions are kept safe and secure, away from third-party access.

BigCommerce

A more affordable, user-friendly eCommerce platform is BigCommerce, a hosted Saas product. It is essentially a software download which you pay a monthly fee to use, ranging from $29.95 – $249.95, depending on your choice of 3 tiers; Standard, Plus and Pro. An Enterprise option is also available with custom pricing, though cheaper than Magento and Shopify Plus.

The simplicity of hosted online store building services such as BigCommerce lend themselves much more to smaller start-up businesses, and those without much technical experience in web design. However, if you are slightly more advanced and wish to make changes to your website, BigCommerce allows you to do so with the use of HTML and CSS.

BigCommerce boasts the biggest number of built-in features of any other builder, so downloading integrated apps needn’t be a worry. No matter the plan you opt for, some of the key features of BigCommerce include:

  • Integration with PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Amazon Pay
  • Single-page checkout
  • Coupons discounts and gift cards
  • Product ratings and reviews
  • Blog section
  • Reporting tools

Those looking to upgrade to higher tier plans will also benefit from additional features including abandoned cart savers, stored credit cards and custom SSL.

The platform currently offers 10 free themes ready to be applied to any website, and around 130 paid ones. With a reasonable variety of professional looking themes available with different features, it takes the leg work out of designing your own website if you don’t quite have the know-how.

The simple user interface of BigCommerce allows customers to easily upload media files, add custom fields and optimise page titles, meta descriptions, headers and product URLs for SEO without difficulty. This makes it easy for site owners to manage everything themselves without the need for additional administrative staff or external agencies.

Shopify

Another leader in the hosted eCommerce platform market is Shopify, once again offering users a simplified way to create their own website and sell their products to customers hassle-free. Similar in the way of pricing to BigCommerce, Shopify’s plans start from $29 pcm and range to $299 pcm.

Best CMS for ecommerce

In terms of features available to build a store, BigCommerce’s in-built selection beats Shopify by a mile, but Shopify’s extensive app store allows you to download any additional features you require to help you along the way – though, they do incur an extra charge.

Some key features of all Shopify plans include:

  • Unlimited product uploads
  • Discount codes
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Manual order creation
  • 24/7 support

Upgrading your Shopify plan uncovers more features such as professional reports and report builders, and extra staff accounts.

Shopify has over 100 free and premium themes available to use to customise your website, with a range of modern and professional features to enhance overall user experience. With so many themes to choose from, you’re sure to find one to suit your niche without being stuck with a website that looks like everybody else’s.

The well-designed, easy to use interface makes Shopify the perfect choice for beginners looking to set up their first online store, while the vast amount of features available and the capability and flexibility of the system also makes it ideal for larger businesses looking to grow.


Looking for a new website? We’d love to hear from you. Give us a call on 0161 713 1700 or send us a message via our enquiry form, and one of our team will be happy to discuss your project with you.

15 essential WordPress plugins for a healthy, fast & secure website

Best effective wordpress plugins

Looking for the best WordPress plugins for your website?

While WordPress offers a host of great features as standard, it’s worthwhile delving into the plugin directory and taking your website to the next level. However, with the number of WordPress plugins available, it can be difficult to know which ones you need.

There are tons of plugins on offer that can help enhance your SEO, improve your digital marketing campaigns, assist with any technical issues and provide the best protection and back ups for peace of mind.

Back in 2015, we listed some of our favourite WordPress plugins, but now, 4 years later, we’ve decided to update our choices. With the help of our web developers and digital marketing experts, we have narrowed down our top 15 must-have WordPress plugins…

Autoptimize

Autoptimize wordpress plugin

A popular one within the Pixel Kicks web development team is Autoptimize. As you’d guess from the name, this plugin revolves around making website optimisation processes more simple.

Improving the performance of your website is an important ongoing task. Having a website with a slow loading speed can have a heavy impact on your results – not only will Google take into account when deciding where you rank on search results, but you’ll find an increased number of users clicking away from your site if things are taking too long.

Web pages can often have a large amount of elements to load, and there’s ways of ensuring this doesn’t take too long. Autoptimize can do a lot of this for you, meaning you save your own time while reducing loading times. The plugin primarily concatenates (links/chains) elements including scripts and styles, also minifying and compressing them, while removing any unnecessary WordPress default settings.

In the high majority of cases, using Autoptimize will see a clear improvement to your website speed, while requiring the bare minimum amount of work and time from you. A very handy tool.

Learn more about Autoptimize here.

Advanced Custom Fields

Advanced Custom Fields WordPress plugin

This is generally considered as one of the most important plugins for developers, helping to speed up the development process by adding editable fields to all types of WordPress edit pages.

If you have a very basic page layout, then the standard WordPress text editor should be sufficient for adding your required content. However, if you want to mix things up with different areas of content on the page, or additional blocks outside of the main body of text, custom fields are a great addition.

They enable you to add specific pieces of information to any type of editable WordPress page, including posts, users, and media, making it easy to add content for the site owner, while simplifying the page building for the developer. Custom fields are easy to add into any theme template after creation, and offer an easier editing experience going forward.

The plugin offers over 30 different types of field to be used, meaning a wide array of choice to ensure you’ve got what you need to put together the perfect website.

Learn more about Advanced Custom Fields here.

 

WP Migrate DB

WP Migrate DB WordPress plugin

This plugin is used for the migration of your WordPress database, a useful tool during website development.

Specifically, the plugin can put together your entire website database as an SQL file, exporting it as a MySQL data dump. This is something that’s done for a number of reasons, such as for use on an external production site that allows developers to see their work-in-progress with accurate content, structure and settings.

The plugin doesn’t quite work on its own though – although it’s great for exporting your database, to import it to another WordPress set-up, you’d need a database management tool. phpMyAdmin is a recommended addition.

Learn more about WP Migrate DB here.

 

Intuitive Custom Post Order

Intuitive Custom Post Order

If your website has a blog section, this is a very useful tool indeed. Typically, a blog index page will show a website user a list of your posts, and almost always these will be displayed according to their date of publish.

If you wanted to show the posts in a different order though, it could be a tricky thing to do. You could go through them all one by one and change their dates, but this isn’t convenient or time efficient. You might also want the publish dates to be accurate, and this would go completely against that.

This is where the Intuitive Custom Post Order comes into action. Once the plugin is installed, you can select what items you’d like to be sortable via the settings menu, and then it’s a very easy task to carry out. Head over to the posts section, and simply click and drag the posts up and down the page to reorder them. If you’ve got a lot of posts spread out over several pages, use the drop down menu to increase the number of posts you can view per page to the maximum – this will allow you full flexibility with the drag and drop element.

It’s not just posts that this works with though – you can also reorder pages, post types and more, including custom taxonomies.

Learn more about Intuitive Custom Post Order here.

 

Duplicate Post

Duplicate Post WordPress plugin

It’s surprising that you actually need a plugin for this, as it’s such a simple thing that could (and should) easily be implemented as a native, default WordPress feature.

Often, when editing a page or post on your WordPress website, you might find yourself needing to make a copy or clone of one document, so you can edit it separately. Maybe you want to re-use the layout or template, or need to publish a very similar piece of content? If you want to do this at the moment, you’d need to copy the entire page of HTML and paste it into a new post – this isn’t something that will take too long, but the new post will be missing things such as any featured images, settings, tags and more that you may previously have selected.

To save time and retain those amendments, you’d need the Duplicate Post plugin. Once installed, it adds a simple ‘Clone’ button to the edit page of any posts and pages, allowing you to generate a copy with one click. You can also bulk clone a number of pages via the post/page list. Any clone you make will be saved as a new draft, ready for you to make any changes.

Learn more about Duplicate Post here.

 

Contact Form 7

Contact Form 7 WordPress plugin

While it may not be the most glamorous of plugins in this list, Contact Form 7 is an essential for any site.

It allows users to manage multiple contact forms on one website. This is especially important for those who want to encourage enquiry based conversions, as alternating contact forms can be set up for the relevant landing pages for services or products.

Contact Form 7 also allows for the customisation of the contact forms, meaning users can generate custom field messages and information requests.

Learn more about Contact Form 7 here.

 

Flamingo

Flamingo WordPress Plugin

Flamingo is a CRM plugin that stores all messages received via contact forms on your website directly in WordPress. The ability to do this is one which is lacking from all major contact form plugins, which is why Flamingo is the perfect safeguarding addition.

The plugin was created to work in tune with Contact Form 7, which does all but store submitted messages. The downside to this is that you risk losing important messages if there is ever a problem with your mail server, as direct to your email address is the only place they will be sent.

With Flamingo, you have peace of mind knowing that all of your messages are backed up on WordPress, and as an added bonus there is a search feature which can be a great time saver when you’re trying to locate a specific message.

In our experience using a number of different contact form plugins over the years, and as great as Contact Form 7 is, there really isn’t one that offers the full package. We’d recommend Flamingo to anyone and everyone who uses Contact Form 7, so you never need to worry about losing customer emails again!

Learn more about Flamingo here.

 

Imsanity

Imsanity WordPress plugin

Imsanity is an image compression plugin that works by automatically resizing your images when uploaded to WordPress.

Nowadays, people often upload photos directly from phones and digital cameras to their website, but these files are usually around 5-10MB in size. The problem that occurs here is with these large files remaining on your webserver indefinitely they take up a lot of unnecessary space, which can slow down your website as a result.

Website loading speed is an integral part of SEO, and any page that takes too long to load is one of the most common reasons why users exit a website. You want to be aiming to have a website that loads almost instantaneously, and reducing the sizes of your files can help this tremendously.

Imsanity resizes the original file to a size & quality of your choosing, with configurable max width, height and quality. Ideally, compressing images is something that should be considered before the launch of a website, but if this is overlooked then the plugin also provides a bulk-resize feature which allows you to re-scale previously uploaded images to get the same effect and benefit from more available disk space.

Learn more about Imsanity here.

 

WP Super Cache

Supercache WordPress plugin

Every website needs some type of caching in order to run more efficiently. Caching provides a whole host of benefits, with one of the major advantages being faster loading times due to it reducing the strain on your server, which ultimately results in an improved user experience.

WP Super Cache is one of the most popular free open-source caching plugins available on WordPress, which works by creating static HTML files as opposed to heavy WordPress PHP scripts.

With rave reviews and over 2 million active users, WP Super Cache is the go-to choice for many WordPress users, and its caching services are difficult to beat. The plugin offers three caching modes from Simple to Supercache, which makes it the ideal choice for both non-technical users and those more advanced.

Setting up the plugin couldn’t be easier, with the recommended settings already active as standard, leaving you to simply enable caching. There are, of course, some fantastic advanced features which allow experienced cachers to configure for optimal website loading speed.

Learn more about WP Super Cache here.

 

WP Mail SMTP

WP Mail SMTP WordPress plugin

We’ve all experienced issues sending and receiving emails from WordPress before. WP Mail SMTP is a plugin which provides a solution to these deliverability issues, so you needn’t be subject to the “WordPress emails not sending” headache again.

Sending emails via SMTP is the most preferable option for a lot of WordPress users who have recognised that the default WP setup using the PHP mail function doesn’t always work. The plugin reconfigures the wp_mail() PHP function to use a proper SMTP provider using correct authentication which works with all major email account providers. This ensures that the emails are actually deliverable, and also prevents them landing in the recipients’ spam folder.

The plugin makes it easy to configure outgoing emails from web forms to use external SMTP accounts, and we recommend it to all of our clients. We don’t recommend allowing emails to be sent natively via our web servers as, more often than not, you can run into spam and blacklist problems.

WP Mail SMTP is a reliable plugin with over 1 million active installations, and by far our most favoured one of the options available.

Learn more about WP Mail SMTP here.

 

Wordfence

Wordfence WordPress plugin

For most businesses, getting a new website can be a huge investment. Online retailers specifically rely on their website as their main source of income, so it only makes sense to protect that investment.

The nature of the online world means that websites are exposed and vulnerable to hacking, malware and attacks if they don’t ensure that their security is on point. While WordPress comes with some security measures in place as standard, you can’t really beat a good security plugin to ensure that all bases are covered.

Wordfence is one of the most popular WordPress security plugins available, and rightly so. The reputable plugin’s firewall identifies and blocks malicious traffic, and the malware scanner thoroughly checks through the back end of the website and all files to fight off real-time threats and spam.

A great feature about Wordfence is its ability to monitor hack attempts with by using live traffic, providing in-depth reports on the origin of the user and specific time and date of the visit.

Wordfence is available to use for free, but you can upgrade to a premium account to gain access to more advanced security features. We would highly recommend investing in the premium version of the plugin as you can’t quite beat the comprehensive additional features and when it comes to website security, it’s certainly better to be safe than sorry.

Learn more about Wordfence here.

 

WooCommerce

WooCommerce WordPress plugin

WooCommerce is a free-to-install plugin that allows you to add eCommerce functionality to your website. The plugin means anyone can simply install and customise an online store.

In the age of the startup this has been particularly popular, with over four million active installations of the plugin worldwide.

Premium extensions of the plugin offer users the platforms to manage bookings, memberships and subscriptions as WooCommerce delivers the ability to sell digital commodities as well as physical stock. The flexibility here is most welcome.

WooCommerce’s flexibility extends to the payment options that it facilitates. Where some plugins may be quite linear in what payment platforms they support, WooCommerce can host almost all major credit and debit cards, as well as PayPal, BACS and a cash on delivery option. Increasingly popular regional gateways like Stripe and Amazon Payments are also compatible.

All in all, WooCommerce is a solid and reliable eCommerce plugin option that can be both managed by amateurs or developed upon by professionals.

Learn more about WooCommerce here.

 

Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO WordPress plugin

Yoast SEO is a free-to-install plugin and is widely regarded as the most effective SEO guidance tool to have installed.

As you add new key Pages and Posts to a WordPress site, you will want to make sure that each one is optimised for specific keyphrases. Yoast SEO helps you do just that, and it couldn’t be easier to follow.

With the plugin installed, you can scroll to the bottom of any Page or Post and enter a focus keyphrase that Yoast takes into consideration. You are then presented with a list of Problems and Improvements to work through – as well as a list of Good Results.

It advises users on:

  • Keyword optimisation
  • Google page result previews
  • Page readability
  • Breadcrumb control
  • Duplicate content issues
  • Technical-SEO
  • Internal and external linking
  • …and much more

The plugin is updated for Gutenberg (the latest edition of the WordPress page editor) and is constantly being updated in accordance with Google’s algorithms.

Learn more about Yoast SEO here.

 

Elementor Page Builder

Elementor WordPress Plugin

With Elementor you don’t have to reply on WordPress’ inbuilt page editor to produce the content you want.

Here we have the leading drag and drop page editor that empowers users to create pages with fluidity and freedom. This is especially useful for those who have little, or no coding skills. Elementor’s front end editor brings new meaning to the WYSIWYG concept.

There are heaps of content elements to choose from. As well as the bare essentials like Test Blocks, Headings and Icons you can incorporate video, buttons and image sliders. Elementor has grown over time with workflow, design and marketing functions all at the forefront of plugin growth.

The plugin is compatible with any WordPress theme, including custom ones that have been bespokely developed.

Learn more about Elementor Page Builder here.

Constant Contact Forms

Constant Contact Forms WordPress plugin

Constant Contact Forms give users a platform to capture visitor information through their website.

It’s the fast and easy way to harvest the email addresses of your users and generate a GDPR-sound mailing list.

The signup forms can be fully optimised via the data fields, meaning you can tailor your form to the type of data you are trying to collect. Whether you’re looking to build that mailing list, or want to conduct a survey on the types of people visiting your site, Constant Contact can get this done.

Users can autoselect their WordPress theme to ensure that the form is consistent with their branding, and of course, all forms are optimised for mobile devices.

The plugin links flawlessly to your Constant Contact account, where users can then segment the data they have generated.

Learn more about Constant Contact Forms here.

Social Media Trends in 2019 – What the Experts Predict

social media trends in 2019

Social media in 2018 continued to get bigger and bigger, with Facebook & Twitter remaining as large as ever, and Snapchat and Instagram constantly growing in popularity. The types of content shared by companies in their ongoing work and advertising is something that is always changing though.

What should people be focusing on when they’re creating social media content? What are the best ways of increasing your engagement and conversions through these mediums? These are questions on the lips of every social media marketer, and as the industry landscape is always changing, it’s an advantage to have an idea of what’s ahead.

social media trends in 2019

As such, we contacted a number of social media experts from across the UK & Ireland, asking them for their answers to the following question:

What trends in social media marketing do you expect to see develop in 2019 and beyond?

We also gave a few hints about current hot topics, including:

  • Augmented reality
  • Video
  • Influencer Marketing
  • Live streaming
  • Focusing on Generation Z
  • Messenger apps & chatbots

Here’s what they had to say…

Greg MilesBumbl

Stories will begin to take more of a central role in brand marketing on social media, as the format is likely to surpass feeds as the primary way people share things with their friends. A recent study by Facebook found that 69% of consumers surveyed said using Stories is a great way for Brands to introduce new products or services.

Many brands have experimented with Stories over the past couple of years, but in 2019, embracing the ephemeral format might become more of a necessity than simply an exploratory option. In other words, brands will have to formulate social strategies that include Stories as a key component.

Facebook Stories are yet to take off, but it seems to be high on the agenda at Zuckerberg’s HQ, and the introduction of ‘Promote’ for Stories on Instagram, as well as  LinkedIn’s own take called ‘Student Voices’, further suggest that Stories are the sharing medium of the future.


Aoife SmythEscalate

We’re predicting a very exciting year of creative content for 2019. It’s going to to be all about visuals more than ever when it comes to engaging with your online audience. Visuals that capture your audience’s attention from the get go! Videos were a huge part of Social Media Marketing for 2018 but it really is going to take off more than ever in 2019, including live video. Live Video, whether it be Facebook live, Instagram Live or Stories is an area brands and marketers will have to focus on more than ever. Live video strengthens the bond between a brand and its followers. People love the authenticity of a live video, the bloopers, behind the scenes, the actual human beings behind the brand! In the moment consumption is a short yet powerful way for any brand to connect and build their online audience.

 

social media networks

Lydia MckeownI Do Marketing

Social media has evolved so much… And, its ever evolving! It can be tricky for businesses to keep up with the changes. We have found we’re doing more and more social media training to help small businesses understand the finer details around the advertising on Facebook and how, what and when to post to get seen!

Some of the changes and areas of training include the below and these are some of the changes I think we will see in the next couple of years…

Product research:
I always say there are 3 main ways to search and that includes Amazon, Google and social media.  Historically searches on social media would bring up lots of news content, but now were seeing more and more product information. It’s quickly becoming an easy channel to search out product research and make purchases. It feels like a neutral option because we know that when people have negative experiences they often take to social media, so for users it can be a great way to check out if a business is worthy of their purchase too!

Video:
We’re becoming lazier and lazier on social media.  We desire content that is easier to consume we have seen a huge rise in social video for this reason.  In my opinion we’ll be posting videos and going live more often than we post static images and text only posts!  Its been normal to see video in our social media feeds for a long time now and we’re not just doing it to gain the additional reach owing to an algorithm advantage I think we’re doing it to be more social!  There is a huge amount of negative attention being drawn to the ‘heads down phone zombies’ of today… Video is more engaging… Because the people around you can be part of it too. Also, with the increase in levels of anxiety I’m encouraging more and more of my clients to use video to add a personal touch and a face to a name/venue to reduce the anxiety of visiting a venue and not knowing anyone. This goes above and beyond what an image can do, especially if it’s a personalised video.

 


George BatesLimelight Digital

The two biggest Social Media trends I think we’ll see grow exponentially throughout 2019 is Video & Influencer Marketing. Whilst very much a staple of Social Media Marketing in 2018 already, we believe both Video Marketing and Influencer Marketing will continue to grow and become more accessible to smaller brands as it becomes easier than ever to get involved with. We’re seeing the ability to add live videos on your social accounts grow and the engagements compared to traditional advertising is huge. Influencers remove the need for huge marketing budgets and to have contacts with super famous celebs. They’re also usually much more targeted for specific nichés and customers trust them.

video camera

Georgina WilczekGlow Creative

In 2019, we expect social media to remain key to the work that we do, with extra emphasis on the role of Video and Podcasts in the mix.

In 2018, social media has been all about the video: Live video across many platforms, the arrival of IGTV, YouTube getting ever bigger, and lately, a centrally-located button on the Facebook mobile footer app which takes you straight to a feed which is wall to wall with videos (dangerously easy to become over-absorbed here… use with care if you are short on time!). We all know video is extremely engaging – consider the popularity of the TED talks app.

But in 2019, in the social media world, the video format that will grow and develop the most will be the short-form video.

Attention spans really are getting shorter. On social media and websites, featurettes of 3-5 mins in length were once quite normal to produce. But nowadays, you typically have about 1 minute to play with. Quite literally, anything beyond this very often won’t get seen. In the same way, while 30 seconds used to be the norm for TV and radio adverts, a 10 second advert in social media now feels an age. (There is a reason why Facebook etc won’t let you hop off too soon mid-advert – because we would if we could!). So if we are to be successful with video, we really need to be original, engage and inspire.

When live video first came out, we saw many amateur-style live videos being produced by companies who were brave enough to put themselves in front of the camera for the first time. But in 2019, I believe we will see far less of this, and far more pre-composed, crafted pieces that are much more entertaining and professionally presented coming into our feeds. Now that video editing software has now become so sophisticated, great content is no longer just for expensive videographers. Anyone with a smartphone and a little imagination can get great results. So videos will become increasingly slick, relevant, to the point, varied, engaging and entertaining. As marketers, we need to be up there with them!

If you are interested in sharpening up your production skills, check out Great Big Story (who produce features on interesting anecdotes from across the world) and NasDaily for inspiration (he is famous for extremely entertaining videos of 1 minute in length, and completely self-taught).

In addition, we are also increasingly being asked to produce podcast series for clients who want to engage their audiences in a more original way than their competitors. With the BBC having launched their Sounds App recently, and many celebrities taking to launching their own podcast channels, there is every indication that creatively produced podcasts will also increase in popularity over the coming year.


Kelly BeanSunshine Communications

We’ve been saying this for a while, but I think Augmented Reality will finally take off in 2019. With Snap mainly honing in on this functionality (and succeeding), my hope is that this will continue to develop on other social media channels. For agencies like us, collaborations will be what drives this forward for our clients, and with Snap’s recent launch of the lens creative program, this may become easily accessible. I suppose the main challenge is – how can small businesses utilise this? This is something we’ll certainly be working on in 2019.

It may not necessarily be classed as a huge trend, but I can see many changes coming for LinkedIn, and I think the professional platform will become easier to use not just from a business perspective, but also from advertising. LinkedIn are working hard to keep up with other social media giants, and the user-friendly aspect and its Campaign Manager seem to be most important to them right now.

mobile phone camera

Arek Estallall trousers

We predict a continued rise in Generation z ‘straight to you’ subscription services for food and other FMCG products for core online shoppers and included in that will be differentiators for brands using community added value online and an increase in remarketing videos as part of those subscription sign ups.  We predict a rise in ‘community’ areas for brands where the customers can interact together. More niche markets with community dashboards where the companies are gathering big data and the end user is plugging into like-minded people. This predicted explosion as the high street dies and e-commerce rises is probably likely due to the sheer volumes of generation Z coming through the ranks aged 16-34 and the continued popularity for convenience and a sense of community online. Popularity for community and convenience is expanding outwards from mobile phone and social media usage and ‘dual screening’ where ‘always on’ customers are hungry for entertainment, relevance and personalisation. And of course more and more video is appearing and we predict that will only continue to grow.

An example of the subscriptions explosion in addition to the obvious Hello Fresh and Graze human models is the less obvious transference to the gourmet pet food market, now seeing an explosion on pet food subscriptions. Nestle bought up Tails.com in April 2018, their first venture in ecommerce and other players such as Paws.com and Butternut Box are taking market share from the big players.  While only 3% of the UK pet food market is currently subscriptions, 35% of pet food is bought online with 45% of those interviewed by Mintel this year being interested in ‘straight to you’ (direct debit subscription services) for their pets in the future. This example, along with observing what clients are now doing, is making us poised for more of the above across a number of ‘less obvious’ industries.

Live chat is overtaking the number of telephone calls now online and we are seeing a steady rise of immediate response marketing for customer support over telephone usage. We also expect to see more social influencers in 2019 than before to gain reach via channels like Instagram with the ‘swipe up to shop’ buying options.


Paul Henderson – Managing Director, Summon Digital

The main trend we will continue to see in 2019 is the continued rise in influencer marketing through social, and in particular through Instagram. The space is seeing a lot of exciting growth, with specialist agencies popping up to help connect brands with the right influencers and more and more brands seeking the service.

The big development will be around how agencies ensure that the influencers they are paying for are genuine. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) in the US are taking an interest, as are the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) and the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) in the UK.

Instagram has now hit 1 billion users but it’s recognised that the platform is flooded with fake users. The challenge for agencies will be ensuring that the influencers they use are verified in order to tighten up the market and ensure transparency so identification of users who have bought followers will be key.

Influencer fraud is the biggest threat to the market as we need to ensure that brands don’t lose confidence.

Instagram Live

Ian FergusonFlow

Engagement rate has always been one of the most important metrics for marketers – content that receives more reactions, comments and shares will always outperform that which doesn’t. We believe this metric will be even more important in 2019 – particularly on the paid front.

Paid advertising has had its ups and downs in 2018, despite the scams, the fake news and the court cases, paid social advertising is still one of the most profitable platforms out there.  Whereas previously you could just pay your way onto the screens of your audience – even with a relatively low quality or relevance score – if your content fails to impress, it will fail to get coverage.

For this reason, we think there will be an increase in ad-exclusive formats across all major social platforms. Marketers have already seen great results from paid-only ad formats such as Facebook’s Collection Ads. These ad formats allow businesses to interact with their audiences in a more interactive way. We believe this interactive element will stray into other media formats such as augmented reality and 360 videos.

Ultimately this will be a good thing for marketers. Although the time involved in advertising via these formats will be greater, the usefulness and the level of engagement received from ads will make it easier to reach your desired audience – blurring the line between paid and organic social media.


Sue Keogh – Director, Sookio

I think 2019 is going to see further decline in Facebook – from all sides! The younger generation don’t want to be on it – who wants to hang out where their parents have been posting embarrassing pictures of them since the day they were born – and the older generation is being scared off by the continuing scandals and cluttered interface. It’s difficult for businesses too; even though advertising IS effective, the promised reach never quite delivers and the whole thing is starting to feel like a big ol’ mess.

I can’t see Twitter growing much faster either. All the tinkering round the edges with new feature is fine, but it’s not doing much to attract new users to the party. LinkedIn, with its new copycat Stories feature aimed at students, might be the one platform that sees a sudden uptake in younger users.

Instagram, however (owned by Facebook) is doing well among a much wider demographic, and I can see this continuing in 2019. Stories have taken off and the advertising is very effective. People are becoming much more jaded by influencer marketing though, and I can see it being less about paying megabucks for the celebrities to promote your protein shake and brands targeting people with a smaller but more loyal following.

instagram app on phone

Joanne Brady – Founder, Social Bods

At Social Bods, we are seeing a huge shift in consumer awareness and a demand for realness and all things human. Social media has always been a human phenomenon but we’ve seen the appetite for human stories and personality really come into focus recently. People are tired of clickbait, sick of boring brand updates, and are becoming more savvy to fake news and shady social media marketing practices which compromise data privacy.

Generation Z, who have grown up with social media, are almost intuitive in weeding out insincerity online, but more work needs to be done, particularly with the older generation some of who are finding their feet on social media for the first time. It’s time for brands to start getting real and making that human connection with their audience instead of hiding behind the bland and corporate. With the enhanced capabilities for video and live on pretty much every major social media network, the opportunities for brands to inject personality into their content has never been bigger


Paula BowronVenture Stream

Influencer marketing is becoming a hugely lucrative business with some estimating the industry will be worth $5billion dollars by 2020. So unquestionably this is an opportunity not to be missed by brands, agencies and marketeers.

A key metric influencers are being asked to provide, before working with brands and agencies, is their follower count. But with a huge rise in fake followers and bots, it’s not the best metric to decide whether or not to work with a particular influencer. And as the industry grows even more, the scope for unethical practices is set to grow also.

That’s where nano influencers come in. A breed of influencer with smaller follower numbers but larger engagement levels. Although not completely new to the scene, they’re set to become a huge marketing strategy in the coming year, with some large brands already starting to work and invest in them.

With follower numbers between 1000-5000 and 6x the amount of engagement as those influencers with much higher numbers, we expect to see brands start to realise that the return on investment can be much higher than the deals with super influencers or celebrities.

More likely to be seen as an approachable friendly voice recommending products to their friends and followers, the nano influencer provides a more cost-effective method of reaching a demographic, often requiring an agreed fee, commission and/or free goods in return for posting across their channels on behalf of brands.

As technology progresses and brands and agencies are able to monitor high levels of influencer reach to determine what is and isn’t working, building relationships with many relevant nano influencers over one super influencer can certainly yield a bigger bang for your buck!

woman with phone and ipad

What does Pixel Kicks’ Digital Marketing Executive Andrew Flynn think?

Andrew Flynn – Pixel Kicks

We’re already seeing a transition away from macro-influencer marketing campaigns to more widespread networks of micro-influencers.

Where brands would pinpoint a small number of big personalities to advocate for their products, they are now exploring the high volume of micro-influencers across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter primarily.

For me, I think brands have now cottoned on to the fact that micro influencers can deliver higher rates of engagement for a fraction of the cost. Brands can now pinpoint influencers that are hyper relevant to the product or service they are promoting. Here, they will also find that these influencers’ opinions evoke higher degrees of credibility and confidence from their niche audiences.

Thanks to Bitcoin exploding cryptocurrencies into the mainstream, plenty of noise is now being made about Blockchain and, more specifically, how social will start to work in partnership with the crypto company.

Admittedly I am no expert on this, but from what I can gather blockchain technology is ready and waiting to alter the platforms we all use on a daily basis; in our profession, we have to be ready for this upheaval and be well versed in what we could come to understand as blockchain-enabled social media marketing.

Given the well documented privacy breaches over the past year, it is to be expected that the major players continue to strive towards making their platforms as safe as possible. Blockchain technology could have a role to play here – for example, it could be used to fight the rise in bot accounts that plague social media and have a detrimental effect on ad impressions and pay-per-click returns.

A huge thank you to everyone who contributed to this piece and offered their valuable insights. We’re looking forward to see where the world of social media takes us in 2019!

Northern Quarter & Ancoats: Why These 15 Manchester Businesses Call It Home

street art in the northern quarter, manchester

In late 2016, we finally left behind our first home at The Sharp Project to continue our growth in a much larger space. Our new location? Ancoats.

We’re right on the edge of Ancoats and the Northern Quarter, and with our second full year in the area nearly complete, we’ve experienced everything that makes this place so great. The amazing bars and restaurants, the beautiful architecture and history of Ancoats, and the huge mix of people all take credit for this brilliant area of Manchester, and we’re thrilled to be here, continuing our web design and digital marketing work in great surroundings.

To celebrate this place, we decided to get in touch with a number of businesses also based here, asking them the following question:

What do you love about Ancoats & the Northern Quarter?

We also sent them the following pointers:

  • The area in comparison to places like Spinningfields, Deansgate, Castlefield
  • The history and culture of the area
  • Why the area works for your business
  • Future development and regeneration in the area
  • Bars, restaurants, activities etc
  • General vibe & how it makes you feel

Here’s what they had to say…


TNQ Restaurant & Bar – Tom 108 High St, Manchester, M4 1HQ

What we at TNQ Restaurant & Bar love most about the Northern Quarter is its eclectic beauty: The mixture of architecture, from reflections of our past like the grade II listed wholesale fish market facade that we get to look at every day to exciting modern design.

Its history, with its continuous evolution that defies expectations. The unparalleled food scene, where you can travel around the world within a few streets and find something to everyone’s tastes, from fine dining to a late night kebab.

Most of all, it’s the melting pot of people from all walks of life that makes the Northern Quarter so special. Anyone can find a place to belong and everyone is welcome.


Awesome Creative – Rob Jones Beehive Lofts, Beehive Mill, Jersey St, Ancoats, M4 6JG

Awesome Creative decided to move from Wilmslow to the city centre in 2017 to accommodate our growing client base. After looking at the usual suspects: Spinningfields, Deansgate and Castlefield we were blown away when we strolled into Ancoats.

The recent regeneration investments have given the area of completely fresh vibe which has evolved from the Northern Quarter it neighbours. Not only that, the independent eaterys, barbers and bars make it an ideal location to work and entertain. The innovative businesses popping up in the historic mills and surrounding buildings perfectly mirror what we are trying to achieve with the brand appeal of Awesome Creative – a traditional and historic service, overlaid with innovation and fresh thinking.

For us then, Ancoats became the obvious choice.


Ziferblat – Gareth Harold  23 Edge St, Manchester, M4 1HW

If you have never visited the Northern Quarter in Manchester then you have never really seen what Manchester is about. For us at Ziferblat, is it the home of the creative, where there is a beautiful balance of work and leisure.

The area itself is steeped in history and was once an area to avoid but now, people can enjoy the beautiful architecture of the old Smithfield Market or hide away with a latte in the many cafes and bars and of course Ziferblat. The Northern Quarter is gritty and vibrant and provides us with a great backdrop for our branch on Edge St.

It attracts a cacophony of people where the creative meets corporate, the arty meets the ambitious. The Northern Quarter has something for everyone with a slightly whimsical air of character and calm, that’s why we chose it as our home.

ziferblat edge street


Manchester Souvenirs  Stevenson Square, Manchester, M1 1DB

We pop up all over the place, and perhaps that gives us a great vantage point in the sense that we can compare and contrast different corners of the city centre.

We’ve always described ourselves as very proud Mancunians, so it’s only right that we take up residence at the Northern Quarter Makers Market – it helps us to showcase our wears in such an iconic part of the city. What we find when we’re here, in comparison to areas like Spinningfields (which are outstanding in their own right) is the genuine interest in independent businesses and the products or services they have to offer.

People want to know the story behind the designs on our Souvenirs, they want to know what things mean. We think that stems from the fact that people come to the Northern Quarter to learn and explore. That’s what we love.


cube3 agencyCube3 – James Summerscales 4 Market Sq Building, 85 High St, Manchester, M4 1BD

Ah, Manchester’s Northern Quarter. It’s a place that’s got it all. A unique charm and character. Vibrant culture. Creative flare. Industrial heritage. Great music. Quality craft beer.

For us, it’s the perfect place for our innovative business growth consultancy. As a team of inventive forward-thinkers, it only seemed natural to find our home in the creative heart of the city.

In 2017 we moved to an open-plan, industrial-style office on High Street complete with a fully-stocked bar (in true Cube3 style); it’s a space that inspires creativity and innovation. We feel right at home here and there’s nowhere we’d rather be.


lucardoLucardo – Jack Richards Virginia House, 5-7 Great Ancoats St, Manchester, M4 5AD

The Northern Quarter/Ancoats radiates energy around the whole of central Manchester. Not only does it hold some of the best independent music venues such as Band on The Wall, The Castle Hotel and Night & Day, it also offers the best in modern fine dining.

You’re only ever a stones throw away from the best burgers in town at Almost Famous or Solita or a pizza at my personal favourite Rudys. A warth is created through the local graffiti and with the constant development of new bars and cafe, you never have to travel to to grab yourself a beverage.

With so much going on around us here at Lucardo, it’s great to receive a wide range customers who have come from all over the world to visit Manchester’s hot spot.


Cat Café  103 High St, Manchester, M4 1HQ

The Northern quarter is an ideal location for the cat café, it’s full of independent, unique and artistic businesses and we feel we fit in nicely with this aesthetic.

People who aren’t local to Manchester can sometimes already be familiar with the Northern Quarter and will want to give it a visit, this can result in people stumbling across our café by complete accident! We feel our location is perfect for our kitties as we aren’t located on a busy street with lots of traffic, we are tucked away nicely but still in an ideal location for people for people to find us, whether intentionally or not.

We receive support and promotion from other businesses in the area, such as donations for our fundraising events and raffles.


Loaf Creative – Alan Houghton 51 Bengal St, Manchester, M4 6LN

Ancoats is a fantastic part of Manchester with loads of character and personality with something for everyone.

Far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the centre but only a 10 minute walk away. With the area going through a thorough transformation and life being rejuvenated, there isn’t a better time or place to be for a creative business to set roots. For us it is important that we immerse ourselves with the history, culture and like minded businesses and their leaders.

With Manchester’s industrial heritage in abundance, a good mix of old and new buildings, lots of cool and original businesses such as Jersey Street barbers, restaurants and bars a plenty like Rudys (best pizzas ever when I allow myself one), Scrancoats and not forgetting Seven Brothers just around the corner, its a great mix for both work and play. The area has everything we wanted for our agency, its culture and values, and I don’t think anywhere else would have given us the feeling we wanted when clients visit and staff come to work.

Loaf Creative, Ancoats, Manchester
Photo credit: Loaf Creative, Ancoats, Manchester


Bamboo – Mark Butler Ziferblat, 23 Edge St, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M4 1HW

The Northern Quarter is hard to describe because it’s a feeling more than anything. The mix of people, businesses and creativity that’s mills about the patchwork streets creates not just a buzz but also a relaxed, community vibe. It’s a place that feels like an urban village but is outward looking and globally connected.

You also get all walks of life flitting along its industrial streets – from the weekend good timers crawling through the bars, alternatives packing into live music haunts, cutting-edge businesses filling up old warehouses, proper Mancs in backstreet pubs, and remote workers sipping coffee and typing on their notebooks in the blossoming café scene.

We wanted to work in the Northern Quarter because it represents how we, as Bamboo, like to do business. It’s an area that knows what its doing, doesn’t take itself too seriously and knows when to have fun. We love the Northern Quarter because it always does its own thing. It’s a place that thrives on freedom and working together to create something special. To us, the area is a testimony of the past, present and future of Manchester because it’s gritty, bold, colourful and unashamedly itself.


Jean Jackson Couture – Felicity Jackson 2nd Floor, 51 Turner St, Manchester, M4 1DN

We love being in the Northern Quarter, it is a community for independent, creative businesses. Our studio carries bridal designs by international bohemian designers, and we are the only place in Europe with this selection of gowns.

Being so central, close to the train station and airport, has brought us customers from as far as Hong Kong, Russia, Qatar, and all across Central Europe. My grandmother worked on Lever Street in the 70s and my grandfather worked in Ancoats, both were in fashion and manufacturing, and to this day it is still an innovative hub , we love the energy here and we are hoping to expand later this year.


Bliss – John-Paul Atley 1A Basil Chambers, 65 High Street, Manchester, M4 1FS

This question spurned more debate than any other topic in the office. Is the NQ the heart and soul of Manchester? All signs point to yes.

There’s no other place like the NQ in Manchester – it’s a collision of things that shouldn’t work together, but somehow do. You can throw a stone on Tib Street and hit a dozen creative agencies; around the corner there’s a thriving art scene, some great independent establishments (special shoutout to Siop for the amazing donut artistry),  and of course the biggest draw – the many many bars & pubs and eateries.

Within such a short space the diversity of choice is sometimes overwhelming (a good portion of any lunch break is usually taken up by deciding where to eat!) You’ve got some great rice ‘n’ three cafes, old school chippies, hipster bars, a pub that is packed out every day for karaoke and a fight, vegan food, craft beer shops, fancy dining, niche clothes shops, traditional restaurants, a cat cafe, accessible parking and loads more.

There’s a real culture that permeates right through the NQ and into Ancoats – you’re more likely to find someone eating smashed avo on sourdough than you are to see someone walking around in a suit!

As an agency, the NQ is perfect for us – it has everything we need to keep a healthy social life, but just as important is the accessibility: no matter where we come from in Manchester, the NQ is one of the easiest places to get to – this is not only important for our morning commutes, but also for our clients.

The Northern Quarter has an energy that runs through everyone that works here, and that’s why we love it. We’re a little more divided on the merits of smashed avocado though.


PDC ManchesterPDC Manchester – Paul Huxley 129 Oldham St, Manchester, M4 1LN

PDC are Northern Quarter fans. Previously marketers and graphic designers for a larger company, we wanted to roll out our skills to businesses of all sizes, sectors and budgets. Premises with a shop front on Oldham Street are ideal. ‘Face to face’ for local business as well as serving the whole city and beyond.

It’s perfect for design, printing, display and marketing services. A dynamic, creative cluster of streets. City centre walkable, accessible for dispatches. The variety of day to day business demands keep us on our toes. Menus, posters, leaflets and banners running daily, alongside planning, design and production for a business conference, or suite of marketing materials.

There’s a warm sense of community, a shared empathy between smaller businesses. Unfortunately, ‘creeping gentrification’ mimics other cities. The Northern Quarter’s unique appeal is in its historic streets and buildings, the quirky, funky one-off shops, cafes and bars. Lose these and you lose the ‘spirit’ of the place for good, and that would be a real shame


Jungle Jazz Cafe in ManchesterJungle Jazz Cafe – Charlie & Andrew 44-48 Oldham Road, Manchester, M4 5EE

With our unique decor, magical ambience, and “Good F@cking Vibes”, it feels like Ancoats is the perfect home for our cafe.

Ancoats was historically one of the most industrial parts of our city, but is now more well known for the exciting spectrum of independent businesses, tasty restaurants, and unique bars.

People from different backgrounds and cultures gel together here, in the surroundings of repurposed industrial architecture, and it’s why we love being a part of it.


Sweet MandarinSweet Mandarin – Lisa & Helen 19 Copperas Street, Manchester, M4 1HS

Sweet Mandarin loves the Northern Quarter which is home to a history of dishes from our family that take us from a small Chinese village to cosmopolitan Hong Kong and urban Manchester, NQ. Along the way, special ingredients and three generations of recipes are added: a homemade stock, a pound of love, a spoonful of daring, a dash of spices, and dollop after dollop of sheer will and stirring. This is a family establishment built on survival and victories, luck and determination – a mirror image of Northern Quarter with its eclectic shops and independent proprietors. A very warm welcome to our family table.

Thank you to all of the businesses who took the time to contribute to the article. You can check out where they are located by using the handy map below.

9 Google Shopping tips in 2018 to help boost your conversions

PPC has become one of the world’s most lucrative forms of advertising, and with businesses shifting their operations to focus on targeting an online audience, PPC is now more relevant than ever.

PPC is a term that refers to a wide selection of advertising types and locations, but Google AdWords is one of the most prominent providers. It’s estimated that approximately 95% of Google’s revenue comes from advertising, spread across platforms such as Google Search, the Display Network, and Google Shopping.

What is Google Shopping?

Google Shopping is an advertising solution perfect for ecommerce websites that want to ensure specific products reach a wider audience. Launched in 2002, and previously known as both Google Product Search and Froogle, Google Shopping is now widely used by both multinational retailers and small businesses.

Google Shopping allows users to search for a product, and then compare prices between all of the retailers who are choosing to advertise it. Advertisers can upload a feed to Google Merchant Centre, which supplies Google Shopping with a full list of products, and their key attributes. The product’s attributes will be displayed on a Google Shopping product page, and once the user chooses to buy it, or selects the retailer the want to purchase from, they’ll click through to the advertisers website, charging them their selected cost-per-click bid.

Getting a Google Shopping feed up and running correctly can be quite a technical process, and ensuring your performance is reaching its optimum can be quite time consuming. Getting it completely right can be a hit and miss job at times, and as such, we’ve put together some useful tips to help you get the best out of your Google Shopping campaigns. These tips will help you move towards having a well optimised feed, and ultimately, may result in an increased conversion rate – one of the most important KPIs for any Shopping advertiser. Read on for nine tips to push you in the right direction…

9 tips to get the best out of Google Shopping

1. Add promotions to encourage sales

The first part of this tip isn’t Google Shopping specific. If you have an eCommerce store, you should definitely consider adding a promotion. This could be in the form of a sale price, a discount code, or a free delivery when purchasing specific products. Pushing a promotion like this via your marketing channels such as social media or mailing lists can generate sales, but it’s something worth adding to Google Shopping too.

When you’re advertising a product that is sold by many other merchants, it will be displayed as part of a price comparison with all of the other advertising accounts. To make it stand out amongst the competition, it’s beneficial to add a promotion, as this will display a little gift tag icon next your listing, drawing users to you.

Screenshot showing a google shopping listing with a promotional tag

Adding a promotion like this can be done via two methods – using the promotions tool on your Merchant Center account, or creating a promotions feed. Full step by step details on how to do this can be found on Google’s support site.

2. Ensure shipping cost rules are correctly set

As you can see in the above price comparison screenshot, Google adds your shipping cost into the table to help users make a choice based on value. Google doesn’t just pull this shipping information from your website though – you must provide it via Google Merchant Center.

Google Merchant Center provides a tool that makes it easy to amend your shipping costs, based on weight, location, value and more. Whether you have a flat rate fee for your entire site, or have prices that fluctuate based on aspects of the order, it’s easy to add all the details needed to Merchant Center.

It’s important to note that this is a compulsory part of the Google Shopping process. Google places a focus on ensuring advert quality is high – meaning nothing should be inaccurate or misleading. Your shipping costs must be 100% spot on and up to date on Merchant Center, otherwise your products and feed can, and often will be suspended, meaning a loss of income from the advertising channel. Our tip is to check your shipping costs thoroughly. Make sure that every eventuality is covered by your cost settings – no matter how minor an error, Google can still spot it. A guide to setting up your delivery information can be found here.

3. Ensure your product titles are well optimised

Unless your advertising is aimed towards an industry that finds products by searching specifically for part numbers, it’s key to optimise your product titles.

While some products may just be found by searching for a GTIN, others can be picked up by casual browsers looking for something broader. For example, if you’re selling a black dress, make sure your product title doesn’t just say “Ralph Lauren Cowlneck”. Instead, title it “Ralph Lauren Cowlneck black dress” – this means it will be picked up by people using the search query “black dress” on Google Shopping.

Google Shopping title optimisation

It’s also important to remember that sometimes your full product title might be cut off, if people are viewing Shopping on smaller screens. As such, you should get the most important information, and biggest selling points, towards the start of your product title. Optimising your titles on Google Shopping is a similar task to SEO optimising pages on your website – make sure you use important details and relevant keywords to ensure your product has maximum visibility.

4. Monitor your disapproved products

In an ideal situation, every product you submit to Google will be shown to potential buyers. However, this isn’t always the case.

Google Merchant center will show you a list of products that have been disapproved, and this could be due to numerous reasons. It could be down to the quality of image provided, policy violations, missing identifiers and more.

Again, in an ideal situation, you’d ensure every product was fixed so you’d have 100% coverage on Google Shopping, but this isn’t always possible. The number of disapproved items can sometimes be in the thousands, so it’s worth checking your feed diagnostics to see what is easily fixable, and what items are affected.

Some merchants will focus entirely on fixing their big ticket items – after all, why spend valuable time trying to fix the errors on a low cost product? You should definitely regularly check your feed diagnostics – some of your biggest priority items could be missing out on valuable search traffic, and as such, you could be losing a lot of potential revenue.

Example of a Google merchant center diagnostic list, showing disapproved items

5. Compare product prices with competitors

In order to stay on top of your product listing game, you should compare your product prices with that of your competitor’s every now and then. Pricing is key when it comes to Google Shopping, and not only is a customer more inclined to go for a product that is priced cheaper – but Google is more inclined to show the cheaper product more often, too.

Google’s algorithm favours cheaper priced products, and the difference could be as little as a few pence. However, when you have a product that’s slightly cheaper than an exact same product from a competitors with the same CPC, there’s a greater chance that you’ll get a lot more impressions and clicks.

6. Use GTINs to get better visibility

GTIN stands for Global Trade Item Number, and is a type of barcode that can be used as a product identifier. Typically, this number will be supplied by a manufacturer, and when you’re selling products onwards, you should ensure it is included on your Google Shopping feed.

Using a GTIN has multiple benefits. It helps Google to place your product correctly alongside those being sold by competitors, and is sometimes used as a specific search query by Shopping users who are looking for said item in particular.

Google also uses the GTIN to give you increased visibility, meaning as well as appearing under the Shopping tab, your product can sometimes also be seen on Google Search.

eCommerce Google Shopping tips

7. Maximise performance hour by hour

In order to utilise your Google Shopping budget most effectively, it’s important to understand when your campaign usually yields the most conversions. In most cases, campaign performance will vary considerably throughout the day, and there will be certain times that you’ll have a higher amount of sales than others.

Google AdWords allows you to generate an ‘hour by day’ performance report, which will detail the times that conversions have been made. With this information, you can then use a bidding script to increase bids during high performance times (to maximise the number of conversions), and decrease them during lower performance times. This will not only increase the likelihood of conversions, but will also prevent your budget being exhausted at quieter times of the day.

8. Add Remarketing lists to increase conversions

Users who have previously visited your website are more likely to return and be converted into a paying customer. With the use of Google’s Remarketing lists, you can target previous visitors to encourage them to return and make a purchase.

With this feature you have the ability to a) increase your bids for visitors on your remarketing lists, b) the choice to show different ads to them to encourage them to return and complete their purchase, and c) the ability to bid on different keywords just for those on your remarketing list – more broad matches, etc.

By being able to segment shoppers into specific Remarketing lists, based on their likelihood to make a purchase – i.e. if they’ve purchased before, abandoned a basket or just visited the website before – you can adjust bidding rates to suit.

It’s a great way to utilise historical data stored by Google AdWords, and a way to drive more valuable, targeted traffic to your website in the hopes of increasing sales. Find out how to create remarketing lists for Google Shopping.

9. Utilise negative keywords

The best way to ensure that you’re getting relevant clicks on your adverts with the highest chance of a conversion, is to filter out the irrelevant traffic that isn’t looking for what you’re offering. This isn’t specific to Shopping campaigns, but negative keywords can be used to avoid spending any budget on time-wasters.

For example, adding “free” as a negative keyword is a good practice to avoid those who have no intention of making a purchase, or adding “new” as a negative, when you’re an eCommerce store only selling used goods.

Optimising your Google Shopping campaigns doesn’t have to be such a daunting task, and with the help of our above nine tips, you should start to see some improvements in performance and success. Check out our free-to-use ROI calculator to help work out the profitability of your campaigns’ success.

If you’re looking to launch a PPC campaign for the first time, or aren’t happy with the results of your current one, get in touch with us now to find out more about our PPC services and how we can help you.

The five Google AdWords campaign types explained

Google Adwords

With business having made a big shift to online focus over the past decade, spending your marketing budget on PPC has become more and more of a priority. Google AdWords has been in operation since October 2000, offering advertising spots firstly on Google Search results and partner sites, but since expanding to cover multiple forms of placement.

Originally, Google AdWords saw customers charged a monthly fee to have their campaigns created and managed by Google, but has now grown to allow advertisers to create bespoke adverts, and optimise settings to suit their business needs. Google AdWords operates across multiple platforms, taking into account modern technology and internet users’ browsing behaviour, and allowing users to choose their own budgets.

Google Adwords

Today, at least 95% of Google’s huge revenue comes from advertising, and with over 86% of consumers using going online to find information on local businesses, AdWords is a great investment for any business. Whether you want to invest into selling specific products via the Google Shopping platform, or promote your services to people searching for relevant keywords on Google Search, there’s an ad format to suit any company. AdWords is a highly adjustable tool, allowing advertisers to closely monitor and adjust how much they’re spending on advertising, directly target the specific demographic of people they want to, and make use of a huge network of websites to get maximum visibility for their business.

Here’s an overview of the types of advertising available through Google, and what they can do for your business.

Google Search

On average, there are over 63,000 Google searches across the world every second. Advertising on Google search results opens your business to a large visibility, enabling you to appear on the search results page for your chosen keywords.

Advertisers can create a campaign for their business, setting up several ad groups within the campaign that can focus on different categories of keyword. For example, a web design company might choose to run adverts for web design, SEO and social media marketing, and would create individual ad groups for each of the three topics, each bidding on different keywords and showing adverts written specifically for them.

Top Google Search AdWords Tips

To help you get the most out of your AdWords search advertising, we’ve put together some top tips, highlighting some of the key features offered by the platform that can improve and optimise your ads.

  • Callout extensions: The bulk of your selling points should be included in the advert’s main description, but for any other key pieces of information worth highlighting, it can be done via callout extensions. You can add up to four callout extensions onto your advert, each with a 25 character limit, to showcase your business’s main USPs.

AdWords Callout Extensions

  • Sitelink extensions: Although your advert already links to the relevant page you’re advertising, you can add additional links under the main body of text, helping to increase your advert’s visibility and user interaction rate.

  • Call extensions: To encourage users to call your business, as well as click through to your website, you can add a phone number to your advert. For users seeing your advert on a smartphone, the phone number will be clickable, initiating the call to your business with one simple click.

AdWords Call Extensions

  • Negative keywords: With search advertising, you’ll be bidding for your advert to be triggered when someone searches for a specific keyword. However, depending on the type of keyword match you have set up, the advert can sometimes appear on irrelevant searches. For example, an optician may be bidding on the keyword “glasses”, but his advert shows when someone searches for “wine glasses”. The advertiser should regularly check their account’s search terms to see what has triggered they adverts, and add any irrelevant terms to their “negative keywords” list. In this case, the optician should set “wine” as a negative keyword.
  • Bid adjustments: One of the huge positives of online advertising is that the advertising costs are highly adjustable. A great example of this is bid adjustments, a tool that allows you to change your bids based on specific attributes. If you notice your ad performs better on mobile devices between 9am and 5pm, you can create a rule that increases your bids by a set percentage to people using a smartphone in those hours. Bid adjustments can be edited to take into account device, location and time.

Google Shopping

Google Shopping is a great tool for advertisers who have an ecommerce website. Although a search campaign can be used to advertise a website and its special offers, a shopping campaign can advertise every single product individually, without having to set bids on all of the products’ keywords.

By submitting a feed of all of your products to Google Merchant Centre, and setting a daily budget and CPC bid, your items will appear on the Google Shopping platform. As well as appearing on the Google Shopping page, some items may appear on the search results page, as below:

Google shopping on search

Primarily though, the products will appear on the Google Shopping platform, which compares your product prices with that of other merchants, also allowing users to filter their search based on price and other product-specific attributes.

To put yourself ahead of the other merchants using the platform, it can be beneficial to add a promotional tag to your products. If you’re running a discount code on your website, this can be displayed on Google Shopping, attracting customers to use it to get the cost as low as possible.

Google shopping promotional code

Video Advertising

In November 2006, Google acquired YouTube for more than $1.6 billion, sparking the start of the website becoming more commercialised, with more adverts appearing day by day. This change to YouTube opened up more huge opportunities for advertisers, with the website currently offering a variety of advert formats, including:

  • TrueView in-stream ads: This is the type of video ad that appears before, during and after other YouTube videos, and is skippable after five seconds of viewing. The adverts can also appear on videos on Google partner sites, and advertisers are only charged when a viewer watches a full 30 seconds (or maximum duration of video if less) of the video advert.
  • TrueView video discovery ads: Rather than automatically playing your video advert to users, you can set up a discovery ad, aimed at getting site visitors to watch your clip. The advert appears on YouTube search results, next to related YouTube videos and on the mobile YouTube homepage, with advertisers charged only when viewers click through to watch.
  • Bumper ads: Similar to the in-stream ad format, bumper ads appear before, during or after other videos on YouTube and partner sites, but are a maximum of six seconds in duration and cannot be skipped by viewers. The format is perfect for distributing a short, punchy message, and advertisers are charged via cost-per-thousand impressions bidding.

Mobile Advertising

Google mobile searches have overtaken desktop searches in several countries across the world, with Google responding by creating new advertising formats tailored for smartphone users. Here’s some of the mobile-specific ad formats available:

  • Universal App campaigns: In November 2017, Universal App campaigns became the only way to advertise mobile apps through Google AdWords. The new format allows ads that encourage viewers to download and install apps to appear on the search network, Google Play store, YouTube and across the display network. The ad campaign can be created to drive more installations, or encourage more in-app actions, and the process of setting it up is more automated than other types of AdWords advertisement. All the advertiser has to do is supply some text, a bid and assets, and Google does the rest, creating multiple ad combinations and running with the ones that are most effective.

  • Call-only ads: Mobile call-only ads look similar to text ads, and appear on the search network. As with text ads, they require a display URL, business name and two lines of descriptive text, but the headline is replaced by a phone number, encouraging searchers on smartphones to call the business, rather than visit their website.

Display Advertising

Google’s display network is a wide selection of websites that accept advertising via AdWords, allowing advertisers to promote their business in a variety of formats:

  • Text ads: The ads are identical in format to the text ads on the search network, but are displayed across the network of partner websites. You can kill two birds with one stone and publish the same advert on both the search and display networks by creating a “Search network with display select” campaign.
  • Image ads: This is a more eye-catching ad type, allowing you to use images on the display network to get people to click through to your website.
  • Rich media ads: Rich media ads are similar to image ads, but have interactive elements and animations that make it more eye-catching and interactive.
  • Video ads: This is similar to a rich media ad, but a video can be embedded to play directly within it.

Whilst on the search network, advertisers bid on keywords to choose where their adverts appear. The display network works differently, with advertisers having a choice of placement and targeting type:

  • Contextual targeting: By selecting keywords, contextual targeting aims to get adverts onto websites that are relevant to the business, meaning people will see your advert while reading about the product/service you offer.
  • Placement targeting: This allows advertisers to choose specific sites they want their adverts to appear on.
  • Remarketing: This doesn’t apply only to the display network, but on display, you can advertise your business to people who have already visited your website.
  • Topic targeting: This enables you to choose a category of website, that will be relevant to your business advert, to display your ads on.
  • Demographic/Geographic & Language targeting: If your adverts require a specific audience, the campaign can be set up to target people based on age, gender, location and language.

Pixel Kicks is an official Google Partner, with specialisations in search, mobile and shopping advertising. If you need help optimising your pre-existing AdWords efforts, or want someone to create a fresh campaign for you, our team is fully AdWords qualified in all types of Google advertising. Contact us now on 0161 713 1700, or get in touch online.

SEO Tips: 15 things to include on a webpage to improve your rankings

As a follow up to our “20 Simple SEO Tips For 2017“, which gave an overview of things you should do to your website to get a head start on your SEO, we’ve decided to put together a new post, focusing on the on-page techniques you can use to make your blog posts a success.

High Google rankings.

Every website owner wants them, but not every website owner can get them. Some don’t try and some don’t know how to try, but there’s a select few who do everything right, and in turn get to the top of search results, generating traffic, leads and sales. So how do you do it?

There are so many different varied techniques and processes that make up SEO – some are effective, some aren’t. Some are considered “black-hat”, while others have simply become outdated, working to please algorithms Google no longer uses. One thing that will help you climb the ladder of search results is a nicely optimised page.

SEO on Google Search

Content is key – a good, well written blog post can really help your website out. It will become strong, shareable content, which in turn can increase your traffic. But “good” and “well written” isn’t enough when it comes to SEO. Optimisation is key, and although you’re likely to be satisfied with your post, search engines might not be. Without realising it, chances are you’ve missed out on some key things to include, and it’s these we’re going to look at today.

Some of these pointers you’ll find will focus on the placement of the keywords you wish to rank for, but some will also relate to improving your content and adding other features to your page. It should also be noted that writing one blog post, and optimising it in this way won’t do much to your rankings. All of these tips should be repeated on regularly posted, fresh and unique content pages, and down the line you’ll start to see improvements to your rankings.

Here are 15 things you should include on your website for perfect SEO optimisation:

Keyword Placement

To rank for your specific keywords, Google needs to know what those keywords are, otherwise it won’t know how relevant your content is to the given search term you’re attempting to appear on. Don’t just mention them in every paragraph though – it reduces the quality of your content and user experience, and it will negatively affect your rankings. It’s known as Keyword Stuffing, a black hat SEO technique penalised by search engines. Where should you put your keywords then?

1. At the start of your title: Put the subject of your article as the first part of your title. For example, if you wanted to rank highly for the keyword “cheap smartphones”, a good way of writing your title would be:

“Cheap Smartphones: The top 10 best low cost phones on the market”

You’ve immediately put your keyword out there in a non spammy way. It doesn’t look out of place, and will work well on two counts – on one side, the potential reader knows what the post is about and will read it, and on the other, Google knows that this post is likely to be relevant to people searching with the string “cheap smartphones”.

2. In the first 100 words: In a lot of cases, you’ve probably been doing this anyway. As well as including your keyword in the title, also make sure it’s mentioned within the first 100 words of your post. Sometimes you might decide to write a big introduction, but for SEO purposes it can be worth getting straight to the point, reassuring Google that the page really is relevant to people searching for your keyword.

3. In one subheading: It’s often recommended that you break your post up into readable, well organised portions, to create a more user friendly experience. Each of these chunks of text should start with a subheading wrapped in H2 tags (see point 7), to signify what each section is about. In one of these subheadings, you should include your keyword.

Links

4. Outbound links: In a post of around 1000 words, you should probably have a minimum of two links to other websites, and no more than five. Now, don’t just put a load of random links in there – they must be relevant to your content, and the website the link goes to should be good quality and high authority.

5. Internal links: As well as linking out to other sites, it’s also good to have some links to other pages on your own website. Again, it’s recommended you include at least two of these in a post, and no more than five. The hyperlinks should all have relevant anchor text, again showing Google you have a good level of relevant information on your website.

It’s also a good technique on the user side of things. By having relevant links, some of which can be call-to-actions, you’re likely a good number of site visitors will click through to another page on your website, helping to decrease your bounce rate. Bounce rate is something that is monitored by search engines, and the lower it is, the better it is for your rankings.

SEO Google Analytics

Heading Tags

There are several options of heading tags, which can be used to visually format headings in your blog posts, and to signify to search engine crawling bots what your key pieces of information are. There are two heading tags you should definitely include.

6. A H1 tag: A majority of the time, your blog post title will automatically be made a H1 tag by your content management system (CMS). However, it’s worth checking that this is the case. It should be noted that only the blog post title should be placed in H1 tags, and there should only be a single set of H1 tags on a sole page. This H1 tag should be the first thing on your webpage, and it should contain your keyword (as mentioned earlier, your keyword should be the first thing in your title, so it looks like you’ve got this bit covered anyway)!

7. Several H2 tags: The next choice down from a H1 tag is a H2 tag. In terms of formatting, it will have a larger font size than your standard text, but will be slightly smaller than a H1 tag. Unlike with H1 tags, you can use H2 tags several times, specifically by using them exclusively on your article subheadings (see point 3). Break up your post into light, readable sections, and signify the start of each with a relevant H2 subheading, informing the reader what the portion of the article is about.

Images

8. Multimedia: Firstly, you should include a good mix of images (of which we’ll tell you about optimising in the next points) and videos. The images can be relevant photography, infographics or screenshots, that make the content more engaging and high quality. This, and a relevant video placed somewhere in the post, can help to increase the time spent on your website and decrease the bounce rate, both of which can have great effect on your page ranking.

Multimedia SEO

9. Image alt-tags: It’s at this point a reminder of how search engines rank your website is needed. Google sends something known as spiders, robots or crawlers to your site, to ‘crawl’ the content and determine its relevance and quality. The result is what decides your search result rankings.

These robots can only read text though, so how do they tell Google what the images you use contain? For your images to make an impact on your ranking, you’ll have to provide a helping hand the to the crawlers, by adding an alt-tag. This is very easy to do, and should be a short description of what the image is. If possible, include your keyword in these too, but only if relevant.

10. File name: The file name of the image can also be viewed by site crawlers, so devising it with similar rules to those of alt-tags can be beneficial. It’s also another place you can put your keyword if it fits with relevance.

Other Key Factors

11. Lengthy content: You’ll have heard the phrase “quality over quantity”. Disregard it. Throw it away. Instead follow the rule that the longer your post is, the better, although that’s not to say it doesn’t still need to be good quality.

Writing small blog posts of a few hundred words won’t do anything to benefit your search engine rankings, even if high quality and on a regular basis. Writing long, good quality, unique, fresh content is probably the number one SEO ‘secret’ to good results. You should be aiming to get a minimum of 1000 words on every blog post, but if you’ve got the content, ideas and energy to continue typing until you reach double that, then don’t stop!

Not only is this length of content great for search engine crawlers, it’s also effective at increasing your dwell time. If the post is long and good quality, the amount of time a user stays on there will be greatly increased, telling Google it’s a high quality page that should be ranked higher.

12. LSI Keywords: Again, more keywords to include (boring, we know!). Rather than just using your main choice of keyword, you should also put a couple of “latent semantic indexing” keywords in there too.

To see some examples of the keywords you can try and fit into your post, do a quick Google search for your main keyword, and scroll to the bottom to see related searches. These are the LSI keywords you can choose from!

Using our earlier example of “cheap smartphones” again, we scrolled to the bottom to find extended versions of the keyword (cheap smartphones for sale) and actual examples of smartphones that could be included in the post (bush spira e3x).

Example of LSI Keywords and Related Searches on Google

13. Responsiveness: This isn’t something that you necessarily include on your page, but should be a part of your overall website design. Despite that, we’re going to include it anyway as it’s still a useful tip. On April 21st 2015, Google announced via its webmaster blog that it was starting to roll out a “mobile-friendly” update, stating that if sites didn’t use mobile-friendly websites on mobile search results, they’d have their rankings penalised.

Simply put, make it so your website looks great and has a strong, user-friendly experience, across all platforms.

14. Loading speed: Another one that sneaks onto the list, despite it not being something to include in a post. Again though, this is another key point. Google actively monitors your website’s page loading speed as an SEO ranking factor, as a slow-loading website often equals a poor user experience, therefore knocking it down the search results.

A recommended loading speed is four seconds maximum, but the internet speed of users greatly varies across the world. We’d suggest using Google’s “Pagespeed Insights” tool to find out what your speed score is: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

15. Social media: This doesn’t necessarily improve your SEO prospects, but has the potential to increase your traffic through sharing. Embedding relevant Facebook or Twitter posts into your page helps you out on the multimedia front, while adding social sharing buttons will encourage readers to push the post on their own channels.

How to improve website SEO

As mentioned earlier, SEO is quite a complex thing. There are hundreds of different tips from different people, all of which have different levels of effectiveness and longevity. Search engine algorithms are constantly changing, to suit the needs of changing technology, and to combat black hat SEO techniques. Above all, good quality content can go a long way, and backed by some optimisation, should see your website start to rank higher. Remember, it’s not enough practising these techniques on just one page – do it to all of them!

If you’re unsure about any of the SEO terms we’ve used in this guide, be sure to head over to our SEO Glossary to find out exactly what we’re talking about.

A week in the life of a Pixel Kicks Digital Content Creator

A typical week at Pixel Kicks can see anything thrown at you. Writing tasks on subjects we don’t know anything about, slightly obsessive Twitter stalkers… One time even a mars bar went hurtling across the office, only to land in a glass of water.

When you’re at a family party of some kind and you have some distant relative asking you what your job is, answering “Digital Content Creator” inevitably leads to more questions.

“A digital what now?” is usually cried, with a few obligatory splashes of second-hand Strongbow hitting your face.

It’s usually easier to say you’re a journalist, although last time I said that, I was accused of writing anti-Manchester United articles in the papers, by a well-meaning football fan.

So, just what is a digital content creator? Well, the simple answer – we create content of the digital kind. Still not clear enough? Well, here’s what we get up to in a typical week…

Monday

Last year, we spent a majority of our time writing articles for our One Direction fansite (OneDirection.net) and our up and coming music, TV and celebrity gossip site OnePopz.com. Back in those days, we regularly ran competitions, and towards the end of last year, an obsessed One Direction fan followed us all on Twitter and kept tweeting us all with “goodnight” messages and photos of dogs, in an attempt to win. She didn’t win.

However, the first Monday back after Christmas saw us leave a lot of the old jobs behind. After many embarrassing moments of telling people we write for a One Direction fansite, we could start saying we were marketing a new concert ticket website. And, unlike the “I’m a journalist” response, we wouldn’t actually be lying.

We sat down on Monday to discuss the year ahead, and a majority of our time is now spent on SuprTickets.com promotion, although we still write the odd One Direction story from time to time. You can NEVER completely forget about 1D.

Aside from our Monday morning meeting, the day was focused less on work and more on caffeine. We started off the new year with an exciting addition to the team, in the form of a new coffee machine.

Coffee machine

At the start of the day, we’d never previously ventured off the instant coffee we’d become used to. By the end of the day we’d lapped up a latte, marvelled at a mocha and concocted a cappuchino.

Our new years resolution for 2016 will be to curb the upcoming caffeine addiction.

Tuesday

Another day, another coffee. Well, three or four coffees. It was also the first full day where we didn’t completely focus on Harry, Niall, Liam, Louis and Zayn, and of course, we started to miss them.

This was the day that we were set to embark on promoting and marketing our new website. SuprTickets.com is a price comparison site for concert tickets, with a wide range of music and comedy stars available. Searching for who you want to see on stage brings up a list of their tour dates, and clicking through gives you a selection of prices that tickets are going for from different sellers.

SuprTickets on macbook

This means that there’s a lot of data that needs checking. Who ya gonna call? THE DIGITAL CONTENT CREATORS.

Instead of doing the promotion and marketing half of things, we spent most of our Tuesday going through tour dates and seeing if any were missing or wrong. The website is still in its early days, so there’s bound to be a few errors that need sorting. Mainly, we keep finding tour dates that don’t exist. For example, 5 Seconds Of Summer performing at London’s The O2 on 29th May, instead of their actual scheduled date at Dublin’s 3Arena, just because it used to be called The O2 as well. This is because technology in 2015 isn’t yet advanced enough to realise some venues can share a name but be in completely different locations, or at least our developer tells me it’s something he’s “working on”.

Checking data isn’t actually fun, but surely things would get even more exciting the next day?

Wednesday

Wednesday was another day of doing something different. Getting involved with another side of the company saw us setting up a new client’s SEO campaign. What does this consist of? Well…

*Geek mode on*

Firstly we have to set the new project up in our campaign software, and add the already researched keywords for tracking. We also check we’ve got access to Webmaster Tools & Google Analytics, as well as FTP, CMS, and any other logins we’ve specifically requested. Then we record the following metrics in one of our many spreadsheets – PageRank, MozRank, Domain Authority, Page Authority, before recording a variety of on-site information like loading speed, markup validation, CSS & Javascript minification, meta tag readability and more…

*Geek mode off*

In addition to the SEO work, we were then offered the chance to write an exciting SEO piece for one of our clients. I volunteered. The subject? Wireless FM hearing systems.

Phonak hearing aids

Suddenly, I was back at school, doing some panicky last minute revision before going into an exam. Only this time the revision was research on something I don’t know a thing about, and the exam was a 750 word ‘essay’.

In all seriousness, despite the topic not being something within my hobbies, it was still some good experience, and it was an interesting day of being out of the usual One Direction filled comfort zone.

Thursday

Back to SuprTickets work on Thursday, and the day began with some ignored attempts at contacting fan sites for artists who head off on tour soon. It would be useful teaming up with them to collaborate on some promotional projects, but they don’t all seem to check their emails, so let’s pass on that for now. Of course, guest blogging is still a hugely important part of any SEO campaign, so I scheduled a follow-up email for later in the week.

Also, in an attempt to increase our social presence, we set up an Instagram account. Of course, the annoying thing about Instagram is that you can’t upload any photos on a computer – it can only be done via the app on a smartphone or a tablet.

Therefore, we decided to use a team tablet, which of course has been branded with the SuprTickets colours.

Suprtickets logo on tablet

It’s been cool getting to do work based around artists of a slightly different genre than One Direction and the OnePopz usuals, instead getting to focus on Fleetwood Mac, Morrissey and the Foo Fighters, as well as writing a short article on the Beach Boys’ upcoming UK tour.

Friday

Friday is the day that most concert tickets go on sale, following recent tour announcements, so we usually spend the morning on Twitter. As well as tweeting about the tickets that are now available, we also look out for people who are sending tweets saying they can’t find seats at the gigs they want to go to. With a quick reply pushing them in the direction of our website, gaining us a click and a possible sale.

It’s also good to spend some time at the end of the week seeing if our work has proved successful. As well as using Google Analytics to see how much traffic the site had, and what pages users have been specifically browsing, we can also use an affiliate programme to see how much commission we’ve been earning, and what tickets have been sold with our help.

SuprTickets two monitors

Overall, a busy but exciting week, as we began to focus our efforts on making our new website a success. Things haven’t moved incredibly quickly, but it’s only the first week.

Now, we’ll get into a new routine, and before we know it, we could have something very big on our hands.

Is The Sharp Project one of the coolest places to work in the UK?

The Sharp Project campus

Some highlights of The Sharp Project

An office job isn’t as boring as it sounds. It’s not all pot plants and coffee. Although, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a pot plant, which seems to be at the end of its difficult life. And also saying there’s no coffee would be a big lie too. There’s enough to keep an office-wide caffeine addiction kerbed.

But no – it’s not always just suits, seriousness, charts and photocopying. Life in a modern office can be a lot of fun. We still face issues that you get in even the most boring of offices. Our printer regularly decides that it’s going to challenge us with another paper jam, and now and then you can come back from a brew round with your jeans splattered in milk and your head hung in shame, because the carton is a bit leaky. That’s actually happened by the way – we had milk squirting from both ends (of the carton, childish.).

However, the difference in working for Pixel Kicks comes in the location. We’re based at The Sharp Project, a converted warehouse in Newton Heath.

The Pixel Kicks team outside The Sharp Project

Glamorous, right? There’s nothing we love more than abandoned industrial buildings in the middle of council estates.

Ok, maybe we’re underselling it a little bit. The Sharp Project is actually an amazing place to work, and should be up there in the list of the coolest, most unique workplaces. One of the main examples that usually come to mind is Google HQ, where they’ve got slides and stuff. We don’t have slides (unfortunately), but for a place that is the home of many small, independant digital companies, The Sharp Project gives you a real big dose of the wow factor.

The campus at The Sharp Project

Sharp is home to businesses that range in areas from photography to SEO and web design (HELLO) to vegan shoes. But it’s not just a case of us all being neighbours who sometimes bump into each other in the carpark or a corridor; The Sharp Project is the home of a small community, who work together at every opportunity and meet up on a Friday to have a drink at the in-house bar (Yes, we have a bar. TAKE THAT GOOGLE!).

As well as digital businesses, there are also studios here which have been used to film shows such as ‘Fresh Meat’ and ‘Mount Pleasant’, and also recording studios which have been used by stars such as star of The Voice UK himself, will.i.am.

But what makes The Sharp Project cool?

One thing we really love about this place, is the fact it doesn’t forget its industrial roots. There’s no covering up of the fact that this used to be a warehouse. The old, well-worn floor is still visible, as are the original warehouse stairs and railings (believe me, we’ve checked the old photos). Adding to the industrial feel are a couple of rows of old shipping containers, which have been converted into some of the COOLEST OFFICES EVER.

What replaces the old Sharp Electronics storage space though? Well, in the centre of a square of offices is a large open working space known as The Campus. It’s the home of several freelancers, and also a good place to go and relax or discuss businessy stuff to get out of the office. There’s a canteen, a pool table, table football, and a very competitive area dedicated to table tennis. And of course a bar, which we think deserves a second mention. Because, bar.

Some Sharp Project members having a game of pool

But what happens in between the eating, drinking, playing and erm, working? Well, The Sharp Project is often home to some big events. Back before I started here, the entire Campus was transformed for the super-posh launch of the new Jaguar F-Type. Even if fancy cars aren’t your thing, there was champagne.

As well as launch events and big talks and stuff, there’s also more informal things organised by the businesses here. Probably one of the best examples is when we, along with several other companies, decided to hop onto the ‘Harlem Shake’ YouTube trend of the time. Once, looking as ‘normal’ as we could, and again with One Direction masks on, to attract the huge audience our site OneDirection.net receives.

In short, sitting in an office at The Sharp Project isn’t the same as sitting in an office anywhere else. In other places, the most exciting thing to happen might be a whip-round for someone’s birthday, or maybe getting a new fan for your desk in the summer. If there was just one word to describe Sharp, it’s: “different”. I mean, the toilets once got closed because Jack Whitehall was filming in them, for crying out loud #MyClaimToFame.

Google HQ may have bloody slides, but slides aren’t everything.

Although I wouldn’t say no if we were offered one. Hint, hint.

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Photo credit: The Sharp ProjectNeilson Reeves, Novalis Photography and Pixel Kicks.