Clever Marketing Relaunch & Rebrand

After weeks of analysis and research, soul-searching, hard toil, design and code, the Clever Marketing website has been relaunched with a fresh rebrand to accompany its overall new look and feel.

Since our inception as Clever Marketing in 2007, we’d kept alive the strong print aspect of our brand and identity for over 14 years. However, whilst we are still big players in the print and graphics world, our digital marketing and website development have long been our “bread and butter”; we eat, sleep and breathe digital, it’s in our DNA.

With the new rebrand and relaunch, we pay greater homage to our existence as a full-service digital marketing agency. We are still a digital marketing agency, but we are also much more than that. Being “full service” means that we do more than just Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Pay Per Click (PPC) and social media – we offer professional website hosting, support and maintenance. We provide professional web design and web development. You can still benefit from our graphic design, have digital brochures and print work. We have a legion of highly-experienced copywriters too, so you’ll always have the best words to inform, entertain and convert your customers.

What’s more, we’re still the Hampshire digital marketing agency, headquartered in Farnborough, but we’ve expanded our team and our offices too. You can now pop in and see us to discuss your digital projects in our new Berkshire and Surrey offices too.

Whatever your business is looking for, Clever Marketing are the number one full service digital marketing agency for the home counties and London. Whilst many agencies offer the similar services to us, we are the truly clever marketing agency. Our digital team are highly experienced and have long demonstrable histories of web success so we have every confidence that you’ll be delighted with the ROI we can demonstrate for your business.


Clever Marketing logo - full service digital marketing agency.Take the new site for a test-drive and feel free to send us your feedback.

If you’d like to take advantage of our clever marketing skills, then call us on 01276 534 680 or complete the easy contact form.

What’s So Important About Having A Blog? Hampshire SEO agency Clever Marketing discuss

Google Page Experience Update Expected in June 2021

Back in early May 2020 Google announced Core Web Vitals, a set of technical metrics for websites to gauge user experience. The launch was initially due to be in May 2021 but has now been put back to June 2021 (Official announcement at More time, tools, and details on the page experience update.)

The three Core Web Vitals are:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP).
  2. First Input Delay (FID).
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

In plain English these three metrics are measurements of:

  • Loading.
  • Interactivity.
  • Visual stability.

What these mean for your websites are that you need to make sure your websites load quickly, that they display consistently i.e. the content doesn’t “jump around” as the page loads, like you quite often see on websites with lots of content or ads, and that the user can interact with your webpage quickly.

The reason Google is doing this is because the user experience is key to their services and they want to deliver the very best websites in their search results. This will be part of Google’s Page Experience update and it will now be going live in June 2021 and not May as previously stated.

Why Should I Care About Page Experience?

If you run a website then Page Experience can affect how your website ranks in search.

If your pages load too slowly, there’s a delay in a user being able to click a button or the layout shifts as you load assets such as images, videos, ads etc. then this can negatively affect the user experience. The Core Web Vitals are measurements of this and will influence the Page Experience.

So it’s in every website owner’s interest to ensure their website is built well and performs well.

The problem: As an example, we were approached by a client in the financial services sector for our highly-regarded SEO services. The client’s homepage featured a huge animated GIF that was a whopping 5MB file size. That alone delayed the speed of the webpage by at least 8 seconds when users are expecting them to load in 2-3 seconds.

The Solution: We reduced the animated GIF down to a single-frame image and trimmed the file size down from 5MB to just 50k. The page is now visible in just over half a second, and fully loads with interactivity in 2.1 seconds. That’s nearly 4 times faster than it was previously and a whole 6 seconds faster. That’s quite a performance improvement.

How Do I Check Page Experience?

The 3x Core Web Vitals are the figures you will need to be looking at. You can do this via:

  • Google Search Console (GSC).
    This is Google’s toolkit that gives you data direct from Google search. Low traffic websites may not have enough data to show in GSC so you may not to then look at Lighthouse, PageSpeed Insights or the Chrome browser extension.
  • Google Lighthouse/Chrome browser dev tools.
    The Google Chrome web browser has a set of web developer tools that you can access by clicking f12. You can activate Lighthouse from here and run reports that will show a page’s Core Web Vitals.
  • PageSpeed Insights.
    Another Google developer tool, just visit PageSpeed Insights, enter your URL and analyse the results.
  • Chrome browser Extension.
    The Chrome browser has a handy Web Vitals extension. that you can add, run and analyse on every webpage you visit.

All these tools will help you to identify whether your website has issues that may be picked up in the forthcoming Page Experience update, so you need to make sure  your website is quick to load, display and interact with.

You should have already looked at fixing any site issues to do with core web vitals but you now until June to ensure your websites are performing well.


Clever Marketing - Hampshire SEO & Digital AgencyStuck with what to do to improve your Core Web Vitals and prepare for the impending Page Experience update?

Give us a shout, we have a team of experienced in-house web developers and technical SEO experts who can assist.

Call us on 01276 534 680 or complete the easy contact form.

Drive more sales with a chatbot

Marketing Automation – The Pathway to Success?

So… full disclosure, I’m a man of a certain age now and I’ll reluctantly admit to being a little less open to new ideas than I was when I first entered the world of marketing 25 years ago. That being said though unlike many “men of a certain age” I am willing to listen when people can give me a good case for a concept and that’s why, after some initial reluctance, I am now a HUGE fan of marketing automation, or at least what marketing automation has to offer when done well.

If there is one word to remember when looking at creating a marketing automation campaign its preparation. Like most things in life preparation is the key to success, and if you are able to resist the temptation take the quick and easy, Anakin Skywalker path then that up-front investment of time will pay dividends once your campaign goes live.

So, what exactly is marketing automation? To some it’s a labyrinthian solution, full of words like trigger, filter, action groups, workflows and personas. It’s a world where global companies use integrated systems like Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot and HubSpot and employ agencies to create vastly intricate and complex multi-channel campaigns that would confuse and bamboozle the mere mortals of SMB land.

It can be that of course but at its core marketing automation is a philosophy, a discipline that one understood can be employed to turn even the most basic of solutions into a powerful tool capable of uplifting your marketing and lead generation to previously unimagined heights.

The tool is secondary to the theory that drives it. Many, in fact most organisations that deploy one of the afore-mentioned solutions will ever scratch the surface of what its capable of simply due to the fact that they don’t fully understand the theory. Put a 10-year-old behind the wheel of car and they’ll get it moving, but they’ll only get it out of first gear once they understand how it works, and the same is true with marketing automation.

Creating an effective marketing automation campaign is about far more that creating set of emails or socials posts, its about communication… real communication with your audience. Its about helping you to understand them and allowing them to understand you in a way that deepens the engagement, shortens the sales cycle and increases the chances of repeat business.

The Philosophy

What is the secret to creating an effective marketing automation campaign? Empathy…. The ability to place yourself in the shoes of the person you want to engage with.

  • What do they want?
  • What are their pain points?
  • How are they likely to respond?
  • How often do you need to contact them?
  • What do you need to offer?

These are just a few of the potentially scores of things you need to consider when mapping out your customer journey and whilst its almost impossible to think of everything, taking time to consider these questions will enable you to create a campaign that will lead them on a path to deeper engagement.

This may sound more like a socio-psychological experiment rather than a solid marketing strategy but understanding the motivation of your audience is the only way to create an effective customer journey and ultimately a successful campaign.

Creating the Customer Journey

This is stage 2 of the marketing automation process, the part where you take your understanding of your audience and map out a journey that leads from the Zero point right through to transacting customer. How long this takes and how many steps you will need to create will depend entirely on who they are and what you are looking to sell.

Top Tip: Don’t shorten the journey or go for the big sell too early – Remember if you set up your journey well then they will come to you without you having to step in.

Whiteboard the journey and make sure you seek input from everyone able to offer insight. Survey your best customers and find out how they got to where they are. Identify the best channels and routes to market to ensure you deliver your message in the right way.

This will take time and will probably require you to rethink your journey several times before you arrive at the final version… Remember, preparation.

Creating the Campaign Assets

Once the map for your customer journey has been created then you need to start thinking about the assets. These are the signposts on your journey, the nudge in the right direction when your audience reaches a cross-roads or intersection. Some will go left, and some will go right depending on what asset is offered up at this point. Case studies, whitepapers, product spec sheets, emails, landing pages, videos… any and all of these assets needs to be strategically placed within your journey to reinforce your message and direct your audience to the single ultimate destination.

Make sure you create each of your assets to reflect the media they are being used for, whilst maintaining a single campaign identity and ensure that they all place a logical call to action or next step clearly visible.

Creating the Workflow

This is the part where you need to take your journey and campaign assets and create a workflow that will require the very least amount of human involvement to run.

Top Tip: Marketing automation systems, even REALLY expensive ones, are stupid. They will only do exactly what they are told to do, so watch out for closed loops, dead ends and cul-de-sacs.

A good workflow is one that has the minimum number of moving parts. The more complex it becomes the greater the chance it will contain errors or dead ends, so strip back what you can without impacting the journey.

Make sure time delays are in place, that emails are triggered correctly, that dynamic content is configured for the correct delimiting factors, but most of all test….. then test again and once you think everything is correct test one more time!

This will be the part where mistakes are most likely to happen so once again I’ll say the word preparation.

Summary

Marketing automation may sound scary but really its just the application of common sense combined with an understanding of the technology. It isn’t the reserve of corporates, far from it in fact as it is significantly more cost effective for SMBs when you use the right discipline and a system that offers just enough whistles and bells for your needs.

There are dozens of cloud-based solutions that won’t cost the earth to deploy and that offer more than enough functionality for all but the most demanding of requirements.


Clever Marketing - Hampshire SEO & Digital AgencyClever Marketing are fully invested in marketing automation as we believe it offers a pathway to success for our clients. We can create campaigns based on the process I have outlined above and will work with you to deliver true business development through effective marketing and a better return on investment from your marketing budget.

Call us on 01276 534 680 or complete the easy contact form.

Time to Go Full Digital

The Fall and Rise of Direct Mail 

For those of us old enough to remember what the world was like before the rise of the internet, we may have thought we’d seen the last of direct mail as a marketing medium, but it would appear that we may have been wrong in that assumption. Innovations such as QR & AR have breathed new life into direct mail as a communication channel by bridging the divide between the physical and the virtual, allowing marketing and creative professionals to express themselves in the way only a physical media can whilst maintaining the ability to track and analyse metrics.

Let’s start by rolling the clock back 30 years to 1991. Bryan Adams had claimed the number 1 spot on the music charts for what seemed like eternity. Right Said Fred were claiming to be “Too Sexy”. Bill & Ted were about to embark on their “Bogus Journey, Arnie was promising us he’d be back as Terminator again, and the world was introduced to Sonic the Hedgehog for the very first time. These were a few of the things diverting our attention away from world changing events such as the Gulf War and dissolution of the Soviet Bloc as we wondered what the new decade would bring us.

The internet wasn’t new of course, not even back in 1991, but it had yet to weave its way into every facet of our lives as it has now and was almost still consigned to the realms of interesting technological curiosity. It was also the time when direct mail was the channel djour, and marketing was far more art than the science it is today.

Over the course of the next 10 years the internet became ubiquitous and changed the way we lived and worked forever, and direct mail was gradually replaced by new and exciting forms of media that offered all manner of ways to track interactions, profile media consumption trends and promote marketing from “glitter and glue” to a foundational pillar of an organisations business strategy.

I’ll be honest, I was convinced that direct mail was a thing of the past, something we would look back on through rose-tinted specs with a hint of nostalgia whilst conveniently forgetting the pain of fighting with mail-merges, the endless paper cuts of envelope stuffing and the mountains of return envelopes. Then came QR/AR and direct mail was re-born.

What is QR?

We’ve all seen Quick Response (QR) codes recently of course as part of the Governments NHS Track & Trace system. The black and white box of pixels we scan with our phone to tell the powers that be where we were and when. It may feel little like big brother, but your opinion of the politics notwithstanding the technology is now a tried and tested way of driving traffic from a physical media to a digital world.

What is AR?

Augmented Reality. Still underutilised as a marketing tool in my opinion and possibly at the stage where the internet was back in 1991, AR allows us to view digital assets in the real world. The most recognisable incarnation is Pokémon Go, the craze that swept the world a few years back and, if the rumours are to be believed, led to more than a few people walking off cliffs as they tried to “catch ‘em all”.

Once again, QR & AR are not new technology and whilst these technologies are radically different, they also have one thing in common, they enable marketeers to use printed assets to trigger a digital journey… That’s huge!

Billboards, posters, on the page adverts, business cards, flyers and yes direct mail campaigns are all back on the menu with the added bonus of delivering the same data and analytics capability that made digital marketing the powerful tool is today.

The possibilities for creative minds are exponentially larger than they have ever been as campaigns cross the divide between the physical and virtual and it is the job of marketing professionals to develop new and innovative ways of making the experience as immersive for the recipient and effective for the advertiser as possible.

We’re just starting to see the use of AR enter mainstream advertising, but it requires specialised apps to work effectively and that is limiting effectiveness right now. QR on the other hand is a proven technology that only needs the camera built into every smartphone made in last 10 years, so for today QR is the route to take when looking at direct mail.


Clever Marketing - Hampshire SEO & Digital AgencyThe Clever Marketing team were there when direct mail ruled the waves and, whilst we have become experts in digital marketing over the years, we’re also not blind to the potential that the direct mail/QR partnership has to offer. So come and speak to us today to discover how to include these elements into your digital marketing strategy. 

 Call us on 01276 534 680 or complete our easy contact form.

 

 

 

Recipeasly. We're Sorry.

Recipeasly: A Lesson in Digital Disruption

“Digital disruption” has been a popular topic in recent years with technically-savvy businesses looking to use digital technology to change the status quo.

But what exactly is digital disruption?

In a nutshell, digital disruption is a change or transformation, brought about by innovative digital technologies, that impacts existing business models.

A clear example of innovative technology that has caused digital disruption is the ride-hailing service Uber. The traditional method of grabbing a cab has always been to make a phone call to the taxi company. How people got that number in the first place could be anything from a business card pinned by a phone to a look in the telephone directory, usually online these days.

What Uber did was to centralise the whole ride-hailing business into an app. Mobile phone users simply downloaded the app, hailed a ride, and Uber’s network of owner-drivers would be alerted to a nearby fair.

Of course, that’s the digital side of the concept. The disruption part came from traditional taxi firms being “undercut” as Uber used self-employed drivers, often unlicensed, thereby reducing its own financial responsibilities and placing them on the drivers. This cost saving was passed on to the customer who could get a cab cheaper on the Uber app.

What about Recipeasly? What have they done?

On Sunday 28th February 2021, Twitter user Tom Redman, posted:


From this tweet we can surmise that the Toronto tech innovator and his companions had identified what they thought was a problem – the internet is full of recipes but they didn’t like any “fluff”.

One business model on the internet for nearly twenty years has been to monetise popular content. If, for example, you run a popular website dedicated to a single model of car, then you can monetise your site by showing ads for specialist car insurance and include affiliate links for visitors to buy car manuals. Not only are you providing value for your website visitors but you are also earning a little commission or an advertiser fee for your time.

Add to this a little story-telling and you personalise the experience. Visitors to your car website can see your passion and your experience. They get to know you and build a rapport, you connect with your visitors and you build a relationship. Building a fan base is extremely valuable, as even on a personal level, you are building a brand.

Tom Redman, and his Recipeasly team mates, saw a benefit to being able to both curate this content but also to remove the ads and “cut the chat”.

Being from an engineering background and now being in digital, we see the merit of “more signal, less noise”. However, from a moral and ethical standpoint, taking someone else’s content, “curating” it and stripping away their opportunity to earn revenue and build an audience has been removed.

Additionally, there’s a potential legal aspect here with the possibility of one party “trading off” the other. [We had this just yesterday where a rogue web design business was passing off one of our logo designs as their work – Ed]

After making the announcement, the feedback came rolling in. Some of it was positive, with some commenters agreeing with the methodology, highlighting that some recipe blogs are propped up by an overabundance of ads. [Core Web Vitals, Page Experience Ranking and the Cumulative Layout Shift may soon put the dampeners on that – Ed]

However, other comments did highlight the fact that food writers and recipe bloggers were being done a disservice from having their content curated on someone else’s aggregate feed.

Redman did clearly say in the comments of his post that they had no intention of monetising the curation of content on Recipeasly. However, the model of offering something for free and then later charging for it is something we’re currently seeing with LastPass and their free account being payable from March 16th – Many users are dropping the password management tool and moving to other free alternatives like BitWarden.

But we digress…

Despite the intention to digitally disrupt, the model looks very similar to what Google have done with their search results; featured snippets are the content taken from websites to fulfil a searcher’s need and displayed in the Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) so that users don’t need to go any further unless they really need to. Google does “credit” the resulting featured snippet with a link to the originating website. No wonder organic traffic has been going down foe the past few years.

Listening to all the “strong feedback”, the Recipeasly.com website was swiftly taken down. In a follow-up post on the 1st March, Redman said:

The digital disruptors listened to the community feedback and, with great humility, removed the “offending article” or rather, the whole of the Recipeasly website, txt files, XML sitemap and all!

[UPDATE]: The team at recipeasly.com have replaced their site with the following message…

“We’re sorry
We have nothing but respect and admiration for the time, money and effort that go into creating great recipes & websites. We don’t want to minimize the results for all that hard work.

We realize we’re not demonstrating the huge respect we have for recipe creators. We missed the mark big time today and we’re sorry.

Given the feedback, we are taking recipeasly.com down as we re-examine our impact. We commit to making changes where we have fallen short.”

This was a strong lesson in what can and sometimes does happen in the world of digital disruption. What seemed to be a very genuine attempt to make a positive impact on the digital landscape actually tipped toward being the opposite.

Tom Redman did however take a very positive response to the feedback, particularly the negative feedback. As a Public Relations (PR) activity, what seems to be totally disastrous for the Recipeasly concept may in future have a sliver lining…

What will they come up with next to appease the concerns of the community yet still deliver a game-changing service?


Clever Marketing - Hampshire SEO & Digital AgencyClever Marketing is a digital marketing agency in Hampshire who have the experience and the skills to improve your website. From website design and development to SEO, PPC and social media, we improve your visibility, increase your traffic and generate more leads.

Call us on 01276 534 680 or fill in the friendly contact form.

Kennedys Claims Handlers Guide.

Print Design for Claims Handlers Guide

After a few challenging but fruitful months, Clever Marketing are proud to see the launch of the latest Kennedys’ Claims Handlers Guide.

Kennedys is a global law firm, specialising in litigation and dispute resolution and advisory services, particularly defending insurance and liability claims.

This complex area of law is supported by Kennedys’ popular guide for claims handlers, aptly titled “Claims Handling Law and Practice: A Practitioner’s Guide”.

Now in its 4th edition, the “claims handling guide” is an invaluable tool for claims handlers. In light of the ongoing pandemic, which has forced constant challenges on the industry, the fourth edition has been expanded to include new chapters on key emerging issues such as cyber, intelligence/desktop investigations and international arbitration.

An Indispensable Resource for Claims Handlers

Kennedys’ guide contains invaluable information from leading experts in their UK and Ireland offices. The guide offers advice on tactics and best practice based upon Kennedys’ extensive expertise in claims handling.

Furthermore,  the guide offers practical hints and tips in a clear and concise style, applicable to all key areas of claims handling.

This invaluable resource can be used for everyday reference as well as problem solving and business strategy. The aim of this tome is to help readers become more reliant from, rather than more reliant on, their lawyers.

Published in two volumes, Clever Marketing designed, typeset and printed the Kennedys’ guide.

Speaking about the new forth edition, one Claims Operation Manager for a global insurer said:

“Kennedys’ Claims Handling guide meets the challenge of communicating complex points of law in the most simple way. It’s an excellently reliable resource for day to day claims handling across multiple disciplines and is still, without fail, my ‘go to’ book to keep abreast of the latest legal practice.”

You can purchase your copy of “Claims Handling Law and Practice: A Practitioner’s Guide” from Amazon right now.


Clever Marketing - Hampshire SEO & Digital AgencyClever Marketing are a full service digital marketing agency meaning that, besides our excellent SEO, PPC and social media services, we can support your business with print design, graphic design and typesetting, as the latest Kennedys print publication clearly shows.

For your full service agency experience, make the first step and call us now on 01276 534 680.

Clever Collaboration: Digital Marketing Agencies and Clients

Optimising Mega Menus for SEO: Digital Marketing Masterclass

Every day our digital marketing agency conducts work for clients to make their websites more successful.

There are a great many things that we do, with overarching areas being web design, web development, graphic design, and all the digital marketing disciplines such as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Pay Per Click (PPC) and social media activity.

We also conduct in-depth audits and analyses of our customers’ websites and deep-dive into some really fascinating aspects that affect their sites’ performance.

One such focus recently was the effect of a “Mega Menu” on a particular site’s speed and functionality.

What is a Mega Menu?

A Mega Menu is a type of website navigation system with drop-downs that expand upon hover or click. The expanded menu options give users deeper links into the website, especially for those sites with large volumes of rich content.

Mega Menus are a great way to help visitors get to granular content quickly.

As an example;

The BBC has it’s main navigation in the “masthead”, and when you click on Sport you are directed to a new page, the main index page of the Sport section, with the Sport sub-navigation.

If you then click on the Football sub-section, you are directed to a further level of navigation, with all the key sections of the Football section of the BBC Sport website.

BBC Sport menu system.

This is quite a static Mega Menu and for good reason. Each sub menu loads in context so that users have a clear pathway within the area they have chosen to navigate. The BBC have made sure that no irrelevant links are loaded, so the user experience is optimal and the server/browser are not burdened with extraneous code.

Another common mega menu is the sort you’ll see at B&Q on their diy.com domain. It’s more immediately dynamic than the Beeb’s menu so users can instantly see deep into departments and sections. However, it does load “everything everywhere” which is both very useful but also a technical overhead.

 B&Q mega menu system,

The Disadvantages of Mega Menus

Whilst these extensive menu systems are useful for greatly improving the User eXperience (UX), there can be downsides.

The more features and functions you try to leverage from your web page, the more lines of HTML you will need to deliver the vast mega menu. Additional code adds “overhead” and can slow down your webpages with extra “calls” to plugins and additional scripts that need to be loaded to deliver the menu functionality.

On top of that, you’re adding more links to your code and so, when a crawler like GoogleBot comes along to read your site and see what’s important, you’re sending these bots to lots of other pages rather than just a slim menu and your primary content. This can affect your “crawl budget”, slow down the bots, affecting the accurate indexing and positive ranking of your web pages.

Another thing to bear in mind is that your menu system is a good indication of which pages you think are important to your business and/or your users. Google understands this and takes the menu links as signals for the importance of these linked pages. In Google Search Console there’s a useful tool “Links” which shows both the external links and internal link structure of your website. The internal link report shows your “Top internally linked pages” and your menu system plays a huge part in this.

Naturally, your home page should have the most internal links. Then look at your report drilldown – what else is in there? Can you see all your top pages? Are all your most important pages visible there? Have you listed your most profitable services, the ones you want to rank more highly for?

A Menu System Case Study

One of our digital marketing clients once had a previous web design firm build a huge mega menu built for their website. It replaced a relatively simple menu system and was just one of a number of factors that had an immediate and detrimental effect on their search results.

First, we helped them avoid a major catastrophe after they initially followed some poor advice from their previous consultants and we saved their top content from going behind a paywall. That would have seen their rankings and traffic fall by an instant 25% as their most popular articles would have not been indexable by the search engines.

Other issues included their previous web design consultants completely rebuilding the website from scratch and losing all previous URLs, title tags and meta descriptions. The historic link wquity was immediately lost. There was also a very heavy and clunky WordPress theme used which wasn’t efficient. Also, the UX of the site was ill-thought out as each page was filled with lots of irrelevant functions [That’s a story for another blog post – Ed.]

This mega menu system though – it arranged the client’s professional services into two distinct sections. These were then split into a further half dozen sub-sections and each of these sub-sections was filled with up to twenty internal links.

So there was the potential for as many as 240 links in their menu system and all the code wrapped around each link. We think this was excessive and unnecessary.

As part of our digital marketing retainer, we regularly conduct SEO on their website every month, spending many hours making fixes, everything from “quick wins” and “low hanging fruit” to more technical SEO challenges like assessing their menu system and making these sort of changes.

The client has a fast Google Cloud based hosting solution so the site with its mega menu system should be fast. Their site could be fast but is being impaired by the weight of their menu system. We’re in the process of refreshing it right now and will report back when we have the final results.

Audit Your Menu System

To audit a web page, use the Google Chrome browser and open an “incognito window”, a private tab. This strips any extensions your browser may be using and these can affect your reporting. Then visit the page you wish to inspect and use the Google Lighthouse tool built into your Chrome browser. Click f-12 and run a report against mobile or desktop versions of the page in question, or both.

What you need to look for is any flags that there is an “excessive DOM”.

DOM is the Document Object Model and, as we mentioned earlier, the sheer volume of links and code in a menu system can create an excessive DOM.

A large DOM tree can slow down your page performance by unnecessarily increasing data loads across the network to your device. Once the slow page and all its code is loaded, your device needs to render and re-render the pages as you scroll and interact. And thirdly, your device’ memory will be taken up by these large pages, impairing performance yet again.

So you need to aim to have as small a DOM as possible. Google’s Lighthouse tool flags up warnings when your DOM is in excess of 1,500 nodes.

You can see from the data below that our client’s DOM was well over the 1,500 mark and the code behind their homepage was delivered through 1, 643 elements.

This isn’t the only problem with their page but overall, it affected their performance and, on mobile, it scores a lowly 21 out of 100.

Other figures that stand out are the First Contentful Paint (FCP) figure of 3.5 seconds – a mobile user will be waiting up to that time before they even see anything on the screen (And pages should load in 2-3 seconds, right?). Then there’s the Time To Interactive (TTI) off nearly 21 seconds – Users on mobile devices have to wait that long before they can even interact with the web page! That is far too long and may not just be the menu system but also indicative of other issues such as the WordPress theme, plugins etc. These can all affect page load times.

Mega menu DOM size excessive.

Looking at the rendered HTML both with and without the megamenu:

  1. HTML with megamenu – 244Kb.
  2. HTML without megamenu – 183 Kb.

That’s a 75% reduction in code alone. Of course, this isn’t a perfect example, as we simply stripped ALL the mega menu code and we would need a menu of some sorts. But this does indicate how much a mega menu takes up of your valuable code base – a quarter of it in this particular example.

Next we took a look at the URLs in the menu system. Looking at just one sub-section, there were 14 links and link text. We compared the links with their traffic and ranked the subjects in order of popularity and the number of visits.

We used Google Analytics and the report Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages.

This gave us a page URL by popularity report which we exported to a spreadsheet for further clean-up and analysis.

We then pulled out the pages listed in the menu system, ordered them by the number of page views and then had a much clearer view. Pages deemed important enough to be in the menu system had some interesting results:

Menu items by popularity and results.

Firstly, these were not the most popular pages in the site by any means. Of nearly 1,300 pages this particular menu section started with #29 and finished on #307.

The most popular page in this section of the menu system had 401 page views, followed quickly by 248 and then dropping off rapidly until the last page had just 13 page views.

The question to ask here is – if the least popular pages are signposted and accessible from elsewhere in the website, why do they afford the importance of being in the main menu system alongside far more important resources?

Looking again at this subsection, the top 5 subjects had traffic in the treble digits. We would need to have a think about removing the subjects and links with just double digits. So there may be another round of work once we’ve finished the task in hand.

Culling the Menu Links

In this sub-section alone we removed the last 4 links in the list, the ones that had the least visits.

Saving the menu system, we refreshed the web page, re-ran the Google Lighthouse report and saw the following improvement:

DOM 1631 Performance 24.

Compared to the previous test, we can see that the performance has improved from 21 to 24 and the excessive DOM, whilst it still persists, has reduced from 1,643 elements to 1,631.

Removing 4 menu items that were not particularly popular has reduced each item by 3 DOM nodes. So to get to the magical barrier of under 1,500 we need to look at removing another 43 menu items.

On mobile, these changes have reduced the “Time to interactive” by 4 seconds, but there is still a long way to go before this particular web page really flies – 16 seconds is still too much time to wait before you’re able to interact with a web page on a mobile device, so we will continue to work on this issue whilst you continue reading…

End Note

The effect of this little technical SEO exercise has made some improvements to the Document Object Model and given us a slight performance boost.

If we continue to analyse and optimise the meu system, we’ll have a faster, more efficient and more useful experience for the users.

To help users find the more obscure pages in your website, make sure there’s an HTML sitemap, you can usually auto-generate these and place a link in the footer of each page. Additionally, make your site search box prominent, that’s good for UX.

And a last note, we’re retroactively working on a website that probably shouldn’t have been built like this in the first place. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but using an agency with experts who have a great many years of experience can guard against the issues this misguided design threw up.

In our menu examples at the start of this article, we listed the BBC’s menu system which only loads the relevant sub-menus when you land on the appropriate pages. Their information architecture and web development teams have created a structure that is both efficient and effective. You don’t have to load irrelevant sub-menus and links on sections of the site where they’re not needed.

Also, the BBC and B&Q are large multinational and national organisations with budgets to match. These big businesses can afford top-drawer teams of web developers and enterprise-level hosting solutions. SMEs are limited by their internal teams and knowledge of available solutions.

That’s where we come in, your local digital marketing agency. We will give you the best solutions suited to your budget and help you to punch well above your weight.


Clever Marketing - Hampshire SEO & Digital AgencyIs your site slow? Does it impair your rankings in the search engines? Got some technical SEO issues you need fixing?

Speak with Clever Marketing, your trusted partner in digital. Call 01276 534 680 or complete the easy contact form.

 

Landing Page Design - Good advice from Clever Marketing, design and digital agency in Surrey

Our Digital Agency: Your Strategic Partner

Running your business’ website, there are always a million and one things to do;

• Research, create and add fresh new content.
• Revise and refresh existing articles.
• Keep your web hosting full functioning.
• Ensure your secure certificates (SSL) are up-to-date.
• Update your website CMS’ core software and plugins for maintenance and security.
• Monitor the speed and performance of your web pages.
• Make all the SEO/SEM tweaks to give your site a boost in the search engine rankings.
• etc. etc. ad infinitum.

Depending on the size of your business and the level of resources available to you, this can be a lot to do, especially if your website maintenance department has a head count of one.

We’ve been there, oh yes; we’ve been the IT department, sysadmin, the graphic designer, the researcher, the news desk, the blogger, the consultant, the digital marketer and the social media section all at the same time.

It is challenging to have to be relied on to have the sole responsibility for so many moving parts; rewarding but challenging. Alongside the stresses of spinning so many plates, there’s the major challenge of being able to adequately “do your job” in so many diverse fields of expertise.

We’ve seen staff from diverse departments and with wildly differing skill sets all contributing towards the business’ success wherever they can.

The most incredible and intense circumstances are those in the smallest of businesses, the micro businesses, the one-man bands, the sole traders. They have skills in their chosen specialist subject, but have had to turn their hand to manage all this “web stuff”. And we totally understand, it can be a lot to take onboard.

We’ve seen it all, and it’s absolutely not an idle boast, far from it, it’s a reality which many businesses, large and small, have to deal with every single day.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, business and the quality of life can be so much better.

Help is available, there are digital agencies who can be your fairy godmother, your caped crusader… hint, hint.

Trust Clever Marketing to be Your Strategic Partner.

Clever Marketing are a valued strategic partner in the same vein as Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive or Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard.

We’re your sidekick, your mate, we watch your back, look after the things you don’t have time to focus on.

In fact, we’re more like your Alfred Pennyworth, butler to your firm, loyally and dutifully attending to all your digital marketing needs and delivering when you need us most.

The beauty of partnering with our digital agency is thus:

  1. Cost Control: Depending on how much you need from us, we can cost less than the price of a full-time employee. Definitely less than a contractor. We diligently work toward your success and expect no more than remuneration for our time and our expertise. You can use our vast array of digital skills on a per-project basis, anything from a few hours to a few weeks or months. Or you can secure our services on the monthly retainer, ensuring that you have our undivided attention for months or years in advance.
  2. Rich Pool of Talent: Multi-talented people are the exception rather than the norm. There are numerous SEO experts, PPC consultants, website developers and content managers, but finding all those skills in one individual can prove to be like looking for unicorns. The polymath is a rarity these days. However, partnering with us, you’ll have access to a pool of ALL those talents in our team of experts.
  3. Dynamism: You can dynamically vary your dependence on our experts on a regular basis. We can focus on keyword research one month, redesign your website the next, then launch your web project and conduct initial SEO before embarking upon a long-term content marketing and PPC campaign management with a long-term digital marketing strategy that we guarantee will get you quality results. We totally believe in and live by delivering top-drawer ROI.

These are all really good reasons to take on a local digital marketing agency to be your new trusted partner. We really do work in partnership with you; we talk shop, get to know your vision, we understand your raison d’etre and work with you to achieve your business and marketing goals.

That’s the reason why we’re in business, still booming and eager to show off our talents.


Clever Marketing - Hampshire Digital AgencyClever Marketing are more than just a digital marketing agency. We’re your  strategic partner, working as part of your team from conception to delivery and onto the next success with you.

Call us on 01276 534 680 to secure our full suite of services, you’ll be very glad that you did.

Google Mobile-first indexing

2020 A Year in Digital

Agency life is challenging. However, rising to these challenges is why we love to do it.

It’s a dynamic industry where we continually have reasons to learn, evolve and succeed for our clients even with our great many years of digital expertise.

2020 has been especially challenging for one big obvious reason…

The Coronavirus

Yes, the elephant in every room all over the world, the novel coronavirus, designated COVID-19 was the most disruptive issue of the year.

This particular coronavirus variant spread globally and has caused an ongoing pandemic, affecting life at every level from the personal to global institutions.

COVID’s waves of influence touched the digital world too. Firstly, and most obviously, searches for coronavirus information increased massively. In December 2019 the were hardly any searches for the term. However, by the 29th of December, searches started to increase. By March 2020 search volumes were at their peak as people across the world sought information.

Coronavirus was the most searched term of 2020, as noted in Google’s year in search results earlier this month. Our clients nearly all benefited from traffic for COVID related searches. One of the first things we did for all website owners was to help them with their messaging, informing visitors of their business continuity during the pandemic and providing the correct signposting.

Other clients were able to provide specific advice on the subject, relaying business and legal information to search audiences in their fields of expertise.

For us as a digital marketing agency, we were directly affected too, especially with having to all work at home. The great positive of having to work from home was that it accelerated the adoption of all our collaborative tools. You know all the stories about the incredible boom in Zoom meetings. For our business we all rejoiced in the new world of Microsoft Teams.

The pandemic affected other digital agencies too. We had applications from their former staff, we saw them suddenly and very publicly drop prices in attempts to win new business.

Some businesses folded, both digital companies and their clients. Some firms decided not to take on new recruits, others cut back, some furloughed workers. We saw the affect on search as people looked online for answers and solutions to every aspect of life affected by the pandemic.

COVID-19 certainly changed the world in 2020.

SERPs Updates

Staying with the subject, as well as the explosion in searches for the new virus, the nature of search presentation changed too.

To cater for the public information service, Google’s results pages became far more focused on providing the most relevant COVID-19 data.

”Fake news” became a real problem too, affecting search as misinformation gained greater visibility. The search engines provided public duty by furnishing the results with only the best, most accurate and reputable sources. This was surely the best example of strictly following their owner Quality Raters’ Guidelines and flexing their E-A-T muscle, showing primarily results from sources with Expertise, Authority and Trust.

With scientific advice from medical experts being to wear a mask then that was the sort of trustworthy, peer-reviewed information that needed to be shared. Positive and life-saving knowledge was more important than opinion.

Now Google provides significant news stories and valuable resources on statistics, testing and health information with national and local health authorities providing trustworthy resources.

Social Media

With social media being such a powerful tool, the good, and the not quite so good, all continued to show their faces in 2020.

On the plus side, Black Lives Matter came to the world’s attention, putting racial equality firmly on the table, people shared jokes about lockdown, Joe Wicks became an internet phenomenon for his daily exercise classes for lockdown kids and the NHS received tons of love and appreciation from a grateful and supportive British public.

However, false information thrived with Donald Trump saying injecting disinfectant could fight the coronavirus, as well as throwing tantrums about losing the election.  You’d expect better from a 74 year old, but then this is the person who likes to shout “fake news” at channels he disagrees with before spouting his own divisive and toxic mistruths.

Twitter did a good job of starting to label false and misleading information as such:

There were also permanent Twitter bans for the likes of hate speech promoter Katie Hopkins, conspiracy theorist David Icke and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, amongst others.

Google Core Updates

We had a few Google broad core updates this year, all now following a logical naming convention as Google took ownership of correctly labelling these algorithm changes.

In the past we’ve had the SEO community and high profile SEO experts give names to updates; Hilltop, Hummingbird, Penguin, Panda, Pigeon and Caffeine were prominent early names. But latterly we’ve had more obtuse versions like Medic and Maccabees. Luckily the Mountain View search giant has called them easy to remember names like January 2020 Core Update and August 2020 Core Update – so much more logical and obviously less abstract.

As always, these core updates generate lots of chatter in the Search Engine Marketing (SEM) communities with the usual talk of how they may have benefited or otherwise affected rankings and search traffic. As disclaimers always say, results can go up as well as down. Google tends not to say what exactly will be affected by its updates, why or even how businesses should work with these core updates. This is probably to avoid webmasters gaming the system.

Ultimately, we understand that Google is continually trying to improve search results for its users and so, as digital marketing experts, we’re happy go along with these adjustments, whatever they are. The best advice is always to create websites that are the best user experiences, that your content fulfils their needs, and Google RankBrain likes natural language, so write for people first and leave the SEO consultants to boost this copy for the search engines.

Core Web Vitals

Back in May, Google announced that it would start measuring user experience using a simplified set of metrics it called Core Web Vitals.

Previously, in Google Lighthouse, the engine that measures web page performance, there were numerous metrics that website owners needed to keep a close eye on. These included First Paint, First Meaningful Paint, First Contentful Paint, Time To Interactive etc.

Google decided to simplify the signals it uses to gauge user experience and settled on three core metrics, the new Core Web Vitals;

  1. Loading.
  2. Interactivity.
  3. Visual stability.

However, from a more technical standpoint, these are better known as:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP).
  2. First Input Delay (FID).
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

Further to this development within a month, on the 29th May, Google said it would use core web vitals as signals for users’ page experience ranking.

Google has also said that sites on mobile which focus on these core web vitals will be able to perform well against AMP websites (Accelerated Mobile Pages). Reading between the lines, we think that AMP may be less of a competitive edge for websites over the next few years and we believe that it could be phased out or no longer supported from a particular date. This is very similar to the WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) websites that we had to build back in the late 1990s/early 2000s.

Working From Home

We mentioned working from home earlier, as part of the early disruption most businesses felt during the lockdown to protect public health from the coronavirus. However, working from home (WFH) was a key aspect of digital marketing in 2020.

Initially it was quite a shock, especially for our design team who are desk-bound and work from their professional Apple Macs. However, after the move, the team adapted really quickly. There were, of course, immediate concerns for people’s health and wellbeing. As a tight-knit team, we thoroughly enjoy working with each other, so it was quite a wrench to be all working remotely. The office and studio buzz disappeared and we all had to adjust to the new way of working.

On the plus sides, we adopted the tools rapidly and became well-versed in the use of MS Teams, keeping in touch regularly via chat and conference calls. The team kept an eye on each other, and we ensured our quality of work was maintained, keeping in close contact with our clients and continuing to provide the same level of excellence our customers have come to expect.

The only downside to the first period of lockdown was for the single parents in our team who had to home school and entertain their children whilst trying to work a full week – that was a real challenge.

The Rise and Rise of Online Shopping

With the initial pre-warning of an imminent lockdown, stories abounded of panic buying amongst the British public, mainly pasta, tuna and toilet roll, with many empty supermarket shelves across the country. Then once lockdown began, in March 2020, UK residents took to online shopping to fulfil their needs. The first three weeks of lockdown had zero free slots for supermarket deliveries, so those with empty cupboards and no chance of a delivery had to chance the open stores. But soon the big stores increased their delivery capacity to be able to serve the country’s online ordering habits as best they could.

Turning online for our groceries, essentials and even luxuries, ecommerce took over where traditional bricks and mortar retailers were unable to operate. The downside was that businesses unable to have an online model were instantly disadvantaged. Pubs and restaurants rely on footfall so were immediately hit by the new reality.

Where traders could supply booze delivery, garden products and DIY sundries, online activity boomed. Faced with the lack of real-world options, the nation went digital to feed its needs.

The Outlook for Digital in 2021?

We will all be working from home a lot more again, buying and selling online ever more, so usable websites and ecommerce SEO with online shopping strategies will be key.

We know that Core Web Vitals will be so important with User Experience Ranking coming to the fore in the first half of the year. So website owners need to focus on creating faster, more stable websites that run perfectly on mobile then desktop too.

Voice search should continue to rise as smart speakers continue to gain popularity in households. Businesses and website managers must continue to create rich content for their audiences, trying not to focus on mere keywords but fulfilling the intent of businesses and consumers.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will continue to play a subtle part in our work, from powering chatbots to filtering the best data in our keyword strategies.

But overall, 2021 will be a year when digital really drives progress, stabilising life in the online realm as more and more we rely on search, ads and social to find digital solutions to all our questions.


Clever Marketing - Hampshire SEO & Digital AgencyLooking to go more digital in 2021? We are experts in web design and development, conversion rate optimisation, SEO, PPC and paid social. We’ll build you a website that gets you noticed, converts visits into leads and performs as a website should.

Give us a call on 01276 534 680 or simply fill in the form and we’ll be happy to discuss taking your web project to the next level and beyond.

Digital Marketing Ninjas, Gurus and Rock Stars

Have you ever seen a digital agency use peculiar language when referring to their own skillsets?

Ever read about web developers calling themselves coding ninjas?

Or how about those website designers saying that they’re rock stars?

Well, it’s not quite as prevalent these days as it used to be, but once upon a time it was pretty common. Some in the industry used these odd self-titles to differentiate themselves, but then it became common and eventually, a bit of a joke.

But actually, it was never particularly funny.

There was once a tweet, that I cannot for the life of me find, but it went along the lines of:

“Dear fellow creatives; please stop calling yourselves, ninjas, rock stars and gurus, you’re making us all look like tw*ts!”

Totally agreed.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary definition, a ninja is:

“A person skilled in the Japanese art of ninjutsu.”

Ninjutsu is:

“The traditional Japanese art of stealth, camouflage, and sabotage, developed in feudal times for espionage and now practised as a martial art.”

From these definitions, I’m not sure what form of black-masked subterfuge is relevant to digital marketing, web development or graphic design.

As for being a “Rockstar”, singing, playing the guitar/bass/drums/keyboard and touring the globe with a drug habit and an entourage of groupies is nothing I’m familiar with in my twenty years in the digital profession.

It’s similar for the moniker “guru”. It actually means a “Hindu spiritual teacher” which I don’t think many creative in the UK can genuinely purport to being, correct me if I’m wrong please. However, there is a more modern definition in the OED which states:

“An influential teacher or popular expert.”

Again, I could be wildly incorrect here, but how many self-styled gurus fit the description? If I were an influential teacher, I’d modestly duck out of bearing that sign. As for popular or expert, again, humility dictates that something more unassuming is appropriate. Are you a guru? Have you presented a TED talk?

Digital Marketing Experts: The 10,000 Hour Rule

One thing I will say about being an expert though, is that there is a formula for that. There’s also a formula for “the perfect bacon sandwich”, but I digress…

Back in 2008 the journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell wrote his book Outliers. The Story of Success.

Examining the factors that contribute to success, Gladwell proposed that expertise arises from experience and repetition. Studying successful people, from hockey teams to Bill Gates to The Beatles, Gladwell claimed that best practice and repeating a specialism resulted in expertise.

His magic number was ten thousand, in that to be an expert you would have immersed yourself in your art or science for that number of hours, or the “10,000-hour rule”. That amounts to being in a particular role for around five years, plying your specific trade day-in, day-out.

A couple of years ago I was introduced to a digital marketer, in their early twenties, and they were referred to me as being a “guru” in our profession. With five years’ experience, that neatly fell into the 10,000-hour rule definition, but does that apply to the whole spectrum of digital marketing?

Once, in 2009, someone made a remark at a conference I was speaking at, saying;

“SEO isn’t rocket science is it?”

…and they were right. SEO is not rocket science. SEO is not mechanics (fluid mechanics, structural mechanics, orbital mechanics), flight dynamics, physics, mathematics, control engineering, materials science, aeroelasticity, avionics, reliability engineering, noise control and flight testing.

However, SEO is on-page SEO, technical SEO, local SEO, involving HTML, CSS, maybe some JavaScript, but always an innate understanding of the English language (Here in the UK for a UK audience), synonyms and nuances, getting deep into the psychology of user intent, user experience and so on and so forth.

Then there’s PPC or Pay Per Click, another realm of digital marketing, with not just Google Ads but also Bing Ads or the Microsoft Advertising Network as it is now rather clumsily known. But wait, there are also LinkedIn sponsored posts, paid InMail, text ads, Facebook ads, Twitter ads, Instagram ads, WhatsApp for Business etc. etc.

But what about the tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Tag Manager, or the myriad of other SEO tools like SEMrush, Screaming Frog, ahrefs or BuzzSumo?

How can anyone possibly know ALL about digital marketing in just five years and be an expert in ALL of its fields? Personally, I don’t think that’s not possible, not unless you were a precocious child prodigy and junior world chess champion at the age of seven.

Well, that’s how my mind works anyway.

Clever Marketing Experts

All this aside, we are experts. I’ve been doing digital marketing for over twenty years now. Our resident PPC manager has at least 8 years in the industry. Our number one developer also has 8 years’ of WordPress dev under his belt whilst our graphic designers have a good twenty years each…

I think that puts us in a good position as a digital marketing agency. We won a client in September 2020 who chose us because of our age and experience. Having been around the block a few times themselves, they were acutely aware of and averse to using juniors. Don’t get me wrong, the youngsters are our future, in all industries, not just digital. However, it’s the people with experience who have developed years of expertise. Having a well-balanced team is what you need, as a business looking for an agency.

So, when making your decision on who to employ as your next digital agency, make sure that you see their results, that they share their successes, and that they have a team of experts onboard, young or old, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they have the expertise to understand, innovate and deliver, be it brand awareness, lead generation or business development.

Digital marketing ninjas need not apply.


Clever Marketing - Hampshire SEO & Digital AgencyIf you’re looking for an SEO expert, a PPC specialist, a social media consultant or a web designer with the skills to deliver your vision, you’ve found your new agency.

Call Clever Marketing on 01276 534 680 or complete the easy form and secure our experts for your next project.

Digital marketing ninjas we are not, experts we are.