London needs these entry-level digital roles

There are currently 40,000 technology businesses employing almost 200,000 people in London, which is 3.5% of the capital’s workforce.

To drive digital innovation and futureproof the workforce of London’s businesses, the Mayor of London launched a new £7 million Digital Talent Programme in December that will provide entry-level digital opportunities for young people.

The programme supports 1,500 young Londoners by offering work placements, providing learning opportunities, and matching academic prowess with real-world experience. One of its primary objectives is to provide work opportunities for those from disadvantaged backgrounds and ethnic groups.

To celebrate the launch, the programme has released their “Priorities for entry-level digital skills needs in Greater London” report, a result of a consultation made earlier in 2016, setting out the priority digital needs by companies in London.

I’ve read through the report so you don’t have to, picking out the key pieces of insight. It should be useful reading for anyone interested working in the digital industry as a whole, and sheds some light on the state of digital marketing in London.

Digital priorities are broad

The priority entry-level digital roles in London includes cyber security, which should be embedded across all business areas and has a real need for specialists. Games development is a profitable business area and is considered a priority beyond other software and applications roles. For digital business roles, digital marketing specialists are needed – as we know from the public relations industry, often this may involve introducing digital expertise to traditional companies.

Foundation knowledge for the digital industry

Businesses who responded to the consultation said that irrespective of the entry-level digital role, foundation knowledge in digital should include:

  • An understanding of the digital landscape that means knowing how different digital roles are interconnected with each other, along with how businesses are now using technology
  • Understanding cyber security and the best working practices
  • Entrepreneurial working approach and the ability to respond quickly to change

Shortage of cyber security specialists

Even though the report is aimed at entry-level roles, it admits roles in cyber security need to be more specialist. This means jobs tend to be more focused around operational functions, such as managers, risk analysts and penetration testers (*giggle*). If you want to enter the profession then a basic foundation in cyber security is obviously required, along with a foundation knowledge of coding, law, and ethics.

Software and game developers are needed

The biggest digital priority in London is the need for software and games developers. This covers everything from analysts, design, providing excellence for user-experience and implementing internet solutions. Most common skillsets required are those who can use the Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Flash, After Effects, etc), with knowledge of the languages Unity3D, Unreal and Swift.

IT and Big Data

Alongside the need for straightforward IT support in businesses, are roles that cover the creation and maintenance of databases, plus the analysis of data. In this category knowledge of SQL Server is a must, Microsoft software, and Oracle EBS. Understanding of statistics tools R or SAS are needed for data analysis.

Digital marketing

Digital marketing is the single biggest priority area in business services across London. It includes everything from content creation, search engine optimisation, advertising, community management, email marketing – the list really does go on. There is an opportunity for the public relations industry to help plug many of the digital marketing gaps here, but also a realisation that with growth across online advertising and e-commerce roles, public relations may not be a suitable ‘umbrella’ discipline to futureproof businesses in London.

Lights, camera, action!

Jobs in film production are still the largest sub-sector in all film related employment and visual effects is a significant part of roles in London. A number of roles in these areas have to be filled by overseas work according to the Migration Advisory Committee, so the Mayor’s apprenticeship programme is aimed to plug this gap.

 

If you are currently looking for an entry-level digital role in London, then I encourage you to read the report to discover exactly the types of knowledge and skills that will be expected from you. For example, computer science degrees are still more naturally aligned to roles in the IT sector.

As I read this report, it’s clear that the public relations industry has a need to clearly outline its career journey and look at skills being asked for across other digital industries; such as video production, data analysts, and broader areas of digital marketing.

I fully support the Mayor’s Digital Talent Programme, especially as we’re now living in an age where rigid academic structures struggle to keep up with the pace of digital innovation – leaving real-world ‘hands on’ experience as a priority.

BrightonSEO: 46 billion reasons why public relations needs search

BrightonSEO, Sept 2016

To have BrightonSEO happen twice a year feels like a guilty treat. For a flagship digital event covering niche topics with practical advice, the amount of preparation must be astronomical. The BrightonSEO banner proudly proclaimed “a long way from a room above a pub”, and unlike most slogans, this one is true. I can’t remember the official numbers, but there must have been 3,500 digital marketing professionals; the Brighton Centre was packed.

When I last attended BrightonSEO earlier this year I wrote how SEO is no longer a discipline, it’s a skillset. After sitting through hours’ worth of talks and networking with highly intelligent digital professionals, it’s tempting to carry on beating the same drum. For modern public relations to be successful it’s important to have an intermediate knowledge of SEO.

I stand by that post earlier this year because it’s not just what the public relations industry should be aspiring to, but clients also request it. It’s the key to managing reputation online, driving website traffic, and ensuring products/services get heard amongst the noise online. How else will you get your website/clients noticed among 46 billion web pages?

Watching SEO agencies pitch

As I listened to talks, especially Yiğit Konur’s on keyword research (I was certain my brain was about to melt out of my ears), I couldn’t help but wonder if staple public relations skillsets that HR teams and practitioners request will remain relevant. My mind was filled with doubts over the quality of industry training available to practitioners, especially if SEO specialisms are important to generating awareness and engagement online.

A few months ago I found myself in a meeting with a financial organisation hearing from an SEO agency. For programme integration purposes they were running through their SEO pitch, a rare chance to see how their research, strategy, and tactics were formed. It was an excellent presentation that in many ways imitated the conclusions of our PR programme. The difference was that the presentation was underpinned by solid SEO research, based on facts and figures.

If you’ve ever seen an advertising agency pitch, it was like that. These are the types of programmes that can monitor return on investment so closely that companies will spend confidently, knowing the return can be tracked. It’s a very different business compared to straight forward media relations. Although as BrightonSEO reinforced again this year, the public relations industry has an opportunity to embrace basic SEO practices into client delivery. In case this isn’t obvious, that’s why I attended on behalf of Lansons – it’s an area we consult in.

BrightonSEO talks

Before not too long I’m sure a post will appear on the Lansons website about BrightonSEO but for the beautifully geeky readers of this blog, I highly recommend you check out the following three talks.

Hannah Smith: Art, virtual snowballs, and the feels (or why beer is rarely the answer)

Yiğit Konur: Keyword research in autopilot by Google Spreadsheet Macros


Paddy Moogan: Sustainable content marketing

It can feel like the public relations industry is in a constant state of reinvention, the impact of the Internet on society has accelerated this pace further. Today we’re a management discipline, we’re more than media relations, and if we claim to be about reputation management, we can’t ignore developments in the SEO industry.

SEO is no longer a discipline, it’s a skillset

Brighton SEO - registration

Tickets selling out in four minutes, a mile-long queue outside the venue, over 1,700 attendees; you would have thought a West End Musical or international musician was visiting Brighton. No, this is Brighton SEO and over the last five years it has moved from an attic room in a pub that fit 30, to the Brighton Dome.

Last Friday I attended Brighton SEO to hear from top search engine optimisation specialists and digital marketers from around the world. I can’t write about the key takeaways from the event without first mentioning how friendly everyone was.

Brighton SEO queue

Before I even made it inside the venue I struck a conversation with a web design agency from Reading. In that conversation I released that my knowledge of PR was just as sacred as the in-depth SEO insight I was seeking. It highlighted that for modern PR to be successful an intermediate knowledge of SEO is required.

Brighton SEO - registration

As the founder of Brighton SEO, Kelvin Newman, mentioned to The Register:

Newman believes SEO has gone mainstream. “It used to be a discipline but now it’s a skillset,” he said. “A lot of people don’t only do SEO. They’re doing many other things as well.”

When working as a digital specialist it’s important to respect the breadth and variety of skills required in the digital industry. As a near-generalist, I can cover most subject areas, but this enforces the need for me to learn from the true experts at times. That is why I attended Brighton SEO and wow, I didn’t leave disappointed.

Brighton SEO Kelvin Newman

After 9 hours of talks and SEO conversations, I left Brighton not tired but buzzing! On my desk sits a mountain of reading, notes and ideas. I’ve wanted to attend Brighton SEO for the last three years and now that it’s happened, I just want to go back.

My mind is still recovering, and whilst I chew through the information shared, here are some of the top resources shared at the talks I attended. Word of advice: if you want to cover all the talks at Brighton SEO then you will need three or four people – it’s that big and busy.

Three must-read resources from Brighton SEO

How to fix any SEO problem by Jon Earnshaw

This had to be one of the best presentations I attended because it provided a practical insight into troubleshooting an SEO problem. Jon transparently covered how he fixed an issue Waterstones was having with Google UK when a number of its links were being replaced by the competition. He has kindly provided the full presentation on SlideShare.

Ranking-Factors reloaded – Why content is key to success by Marcus Tober

This Star Wars themed presentation hooked the audience immediately and provided a data-led insight into Google ranking factors. The best bits have to be the industry-specific research and the difference this makes to online user journeys, how modern content is being viewed online, and rethinking link strategies. This clever guy has also hidden his presentation behind a data capture form – fill in your details and download here.

Introduction to personal branding by Mel Carson

I’ve frequently expressed my disbelief at how so many people who work in PR or digital marketing don’t bother maintaining their own online brand presence. This was a lesson I learnt years ago at university when maintaining an active online presence allowed me to get my foot in the door for digital roles in London. After eight years of writing about digital, I’m still personally reaping the benefits of maintaining an online presence.

Brighton SEO Mel Carson

Mel’s talk provided straightforward advice about why a personal brand is important and how to do it. His book for 99p on Amazon is worth buying if you’re starting out.

 

The above is just a tiny snapshot of the talks I attended at Brighton SEO and over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing more. Keep your eyes on the Lansons blog as I’ll be writing a financial services specific post in the next couple of days.

The essential guide for modernising the PR workflow

Last week I had meetings with clients that spanned media relations, SEO projects, online advertising, and website design. Each day it’s becoming clearer that public relations is becoming the umbrella that holds the digital marketing mix. With this being the case, how can agencies build agile teams for the modern PR workflow?

This morning ‘The Essential Guide’ for modernising the PR workflow has launched. If PRstack was about modernising the PR workflow through making sense of the complicated third party tool market, then this new guide is the pitch just before it. Rather than focusing on tools, its five steps for evaluating and improving the workflow of a PR team.

Penned by a man on a mission Frederick Vincx, who is the owner of Prezly and has devoted his career to getting PR professionals out of ‘Excel hell’. His guide isn’t your typical link-bait ‘top 10’ post, it’s challenging and by the way it’s written – clearly coming from a voice of experience.

“The goal is to make your team adaptable for increasingly fast changing communication requirements. This guide will help you improve your PR team workflow so that you stay current and create more value for clients in less time. The result? Better work, happier clients, and more time left to sell to other clients.” – Frederick Vincx

Summarising Frederick’s work on this blog will not do it justice! Do visit his blog for a read and have a look at the infographic below for a visual summary. After a long-read, I’m proud to say that the consultancy I work for went through these modernisation steps a few years ago and structures are successfully navigating the newer digital elements of PR.

Map for moderning the PR Workflow

The importance of Google Knowledge Graph for online reputation

Google Android garden

Even if you haven’t heard of Google Knowledge Graph, you’ve probably seen it. Google updated its search algorithm in May 2012 to present a box on the right of search to show people, places, and things. So when you search for well-known or popular subjects, you’ll be delivered top-line information immediately.

Google Knowledge Graph, Bank of England

Just where does Google source its facts and figures for this box? This is a critical question if you’re tasked with managing the reputation of a person or an organisation because it’s the first thing people see. What’s more, Google Knowledge Graph appears above Google Business information (also known as the Google Maps listing).

A new paper published by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) entitled “Semantic Cities: Coded Geopolitics and the Rise of the Semantic Web” reveals all; Google Knowledge Graph sources from Wikipedia as part of the Google funded Wikidata project.

This isn’t surprising, Wikipedia has steadily grown a reputation over the years for improved reliability and ever-increasing scale. It’s not just an online encyclopaedia; it is an online community of 25 million users who have created 5 million articles in the UK. The crowd-sourced element of Wikipedia keeps data fresh on the most important subjects.

The danger revealed by the OII is that we can take this ‘linked data’ online information economy of the internet for granted, potentially not questioning the facts and figures presented. If Google Knowledge Graph sources information from Wikipedia, then what happens when that information is wrong? Furthermore, what if that information is politically sensitive?

The focus of OII paper was on the political status of Jerusalem,

“The fact box is titled ‘Jerusalem’ followed by the statement ‘Capital of Israel’. The fact box contains a paragraph about the city, followed by a list of facts about the area size and population of Jerusalem that is cited to UNData.

The political status of Jerusalem has been widely debated in the media and by multiple stakeholder groups. This is because the city is claimed as capital by both the State of Israel and the State of Palestine. The city’s borders and governance have changed significantly over the years, most recently after the 1967 (Six Day) war between Israel and the neighbouring states of Egypt, Jordan and Syria when Israel annexed East Jerusalem from Jordan. Despite vehement disagreements by governments in the region, however, there is no widespread international recognition for Jerusalem (as composed of both East and West parts) as the capital of either Israel or Palestine.”

You can read a synopsis of the topic on the OII’s blog.

jerusalem political status

In terms of managing online reputation, the paper by the OII is important for three reasons:

  • It highlights the step between user-generated content to the unchangeable (fixed) content hosted by Google (You can flag inaccuracies but the process is not transparent, immediate or potentially successful)
  • It understands that information isn’t just structured data, some information has an emotive underpinning that requires Google’s ‘deep learning’ to appreciate not all information presented in reputable crowd-sourced sites are factual. There may still be ongoing debates.
  • It reminds us that behind every smart algorithm is essentially a need for a bin of knowledge (The knowledge graph was only possible because of Wikipedia’s extensive database)

Whilst the OII research was based on a location, familiar territory for me due to my experience in managing the reputation of tourism boards, it applies to people and corporations too. Google is attempting to reach a place where it doesn’t necessarily need to drive people to separate websites, links in search. Instead it’s much more convenient to host all the content directly in Google Search; saving valuable user clicks and generating even more juicy page views for advertising.

It’s inescapable that a monotonous challenge of managing online reputation today is attempting to find ways to tell Google that their information is wrong or damaging. Perhaps the development of Google’s Deep Learning software will improve Google Knowledge Graph next year? I hope so.

Is now the perfect time to quit blogging?

A dangerous thought has been running through my mind recently; is it time to quit blogging? It’s not through lack of ideas, but fun. If you have never run a blog before then let me tell you this, it’s bloody difficult. A burden of time and mental resource, a commitment that must become habitual otherwise a blog will quickly fall into disrepair.

When I began blogging 10 years ago the social media landscape looked entirely different, and with that, an entirely different culture. Blogging was a community experience where online ‘blog carnivals’ took place (essentially a monthly newsletter populated by bloggers and hosted by different authors each month), commenting was rife and it was easier building a social media following.

Through a range of external factors, these ‘old’ days of the Internet are now over. Perhaps it was inevitable that though the commercialisation of digital marketing that the original authors of the Internet have been left forgotten? Blogging is now an activity pitched up against mainstream media outlets, needing time and monetary investment to cut through the social noise. This noise itself also poses another challenge, creating original content that matters rather than joining in with the masses; regurgitating statistics, videos and images that have already made the digital rounds.

Sadly, the day of blogging may soon be over for individual authors, especially for these reasons:

Fragmentation of community
When I ran a blog on atheism/humanism I was very young, but still my ideas were heard. As part of a bigger community my followers were shared between likeminded publications and debates in comment sections were huge. Blogs or forums were the go to places for debate but that changed with Facebook in 2006. The community moved, forums became ghost towns and comments were left on Facebook rather than on blogs. User behaviour had changed due to new social media sites, and today the social media landscape has never been bigger. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn have become popular places to host your social personality. Standalone blogs are not as relevant as user experience has fragmented across a number of social sites.

Cutting through noise
Changes in search engine optimisation have meant that blogs ideally need to be updated daily with fresh content, contain a mixture of image and video, and are of a decent length (800 – 1200 words). This is to show Google that a site has fresh, digestible, shareable and in depth content. Along with some technical factors, these are basic rules of climbing search engine rankings.

Where is the best place to hide a body? On page 2 of Google Search results. Blogs need to be read by people and it’s likely that the majority of this traffic will come from search engines. Without traffic, a blog is unable to grow, and you may as well spend time writing articles using LinkedIn Pulse where posts are publicised in a contained social site. The big bad SEO world has got tougher due to the abusive influences of people and organisations changing rankings. We’ve all suffered as a result, especially bloggers.

The ‘why?’ Factor
When I first began blogging it was fairly easy to make money from banner advertising, it at least covered my hosting costs, sometimes more. Then sponsored posts came along and at times this helped pay for my University expenses. Today monetising a blog has never been harder. The fact that gaining traffic is harder, means banner advertising is a slow and unreliable revenue source. Alongside this is the decline in sponsored posts due to changes that have taken place in the SEO industry. Who wants to pay for content? More importantly, who needs to pay for content? Online competition has sapped the bank balances of bloggers and it’s no longer a reliable living. Selling consultancy really is the better option for bloggers in my position today.

Scheduling the blog into life
From all the bloggers I’ve spoken to there is a great deal of guilt in the community about worrying about traffic levels, the stats of individual posts, how many subscribers… The list really does go on forever. Decent blog posts take time to consider, research and produce – a commitment that’s a real challenge alongside everyday life. To the point above, to what end? If full time work provides the money, then how is a blog’s success being measured? Running a blog means thinking all the time about what the next post is going to be, who could be the next guest author, when will I have time to write my next 800 words? It’s a hamster wheel of repetition and I have to be honest, after 10 years of doing this, it’s almost enough.

All of these concerns are ones of a more ‘professional’ blogger, rather than a hobbyist. As an amateur (meaning lover in French), merely to love the act of blogging is enough. In the real world though, the purpose of blogging really deserves questioning. The digital landscape has changed immensely over the last 10 years; is it time to live life instead?

When Robots stop you being Google mobile-friendly

Earlier this week Google released its new search algorithm that detects whether a website is mobile-friendly or not. In the digital marketing world it was dubbed ‘mobile-geddon’, due to the massive impact it would have to search results (an expected 30 – 40% of search results affected). If your website is not tagged ‘mobile-friendly’ by Google then your website will not rank highly for some search terms in Google mobile results. A big issue, as we know 58% who access the internet in the UK do so via a mobile device.

Here’s the catch; despite your website appearing mobile-friendly, it may not be deemed friendly by Google. I know this because after I wrote my blog post last week I realised that the mobile theme of this blog was not being detected by Google.

Here’s why and the solution if you’re having the same problem.

Beating the robots

Google understands the internet by sending out crawlers that read the structures of websites. This is how Google knows which pages are published, if there are images or comments, recent articles, etc. The first page that Google’s crawlers visit is the robots.txt file – most websites have them. It literally tells a crawler which pages that they are not allowed or allowed to access.

Last week I realised that the robots.txt file can cause a little bit of a glitch when it comes to Google’s new mobile search algorithm. Because despite users seeing the below theme when they visited via mobiles…

mobile-friendly iphone

Google was seeing this type of theme:

Google mobile test failed

A massive problem. Despite all my work to make sure the mobile version of my website is compatible across all popular mobile devices, my efforts had categorically failed in Google’s eyes. As a result I was potentially going to lose a lot of traffic and seem a little hypocritical telling clients that they should be mobile optimised – my own blog had failed!

The glitch with Google detected mobile friendliness comes to the robots.txt file. Over the years I’ve used a variety of different WordPress plugins to help optimise my blog for search engines and deliver content quickly. The amalgamation of plugins had seriously disturbed my robots.txt, which had decided to start blocking everything!

It looked like this:

robots.txt not mobile friendly

When in reality, the only pages that should be blocked by crawlers are the default WordPress admin pages. So I edited my file to look like the below:

robots mobile-friendly

I then retook the Google mobile test and behold! Success.

Google mobile-friendly website

Google now sees the full mobile version of my website and has deemed my blog as mobile-friendly. As you see, sometimes making your website mobile-friendly only takes a few quick steps and it’s worth it if you want to maximise the amount of traffic you get online.

Bringing Order to the Web

If you’re the sort of person who finds Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) exciting, then read Page and Brin’s original 1998 paper about Google PageRank. The Google founders provide a stonker of a read.

Originally the PageRank algorithm was the one-stop equation to detect web page influence and human interest. Today Google has over 200 algorithms, all aimed to discover relevant and reputable web pages. Together these provide order to the web, because even in 1998 commercial manipulation of web results was recognised.

From pg.12 of the original paper on ‘Manipulation of Commercial Interests’

“This kind of commercial manipulation is causing search engines a great deal of trouble, and making features that would be great to have very difficult to implement.”

To find out the latest about Google SEO developments, every SEO agency across the world maintains a fixed gaze on Head of Google Webspam’s blog, Matt Cutts. Watch the video below to get a good feeling about how SEO works and how WordPress users should respond.