Online Marketing Research 2017

Knowing the best practices from across our industry can help us work smarter.

To help greetings card and giftware companies promote themselves better online I set about researching how the card & gift industry was currently marketing itself online.

This report is a compilation of that research.

by Charlotte Biggs

GETTING STARTED WITH ONLINE MARKETING RESEARCH

The research was conducted over the last year. I started my online marketing research in October 2016, just after the Autumn trade shows and before Christmas could distract me. For this first initial stage I simply wanted a broad view of what how card and gift companies were marketing online. From there I would look deeper into each area. (This subsequent research will be published soon so please join the community, and you’ll be advised as soon as it’s available).

The first step of the research was to gather a list of potential companies to evaluate. For this first stage I was aiming for around 500 companies; believing this would give me a good amout of data to analyse.

I compiled a list of card & gift companies from my personal address book. I then cross-referenced with my last trade show exhibitor’s list; ensuring that all of the companies had been active in the industry within the last few weeks. This gave me a list of 801 companies to review.

SUITABILITY

The next step was to review the suitability of each company on the list as subjects for the industry research. As this first part of the research would look at online marketing I only wanted companies that had an active website.

4 of the companies shared a website. These duplicates were immediately removed from the list; taking me down to 797 potential subjects.

A further 93 companies did not have a website and were also removed from the study.

A final 62 companies were removed for a variety of reasons including: 20 broken websites; 12 sites under construction or temporarily down; 14 non-English websites – I removed these as it seemed unfair to assess online marketing via a translator; and 1 website, which flagged up a huge warning that the site was dangerous!

This gave me a final count of 642 card & gift companies to research.

The Research

For this first piece of industry research I was concentrating on online marketing. This involved looking at 6 key areas:

  • Blogging
  • Email Marketing
  • Paid Advertising
  • PR (Public Relations)
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
  • Social Media

Blogging

Reviewing the websites of our 642 companies I found…

243 or 38% of the companies had a blog

399 or 62% had no visible blog on their website

This tells us that the majority of greetings card and giftware companies are not blogging for their business.

Email Marketing

The next online marketing technique to review was email marketing. For this I was reviewing how many websites had an email sign up form on their website.

226 or 35% of the websites had at least one email opt in box on their website.

416 or 65% of the reviewed sites had no visible email sign up.

This means that almost two-thirds of card & gift companies are not utilising email marketing.

PAID ADVERTISING

With so many options for paid advertising, researching this area could have been a never ending project. With this in mind I chose to focus on search engine PPC (pay per click) advertising, which could provide us with real comparative data.

The research reviewed advertisements placed in the last 12 months via Google Adwords and Bing / Yahoo Ads in the UK.

The research showed…

69 or 11 % of the companies reviewed had used PPC advertising in the last 12 months.

573 or 89% of the card & gift companies examined had not used PPC advertising in the last year.

As with blogging and email marketing, the majority of card & gift companies are not using PPC advertising to promote their business.

PR (PUBLIC RELATIONS)

Like paid advertising, a companies PR output is not easy to measure. Reviewing individual magazine, newspaper or blog mentions would have been more than I could undertake, on top of all my other work. I did however have one route for measuring the PR endeavours.

At the start of my research I’d cross-checked my contacts list with companies that had exhibited at a recent trade show.

As exhibitors each of the companies had access to a free PR team via the show organisers. They were able to submit as many press releases and product images as they liked; these would then be distributed on their behalf to bloggers, editors, press agencies and all of the show organiser’s press contacts.

I therefore set about measuring how many companies had used the free PR services at the trade show & my research showed…

57 or 9% of the card & gift companies had submitted at least one press release.

585 or 91% of the businesses had not submitted any press release information.

PR was so far the most unpopular online marketing technique with just 9% of the companies reviewed using it to promote their business. 

SEo (Search engine OPTIMISATION)

For the next part of my research I moved onto looking at SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). There are lots of facets to SEO but generally they tend to fall into 2 categories; on page SEO and off page SEO.

For the purposes of this first study I decided to focus on on page SEO, which focuses on how website content is optimised for search engines. This looks at how a website is constructed and how easy it is for a search engine to find and understand the content.

To see all the hidden and “backstage” elements of the websites I used an SEO analyser for this part of the research; the tool looked at 3 on page SEO categories: Tech & Meta, Structure and Content. For each element the websites were given a % score for tasks that had been completed; a 50% score, for example, would indicate that half of the recommended tasks had been completed.

An average of the 3 individual scores was then calculated to give an overall SEO score out of 100%.

The first element of data I got showed that 14 or 2% of the 642 websites reviewed were blocking search engines and couldn’t be reviewed. This also means that search engines will not be able to add them to their search results.

  • Scored 0-19/100 3%
  • Scored 20-39/100 9%
  • Scored 40-59/100 28%
  • Scored 60-79/100 56%
  • Scored 80-100/100 4%

This meant that the rest of the research was conducted with 628 companies.

The overall SEO scores (out of 100%) ranged from nine companies graded 0/100 to one company who was awarded the top score of 90/100.

56% of the companies (the largest majority) were awarded a score between 60% and 79%, which isn’t too bad; but still has some room for improvement.

A higher SEO score is preferable in order to improve a company’s chance of ranking well and getting positive results from search engines.

While the majority of companies had an overall rating in the top half of the scale it is worth noting that ideally websites should be getting a score of 80+ and only 4% of the card & gift websites reviewed reached this rate.

This could suggest that SEO is not high on the list of priorities for card & gift brands.

Tech & Meta

Looking at the Technical & Meta aspects of the websites, I found that the sites surveyed had between 0% and 91% of technical and meta SEO tasks completed.

sTructure

The figures were considerably higher with the Structural aspects of SEO. I Found that the sites reviewed scored between 0% and 100% for Structural SEO tasks completed.

conTent

The final SEO metric looked at website content. Sites ranged from 0% to 100% SEO Content tasks completed, but as with Tech & Meta the majority fell below 80%.

See the Breakdown

Percentage of Tasks Completed…

69 companies had 0-19% done

109 companies had 20-39% done

236 companies had 40-59% done

195 companies  had 60-79% done

19 companies had 80-100% done

See the Breakdown

Percentage of Tasks Completed…

36 companies had 0-19% done

13 companies had 20-39% done

35 companies had 40-59% done

131 companies  had 60-79% done

413 companies had 80-100% done

See the Breakdown

Percentage of Tasks Completed…

71 companies had 0-19% done

93 companies had 20-39% done

35 companies had 40-59% done

179 companies  had 60-79% done

24 companies had 80-100% done

Social media

For the final part of my online marketing research I looked at how card & gift companies were using social media. Specifically I looked at how many were utilising social media marketing and which platforms they were using.

First I looked at how many of the card & gift companies reviewed had social media profile links on their website & found…

486 or 76% had links to at least 1 social media profile on their website.

156 or 24% had no visible links to social media profiles on their site.

Straight away this told me that social media appeared to be the most popular form of online marketing

  • 0 Social Profiles 24%
  • 1 Social Profile 17%
  • 2 Social Profiles 17%
  • 3 Social Profiles 17%
  • 4 Social Profiles 15%
  • 5 Social Profiles 6%
  • 6 Social Profiles 3%
  • 7 Social Profiles 1%

HOW MANY SOCIAL PROFILES DO CARD & GIFT COMPANIES USE?

Next I looked at how many social media profiles the companies were using. Each of the companies was displaying between 0 and 7 social media profiles.

The social media channels used were: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linked In, Google + and YouTube/Vimeo.

While the biggest single percentage (24%) went to companies showing no social media profiles, almost two-thirds of the companies reviewed (66%) had between 1 and 4 social media profiles showcased on their websites.

Closing up the group were a hardcore of 10% that were using 5-7 social media marketing channels.

WHICH SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS ARE MOST POPULAR?

For the final part of the research I looked at which social media channels were most popular with card & gift brands.

With 459 companies (71%), Facebook was the most popular social network for greetings card and giftware brands.

Followed by Twitter (53%), Instagram (35%), Pinterest (30%) and Linked In (10%).

Google + and YouTube/Vimeo shared last place with just 9% of companies reviewed utilising these two channels.

  • Facebook 71%
  • Twitter 53%
  • Instagram 35%
  • Pinterest 30%
  • Linked In 10%
  • Google + 9%
  • YouTube/Vimeo 9%

WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH TELL US?

This first piece of industry research was intended to give us a general overview of how the greetings card and giftware industries are employing online marketing. Here’s a summary of what we know so far…

social media icons

The research showed that the most popular form of online marketing for greetings card and giftware companies is social media; with 76% promoting social media profiles on their websites. 

Facebook favourite

The card and giftware companies as a whole used up to 7 different social media channels. The most popular of all the platforms was Facebook with 71% having a Facebook page.

1-4 PROFILES

The majority of companies (66%) used between 1 and 4 social media channels. The four most popular platforms were: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Blogging v EMAIL MARKETING

The next popular forms of online marketing for greetings card and giftware businesses are blogging and email marketing, but even these aren’t hugely popular, with only 38% and 35% respectively using blogging and email marketing.

l

PUBLISHING POTENTIAL

Just over a third (38%) of greetings card and giftware companies had a blog on their website. A blog offers great potential to easily add new content to a website. This low rate of participation from the industry may also explain why only 24 companies rated over 80% in the Content element of the SEO analysis.

OPT IN OPPORTUNITY

I reviewed all of the 642 card and giftware websites for opt in forms and found that 35% had at least one chance for customers to get more information. This suggests that the majority of card & gift businesses, almost two-thirds (65%) are not using email as a way to capture leads via their websites.

A lot of greetings and giftware companies have the potential to boost their online marketing with a blog.

The majority of card and gift business have an opportunity to utilise email marketing.

are card & gift companies search engine savvy?

At this early stage it’s hard to say exactly how popular SEO is with the greetings card and giftware industries, but if we take the higher end of the spectrum (scores of 60+) to indicate some effort being made towards SEO best practices then we could say that 60% of card & gift companies are utilising Search Engine Marketing.

If we push our hopes a little higher and say a better score would be over 80%, then only 4% of the websites reviewed are reaching this overall SEO score. This tells us there is definitely room for improvement if card and giftware companies were to employ Search Engine Optimisation techniques.

super structures

It was in the SEO Structure category that card and giftware companies did best with an impressive 413 grading between 80% and 100%. This tells us that the industry is using well structured websites, with a solid architecture that search engines can easily navigate and comprehend.

i

content check-up

Slightly improving on the Tech & Meta scores, was the results from the final Content Category. Here I found that 24 of the 628 companies reviewed reached the 80% – 100% mark. But this does mean 604 or a whopping 96% needed a content check-up.

tricky tech

This encouraging figure in SEO Structure did not carry across to the Tech & Meta categories. Meta titles and descriptions are vital for helping search engines and people find and understand a website. The research found that just 19 companies maintained the 80% – 100% rating. A substantial drop from the 413 highly rated in the Structure category.

There are some good signs that card and gift companies are utilising SEO, but there’s also potential to do even better.

PR & PAID ADVERTISING

The final element of this introductory research is PR and PPC Paid Advertising, which appear to have been the least popular forms of online marketing.

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PR puzzle

Only 9% of the companies researched had fully taken advantage of the PR services at their last trade show exhibition. PR services tend to be expensive so it wouldn’t be overly surprising if companies couldn’t afford to consider PR as a marketing strategy, but as the particular PR task reviewed was free suggests that something other than price might be putting brands off using PR.

PPC prospects

Just behind PR and the least popular of the six marketing strategies reviwed was PPC Paid Advertising, which was being utilised by just 9% of the 642 companies surveyed. For this I think it is natural to assume that budget restrictions may be holding many greetings card and giftware companies back. PPC tends to be seen as an expensive marketing strategy.

PPC and PR can be highly effective but often benefit from being used after other marketing strategies are in place. This data shows us that the majority still have these options as another avenue of marketing potential.

next steps

For this first piece of research I’m starting to get a good picture of how the greetings card and giftware community uses online marketing.

The industry has embraced social media, but in other areas of online marketing seem a little neglected. This isn’t however a gloomy situation; it means there’s plenty more for card & gift brands to try.

The research I’ve done so far has raised a lot of questions. Next steps are to look deeper into each of the marketing strategies; email, social media etc. This should give us a better understanding of how greetings and giftware companies are using each marketing channel.

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