ChatGPT has gained a lot of coverage in the news over the past month and for good reason. This new language model chatbot developed by OpenAI has the chance to revolutionise SEO and digital marketing. 

ChatGPT’s growth has been phenomenal, hitting 1 million users in just 5 days, (according to Greg Brockman, President and Co-Founder of OpenAI). It’s fascinating to compare this adoption rate to other revolutionary technologies (which you can see below), for example Instagram, took 2.5 months to get to the same user level.

We thought it would be useful to share some of the team’s thoughts on the new software and what our approach will be to using it in 2023. We will cover its full impact on search marketing covering Varn’s 4 key service lines for delivering ‘full service SEO’. 

What is ChatGPT? 

Before we get into its impact on search marketing, let’s provide a bit of background on the software and why it is causing such a stir. 

ChatGPT has taken the digital marketing world by storm over the last month and many have started to incorporate it into their content development strategy, using it to contribute to articles and other forms of content be it writing video scripts and coming up with blog ideas. 

So what is ChatGPT? Well let’s see what the software has to say for itself….

“ChatGPT is a language model developed by OpenAI that uses deep learning to generate human-like text. It is trained on a large dataset of text and can be fine-tuned for specific tasks such as language translation, question answering, and text summarization. ChatGPT can generate text that is similar to that written by a human and is often used in chatbots and other natural language processing applications.”

Impact on Technical SEO

As far as Technical SEO goes, ChatGPT could potentially help streamline the process of optimising websites. 

One important element of Technical SEO is a website’s navigation. It is important that the navigation makes sense to users and has a clear hierarchy. Historically this has always been something that takes a reasonable amount of time to manually review. However, an advanced machine learning algorithm like GPT should be able to think similarly to a human and predict what a user of a website would expect from the site’s navigation. For example, it is possible that GPT would be able to review your site navigation, and suggest which content should be moved to make more sense from a user and hierarchical point of view. The resulting recommendations are still something that should be manually reviewed by an SEO professional, but it could potentially save a reasonable amount of time.

Another much more dubious technique, (one that we would not recommend), is that people could use ChatGPT for Tech SEO in order to create content related to your target keywords. In order to get a page to rank on Google, it helps to have a decent amount of body copy on the page, copy which is focused on the keywords you want to rank for. Using ChatGPT to generate this content could potentially help to get a site ranking more quickly, whilst making content creation easier for your website admin. However, there are a number of problems with this approach. Firstly, AI generated content goes against Google’s guidelines. This means that if Google were to identify your content as AI generated then they could potentially penalise your rankings. 

It’s interesting to note that ChatGPT has been working to add a watermark to its generated content so that AI generated copy can be identified more easily. This watermark would be difficult to remove as it is a statistical pattern that is embedded into individual words or even punctuation marks within the generated content. This watermark is another potential way for Google to recognise that the copy hasn’t been manually produced, which again could lead to penalisation. There is also no guarantee that another user will never be presented with the same AI generated content, thus also leading to potential issues with duplicate content.

Impact on Content and Digital PR 

When it comes to digital PR and content, the software seems to have a lot of potential applications, but for now at least, human insights, input and creativity will be needed to create content that gets cut through online. 

Some of the potential applications when it comes to content assistance include: 

The above is not an exhaustive list, but it is an exciting time for those in content marketing and digital as we see more sophisticated AI tools come to market which should get better over time. 

It’s vital not to forget that from an SEO perspective, Google states on it’s website that when a user enters a query, their machines search the index for matching pages and return the results they believe are the highest quality and most relevant to the user’s query. 

The big question is whether Google thinks bot created content is the highest quality, and we would suggest that it probably isn’t yet. Therefore we have a note of caution – be careful of any agency who says they are going to use ChatGPT to get you to the top of Google. They are most likely seeing ChatGPT as a shortcut/cheat to generating content, rather than a legitimate way to create ‘the highest quality content’. This may obviously change in time though. 

Under it’s ‘Google Search Essentials’ page, Google states under its ‘Key best practice’:

“While there are many things you can do to improve your site’s SEO, there are a few core practices that can have the most impact on your web content’s ranking and appearance on Google Search.”

The first is ‘Create helpful, reliable, people-first content.’ When expanding on this Google states:

‘Google’s automated ranking systems are designed to present helpful, reliable information that’s primarily created to benefit people, not to gain search engine rankings, in the top Search results.’ 

Our recommendation if you are involved in Search Marketing, keep up to date with the latest developments and trends emerging with ChatGPT, but importantly spend time making sure you comply with the advice from Google about content which you can find here.

Impact on Paid Search and Social  

We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Automated Bidding, Smart Shopping, Performance Max. It’s been proven that we can combine a strategic human touch with the power of automation to enhance performance marketing.   

Two areas of research needed before running a paid campaign are the keywords you choose to bid on and the messaging you put in your ads. This will determine who sees your ads and the likelihood of them clicking and converting. ChatGPT can be very useful as a starting point for both of these areas. It can offer up fresh ideas in an unbiased way.

Keyword Research

Ad Copy Research 

Whilst ChatGPT does provide really high quality content to use for campaigns, it may not be as high quality and personal as a person writing that copy, with a touch of human insight and copywriting flair. As a human, and not an AI, we are able to factor in elements such as USPs, brand knowledge, target demographics and audience that you would want to appeal to in the ad copy. However, ChatGPT is certainly a good starting point for generating ad copy and keyword research. 

Impact on Data Analytics and Reporting 

Data Analytics and Reporting is one of the most important areas of search marketing. If you don’t have adequate reporting setup, you are not able to evaluate how your strategies are performing and which strategies you should push for going forward.

One way a machine learning service like ChatGPT could be useful for Data Analytics is as a provider of information. Not only can you ask GPT questions and get a concise answer, you can also add a correction or modifier to that question after the fact, and GPT is smart enough to understand. For example, here we asked about how to track a certain metric in Looker Studio, and after not being satisfied with the answer, were able to quickly modify our request without retyping the original question.

Varn: How do I track average page views in Looker Studio

GPT: To track average page views in Looker Studio, you will need to use a score card. First, create a blank report from the Looker Studio home screen. Then, use the formula box to type in ‘Views/Sessions’ and save the calculated field. Finally, add the score card to your report. You will then be able to track your average page views.

Varn: No, I meant as a graph

GPT: To create a graph of average page views in Looker Studio, you will need to use a line chart. First, create a blank report from the Looker Studio home screen. Then, use the formula box to type in ‘Views/Sessions’ and save the calculated field. Next, select your metrics and dimensions and add a new chart. Finally, add the line chart to your report. You will then be able to track your average page views in a visual graph format.

This ability for ChatGPT to condense complex information into simple text format allows us to treat the service like a co-pilot when working out tricky problems in analytics software.

ChatGPT and your Search Marketing Strategy 

Our view is that ChatGPT has the potential to revolutionise the way we approach search marketing, but at the moment it should be seen as a useful place to start to help you to quickly and conveniently curate information. We think it’s critical to remember that whilst ChatGPT is a great tool, (and will only get better), you need to use it as a starting point or springboard for creating content. 

The value of excellence in search marketing deliverables, will always come by adding in the human touch.

Having an understanding of your company’s tone of voice, what works with the audience and an in-depth understanding of what you are looking to achieve is essential. This is the human bit that AI and robots simply can’t replicate. 

ChatGPT will be unable to grasp the intricacies and nuances of human behaviour and responses. As people we can inherently tap into the very unique asset of our 5 senses, to ensure any AI generated content is then made relevant, engaging and meaningful. Our view is that the human power of creativity, innovative ideas and strategic understanding make content, ads and SEO insights impactful and actionable, and will always trump a ‘cut and paste’ of AI generated content. In addition, we know that for successful long-term SEO strategy, it’s critical to understand your competition and to have a clear strategy. ChatGPT will only be helpful up to a point for this… we liken it to having a football-playing robot. They’ll only be helpful if they are told what team to play on!

Our recommendation is to now let’s carefully watch this space. The search marketing landscape may well evolve and change quickly and with Microsoft reportedly to add ChatGPT to it’s Bing search engine, it’s worth keeping your eyes out for what happens to Bing market share, and Google’s response to this immediate challenge

Finally, if you are interested ChatGPT’s opinion about how it will influence search marketing, this is what it ‘thinks’….

“Its advanced natural language processing capabilities can help businesses to create high-quality, unique content and improve their search engine rankings. Additionally, ChatGPT can also be used to create chatbots that can provide faster and more efficient customer service, helping businesses to improve the user experience and increase customer satisfaction. As the capabilities of ChatGPT continue to evolve, it is likely that we will see even more ways in which it can be used to improve search marketing and other areas of business.”

This month we have been working on our usual mix of branding and digital creative production and working hard on our retail clients’ Christmas marketing campaigns, which certainly kept us busy at the end of last year!


We worked alongside the creative young minds of Bristol City College, where students created a range of unique and innovative products from a brief we provided. We were so impressed with the quality of work produced and the creative ideas that came from the students this year; you can read more about the project below!

The Fanatic Digital Marketing team was nominated and had the honour of attending the UK Search Awards 2022! More about the event can be found under the Digital heading below.

We also had the pleasure of welcoming Sean to the Fanatic family this month. See how he’s settling in, in his Q&A further down!

What’s new in the Design team?


This is the second year we have been working with the City of Bristol College Graphic Design department to help their students gain the experience of being briefed and then presenting their work within a commercial environment. This year we set a brief to create the branding and packaging for a line of English Alcoholic drinks, specifically Wine, Mead, Cider to a spirit, influenced by our work with Lyme Bay Winery. We also spent some time with the students, who are studying for an HND, in a workshop talking about their ideas halfway through the 2-month project process.

We were presented with a great variety of ideas, including the brand Humble, presented by Sabrina, with a clear concept dating back to the idea of Mead being sent from the heavens for the humble worker. Tying in the fact that the drink is a honey base, and illustrations of worker bees, completed a great brand story.

Gia presented a Cider concept based on the English skyline, using heritage fighter planes hand-painted illustrations and bold, clean colour schemes to execute three strikings can designs.

See what the Development team have been up to.

In recent times, many of our Umbraco projects have included the creation or updating of websites to .NET Core. As the latest releases of Umbraco require .NET Core, this implementation of .NET brings about significant changes to the code’s syntax and structure. Our development team is constantly learning, using new techniques and researching the latest ways of coding to keep our technologies at the forefront of the industry. During Umbraco migrations, especially with our bespoke coded apps that run alongside our Umbraco websites, there has been a lot of R&D going into this area recently.

One instance had our developer, Phil, struggling to find a solution. After trying Google, stack overflow and our usual resources, he was unsuccessful in finding the answers he needed. Instead of continuing to search, Phil turned to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, an unlikely but helpful ally. This AI tool has learned from an impressive amount of data online and can provide answers and clarity on even the most specific requests. After posing his question to the AI, Phil received two different solutions to the problem, each accompanied by an explanation of how the function would work. It was truly impressive.

We find the ChatGPT raises the bar of what we can expect from a search when AI is used; most impressively, the ChatGPT can actually give opinions as it has included a forum and social chat within its learning source materials. Cool, but scary stuff!

The latest from the Digital Marketing team


The UK Search Awards celebrates the expertise, talent and achievements of the search industry and has been running for over a decade. It is regarded as the premiere celebration of SEO, PPC and content marketing in the UK, and this year Fanatic had the honour of being nominated in 4 categories!

Being nominated for the Best low budget campaign, Best local campaign, Best use of search – Health and Best use of search – Travel / Leisure was a huge honour. Despite not winning any awards this time around, it was great to see the work we are doing getting the recognition it deserves. Our teams have worked hard to create some amazing campaigns, websites, designs and much more over the years and to see Fanatic nominated in so many categories was a lovely way to finish 2022.


  • How have you found life at Fanatic so far?

It’s been great so far, I’ve been made to feel very welcome. After working in a remote rural location for a couple of years, it’s nice to be back in the hustle and bustle of the city!

  • What were you doing before Fanatic, and what made you get into Digital Marketing?

I have spent the last ten years doing digital marketing in-house for e-commerce websites selling all kinds of products, ranging from swimwear to organic foods!

  • What made you choose Fanatic?

During my interviews, it was clear that Fanatic have a culture of going the extra mile (and a bit further) for their clients, which really appealed to me. I’m glad to have joined such a passionate, creative and driven team.

  • What have you enjoyed most so far?

I’m enjoying being in the studio in Bristol, there’s a great atmosphere about the place and the team are all so friendly!

  • What are you looking forward to learning more about?

I’m looking forward to working closely with everyone across all of the teams. It’s already clear that there is a huge wealth of knowledge in the company. I’d like to pick up some new tips on design and development while continuing to increase my digital marketing knowledge.

  • What’s an interesting fact about you?

In my free time, I love to be creative! Design and illustration are two hobbies I enjoy; I also print some of my designs onto merchandise which I sell on Etsy.

Event: The CMO’s Guide to Customer Acquisition  

Microsoft will join a select panel of senior marketing professionals in Bristol this March to discuss how businesses can best drive more online customers through digital marketing. 

Hosted by South West performance agency Launch, the breakfast event will be held on March 22nd at the Showcase Cinema de Lux in Bristol from 8:30 – 11am.  

The CMOs Guide to Customer Acquisition will provide a vital opportunity for like-minded marketers and brands to listen and debate with other CMOs about their successes, challenges and their strategies around data, conversion optimisation and paid media.   

Marion Gould, Client Partner Lead at Microsoft, will be speaking on ‘Marketing with purpose: how to create a strong brand in digital marketing.’ Also on the schedule is the managing director of Launch, Jaye Cowle, who will chair a panel debate with senior marketing leaders to open the event, discussing the evolution of performance marketing.  

Jaye Cowle says: “This is set to be a really insightful event for marketers, brands, and business owners. Together with our brilliant guests, and media partner Microsoft, you can learn how brands like yours are getting the most from their performance marketing activity.”  

In addition to Microsoft, there will be panel discussion with Barney Bell, Head of Marketing for David Salisbury; Piers Tincknell from Atomic Smash and Harriet Barter, Account Director at Launch, on ‘Why channel diversification is key to converting and finding new audiences.’ 

Data Strategist, Michael Patten, will discuss the countdown to GA4 in ‘Leverage your data to target new customers.’ In addition, Launch’s Conversion Director Joe Johnston will be joined by Account Manager Josh Marinaro to discuss the customer experience: ‘How incremental website changes can bring big results.’ 

Find out more about the schedule and book a place at this event 

Picture: Marion Gould, Client Partner Lead at Microsoft, will be speaking on Marketing with Purpose.

Just 4 months on from the launch of AgencyUK’s awareness campaign, Our Future Health has surpassed the significant milestone of 150,000 volunteer sign-ups.

Our Future Health aims to become the UK’s largest ever health programme, creating a 5 million strong database of adults to enable new ways to prevent, detect and treat human diseases.

Information will be collected from millions of volunteers across the UK to create one of the most detailed pictures of public health we’ve ever had.

By analysing this data, researchers hope to unlock new ways to detect diseases at an earlier stage and identify demographics that are most at risk.

Volunteers are asked to complete a consent form and a health and lifestyle questionnaire before arranging an appointment to collect a small blood sample, where they can receive feedback on aspects of their health, including blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

AgencyUK have been working with Our Future Health since their public launch, planning and executing targeted marketing campaigns in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Huddersfield and London aimed at raising brand awareness among the general public. The campaigns leverage creative and messaging that references specific health challenges most commonly faced by the population in each region.

They have been activated across multiple digital channels including social and advertising, as well as out of home with the aim of reaching a broad audience across a range of demographics. Out of home placements have included public transport, print and digital posters.

“We are really pleased with early results of the AgencyUK campaign, and we are seeing great levels of engagement across the various formats and platforms. The out of home executions have been high-impact and well targeted in support of our regional hubs. All of this has been delivered at pace and always with an eye on our next location. AgencyUK has added a lot of value to our communications activity as well as being a really decent bunch of people to work with,” says Peter Wilson, Strategic Communications Lead, Our Future Health UK.

“We are delighted to have been part of hitting the first milestone and that the programme is on track for building one of the largest health databases in the world, but we are just at the beginning and there remains a lot to do. Maintaining a high level of national exposure over the period and using creativity to maintain the public interest will be the challenge, but it’s one we’re prepared for,” says Amy Mansourpour, Director, AgencyUK.

The impressive milestone comes just 6 months on from the programme piloting in four Boots pharmacies, and two months since the first regional hub was opened in Leeds.

Since then, hubs have opened in Birmingham, Bradford, Huddersfield, London and Manchester, with national expansion into more areas in local Boots pharmacies planned this year.

For more information on the programme, including how you can volunteer to take part yourself, go to

Read the full article here…


Initially trusted by Frog Capital to conduct due diligence, as part of the Series A investment round our role then transferred into that of an interim CMO post-investment. During this time we conducted a thorough repositioning of the brand to support the growth ambitions of the business and new investors, whilst helping to build the team and recruit a permanent CMO.

“We’ve been working with Talisman Sparro for over a year now, and they have become an integral part of the Clue team. Initial engagement was to develop a high level marketing strategy to support us through our investment round and prepare for the scale up journey. The output highlighted the potential for Clue, swiftly progressing into a brand programme and a series of workstreams which included an interim CMO role. I have personally enjoyed building a positive relationship with the team and it’s been a really collaborative and productive process that has bought the whole business together and gives us a fantastic platform for global growth.”

Clare Elford – CEO

Support included:

Brand Strategy
Stakeholder Engagement
Brand Identity
Brand Guidelines
Collateral Development
Marketing Strategy

Full Case Study

Lis Anderson, director, AMBITIOUS PR

The number of start-ups, consultancies, and platforms that help companies on their ESG journeys has increased dramatically in recent years.

Determining which service is best for you as an SME can be extremely overwhelming if you don’t have a committed team to focus on these challenges. Big issues like environmental issues, governance factors and inclusion and diversity can take up lots of time.

As a PR consultancy, we’ve been trying to work through this landscape for our own activities, as well as aiding our clients through the same process. We want to share what we’ve discovered thus far.

When it comes to ESG and sustainability PR, it’s of paramount importance for your communications around these topics to be founded on genuine data and concrete commitments.

ESG for SMEs

ESG strategies are still in their beginnings for the majority of businesses. Using data from an ESG survey or materiality assessment, or setting up sustainability software can be a challenge without professional help.

It’s key to research the top ESG platforms for SMEs, learn what each one offers and consider what you should think about when making your choice. There isn’t a fix that works for everyone. Engaging a specialist firm to create an ESG roadmap may be the appropriate first step for larger SMEs with a complex supply chain or stakeholder network.

Becoming a sustainable business

Choosing to invest in a platform in your ESG strategy, such as those covered here, can have clear benefits for your company in a number of ways, including data collecting, improving sustainability reporting standards, risk management, sustainability education, staff engagement, and many more.

It is difficult to classify these platforms, as they offer various services. This is a quickly changing and dynamic market, with everything from employee participation to carbon footprint estimates, and product surplus distribution to sustainability issues.

Discover a selection of sustainability software providers and ESG platforms that may benefit your ESG operations below.


A startup situated in Bristol, Spherics, assists SMEs in comprehending their supply chains’ and their own carbon emissions. The application uses what is referred to as a “spend analysis” to establish your carbon impact and interfaces with the accounting software used by businesses.

This procedure is appropriate for smaller companies to follow and complies with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. It might be difficult to manage the necessary data collection without a committed sustainability staff. Therefore, it’s essential to use an automated system like Spherics to construct a footprint and access recommendations for emissions reductions.

Data collection is paramount to be able to have the right conversations about sustainability with your stakeholders.


Ecologi began as a platform dedicated to assisting individuals in making a positive effect on the environment. Ecologi customers may do their part to protect the environment by using carbon reduction strategies and encouraging tree planting.

Since then, the company has developed and is now able to provide both global corporations and small and medium-sized companies with solutions. A Climate Positive Workforce solution, which aims to involve employees in carbon reduction, is an option for businesses.

Ecologi also introduced Ecologi Zero this year, which is designed specifically for small and medium-sized companies. The platform, like Spherics, enables data collecting, interfaces with accounting software used by companies, and helps carbon footprint creation and development. The technology, which is presently under beta testing, will be compliant with industry-leading standards for carbon reporting and target-setting.

Additionally, Ecologi Zero will work to keep expenses down for SMEs by offering a free option.

Giki Zero

Giki, which stands for “Get informed, know your impact,” strongly emphasises knowledge in all of its offerings. Displaying your individual carbon emissions and offering advice can help you perform better and achieve your personal and professional ESG goals. The main platform has been created to support change on a smaller scale for customers.

Giki Zero Pro is all about increasing employee engagement for businesses. Additionally, this sustainability software creates statistics that companies may utilise to show their dedication to ethical environmental policies. This website demonstrates that ESG good practices do not have to be dull or reserved for senior management by using behavioural insights from study findings to ensure the sustainability journey for employees is interesting and enjoyable.


With the use of the data platform, Eevery, small businesses can be given the tools they need to enhance their performance in governance, economics, and the environment.

The creators of Eevery recognised that while SMEs are frequently dedicated to enhancing their ESG efficiency, they frequently lack the capacity and ability to comprehend intricate frameworks like the GRI standards or the EU Taxonomy.

Users then enter non-financial information regarding their ESG performance and influence on Eevery. After that, they get templates, advice on where to make improvements, a reporting dashboard, and other things.


The main principle behind Neighbourly is that local transformation leads to global change. Companies can join Neighbourly and offer money, employee time, or surplus items. Then, these resources are directed toward the areas of the neighbourhood that most urgently require them.

The platform enhances transparency and aids ESG reporting in addition to ensuring donations and support get directly to communities in need. The specific results of the involvement, such as the number of meals donated, the amount of CO2 associated with avoided food waste, or the number of volunteer hours provided, are fed into ESG data tools by the Neighbourly web platform. The portal offers public case studies in addition to statistics, allowing businesses to showcase their influence.


Another startup is prioritising local action is YouDoo. Six areas are used to break down sustainable living into manageable steps: voice, food, use less, travel, home, and money.

While the platform is focused on individual actions to progress towards a more sustainable world, there are lots of tips and approaches that can be used in business ESG strategy too. By spotlighting local projects, suppliers and opportunities to get involved, YouDoo also helps keep value and investment in the local community.

Couch to Carbon Zero

The team behind the Couch to Carbon Zero, Every One of Us, wants to empower employees and assist organisations in creating a workforce that is climate-positive rather than serving as a provider of sustainability software or ESG data. Like some of the other platforms on this list, they offer a fund to promote neighbourhood grassroots initiatives.

Getting started with your ESG strategy

ESG data, sustainability research and reporting, and platforms for responsible business operations are much more than just financial data and ESG disclosures. There are several methods for smaller businesses to obtain accessible support for your strategy, whether you’re striving for net zero or seeking to reopen the dialogue about sustainability with coworkers, it’s possible.


The Technical SEO team here at Varn have spent the past few years getting to grips with Google Analytics 4, the new website data analysis system which will shortly be taking the place of Universal Analytics. This is going to be a hugely important tool for anyone working in digital marketing in the coming years, so we have dedicated our time and brain-power to understanding how metrics and reporting have changed, as well as how to get the most from GA4 by setting up event and ecommerce tracking. Not to mention pulling data into custom dashboards to put the most important stats at our client’s fingertips.

Free GA4 Training Presentation

Our Technical SEO experts recently put together a short presentation covering the basics of Google Analytics 4 to introduce the wider team to the ins-and-outs of the tool. We thought this presentation would also make useful and interesting reading for anyone else who may be making the move from the old familiar Universal Analytics to the somewhat intimidating new version. So we’ve added it here for free, to sit alongside our previous posts on how to get the most from GA4 and the GA4 timeline.

Google Analytics 4 – The Basics

This short presentation covers the following questions and topics:

View our presentation here.

Learn More About GA4

Ready to dive into Google Analytics 4? The Varn team can help you get the system set up for your website, pull data into custom dashboards in Google Data Studio, or replicate the reporting you currently use. Get in touch to find out how we can help.

A day in the life of a digital marketing agency involves a smorgasbord of PR and digital marketing campaigns, supporting a variety of clients at different funding stages, levels of maturity and resources. On top of that, there’s staying up to date with the ever-evolving external platforms and game-changing algorithms, channels to market, media networks, opinion leaders and influencers. Together, these elements are part of the wonderful marketing mix that supports us in our ultimate mission to drive brand awareness, sales and growth.    

Over the past year, we have found some key themes, challenges and opportunities to learn from, adapt to and educate ourselves on. And we’re using them to propel our 2023 missions for success. 

When developing a content marketing strategy, it is essential to differentiate between the different elements or terminology in the digital content mix. This might include terms like public relations (Organic PR), paid content and amplified content via social and backlinks.  

Each has a different but important purpose to raise brand awareness and support organic search engine optimisation (SEO) in order to increase and drive sales. Your organic SEO must be in order to complement any paid search engine marketing (SEM) activity. 

If you use video, YouTube is one of the best places to boost both organic and paid content using SEO practices, as it is owned by Google and uses the same algorithms to rank content on the platform. If you want to know about organic SEO and SERPS results click here.

Organic PR raises brand awareness with the target press publications and audiences. This can be shared with known target audiences to reinforce your credibility and with target communities, and it also appeals to the Google algorithm for organic search. Sometimes publications will add backlinks to these articles, but that is not guaranteed. However, it is important to reinforce the fact that brand equity is not built on backlinks. It is created by communicating a clear understanding of what a company stands for, its core offering and how it is differentiated. Public relations (PR) supports brand development together with wider organic and paid SEO activities. To learn more about why PR should not be measured by backlinks, read our blog here. To look at an overview of Google algorithm ranking factors for 2023 please visit here.

Paid to play – Are your channels ready for the traffic?

There are different models with different publications which offer guaranteed placement of content whether digital or printed. Publications often have an editorial arm (organic) and a commercial division (paid or advertising) – they do, after all, have to pay overheads including employee wages. Banner ad placements can also be paid for where it is possible to manage budgets through a pay-per-click (PPC) model driving traffic through to a brand’s digital sales funnel. If this is a planned part of your strategy it is important to understand how PPC and bidding works. Read more here.

When heading down the paid ads or content route, Google is often aware that there is a ‘Do Follow’ ad-based link, which is considered in the algorithm preferences and prioritises organic content and user-based preferences. Here the backlink can be guaranteed, yet the organic value and perhaps the authentic content value may be affected if the content is too sales-led. But that is all part of the content marketing mix and the different formats should be A/B tested, monitored and optimised to achieve objectives. Learn five strategies for optimising your sales funnel here.

Riding the wave of amplified social

Publications use their readership to attract paid placement in digital publications. If a publication has a large print or digital readership it will also have the same social media following. Therefore packages can be negotiated to include social amplification across the publication’s social media pages. This can be increased further across brand or company social channels and, as there is a commercial agreement, this will not be blocked via the publication’s social media management. This is a great option if you want to drive and track leads into your sales funnels or loops.

Google ads and competitive landscape 

Google has more than 90% of search engine market share, which is why organic SEO is so important for brands operating the in the western market. So you will need your organic SEO in order, including landing page and sales funnel optimisation, before launching Google Ads can be considered.  

When setting up a Google Ads campaign, you pick a list of key phrases people might use when searching for your product or service. Google provides tools that help with this including setting the bid amount you want to spend – known as cost per click (CPC) – when someone visits your site or completes an action. 

Whilst in set-up mode, Google tools can also tell you the ad quality score (matching keywords and content) and how your ad will rank compared to other ads. When you use Google ads you are essentially entering an auction for keyphrases or words, and the market that you operate in will determine how competitive and costly your keywords are. This is where competitive analysis comes into play and some tools can help you do this here.

Backlinks matter – How to avoid ‘Google Jail’ 

Building backlinks is still an important activity in ranking factor but it should not be an isolated activity. A recent assessment of the Google algorithm ranking factors by Sage cited backlinks as having a 15% weighting, whereas at one point, this made up more than 50% of the algorithm. Backlinks are a relic of an era when Google’s AI wasn’t developed enough to evaluate the quality and trustworthiness of web content and needed other websites to do the job. 

Now Google, prioritises content that is well-written, fresh and informative. It’s important to share content that people want to read and share.

Good trustworthy tactics to apply to good link-building practices could be by answering other people’s questions, and exploring partnerships with other relevant brands and companies by creating blogs, videos, or infographics, together with backlinks. That way, both collaborators benefit from linking to each other’s sites. This is similar to how brands look for brand matches with influencers based on the topics that they post about. 

Also, be aware of firms offering paid backlinks on well-known sites. Buying links is not only a black hat SEO practice it’s an expensive one that could also land you in Google jail. A good practice is to create good quality content or get more traffic to existing content through paid ads.

Influencer marketing and the new kids on the block

Traditionally when we think of an opinion leader in public relations and digital marketing it was always the journalist or market analyst that came to mind. But now social media influencers are an essential part of that content creation and promotional mix. As found in the Influencer Marketing Hub’s Bench Mark Report 2022, influencer marketing has grown to $16.4 billion in 2022, so it is an avenue that should definitely be considered if your business channels are ready.

Brand fit, reach and content engagement is key to creating an authentic collaboration before the business models and contractual agreements can be considered. Influencers can be split into different categories based on their followers: Nano is between 1k to 10k followers, micro is between 10k to 100k, and macro 100k to 500k. Beyond this, you enter the realms of the brand ambassador which is a different level of negotiation and fee – some can command 70K for just one tweet. Some influencers will collaborate based on special interests close to their heart, others on gifting, but most work on paid or pro bono agreements. It is all about negotiation, which does take time and an understanding of the needs of both parties. Read more about the new wave of marketing influencers here.

Researching the influencer landscape

When researching influencers across relevant social channels, a good starting point is to look at the hashtags, keywords, and topics the influencer is connected with. Of course, the number of followers is important, as well as how they fit with your brand positioning, product benefits, and shared brand values. The quality of content and engagement also needs to be considered when selecting and approaching your short list of influencers. Then it’s on to the negotiation of the contract and deliverables. Will it be gifted or paid, what will they share and for how long, and will there be a discount code for followers who engage with the campaign?

So depending on your business environment it is important to develop an integrated campaign which helps to evaluate and map out your route to market as well as your content strategy across the different owned and non-owned channels. First, your owned channels must be in order and ready for traffic that is driven to your site. Organic off-page optimisation comes next, followed by paid. 

To get some ideas about how PR and digital marketing can be applied to your business check out some of OggaDoon’s work here. 

To discuss your own marketing projects please get in touch with [email protected].

Getting traction online can be tricky without the right approach, but with a bit of creative thinking, generating online awareness can be done for even the most seemingly ‘stuffy’ brands. 

Digital PR is very important when it comes to SEO, links are crucial to the algorithm for Google, and other metrics like social mentions and branded mentions are great for building your brand online. 

Digital PR and creative content outreach is one of the key pillars of Varn’s full service approach to SEO, and covers a wide range of tactics and strategies around research and competitor analysis, content creation, and digital PR/link building. 

Here we take a closer look at digital PR and why it is crucial if you weren’t your business to succeed online and your website to rank well in search engines. 


What’s the difference between digital PR and traditional PR?

There are a few key differences between digital PR and traditional PR even though they are often two complimentary channels. 

Digital PR is a term which typically applies to more online activities and covers but is not limited to the following:

Traditional PR can often work as a stand-alone push and in many instances targets traditional media like print and television advertisements and placements. The ways that you measure success are also more apparent than with traditional PR. 

Whereas a television campaign or print media advert may have reached a certain target demographic, tracking the actual numbers of people that saw it can be difficult and tracking the revenue impact is often even more challenging. 

Whilst the tracking and right KPIs need to be set up in advance, measuring success is often easier with digital PR. 

Brand mentions social media interactions and link coverage are all easier to track and set key performance indicators against. Other follow-on metrics can also be used like ranking increases when looking at SEO and the potential increased revenue impact from these increases in SERP performance. 

What is the process for digital PR? 

Once you have content to reach out with (be it survey data, products, commentary or infographics) it is time to put together the target publication list. We work with the client to understand their ideal placements and tie it in with data on sites that we know move the needle when it comes to SEO value. 

Before we start with the outreach, we ensure we have a list of ideal target rankings that we want to improve. You need to drive the right keywords to the right pages, which is why developing a proper keyword map is crucial, this is typically done as part of the Technical SEO onboarding process in the form of an audit. 

Once we have developed the list we work through it in our quality control process then start with the outreach. Leveraging a tool like Buzzstream is great as you can scale the outreach and gain better insights into how each campaign is performing. 

After that comes the outreach, email scheduling software helps you greatly scale up the efforts, from that we can then get a more targeted plan together to get placements on sites depending on the individual publications content guidelines and tone of writing.

After the outreach, we report on the links attained and over time are able to measure the impact on rankings. If we are working on an ongoing campaign, then these reports are more regular and can help build up a better picture when it comes to the digital PR impact on SEO in terms of rankings. 

The diagram below shows one of the key differences in the method of outreach for digital and traditional PR. Whereas with traditional PR you want to get the content in front of the right audience straight away, with digital PR you are just as concerned with getting coverage on high-authority websites and increasing your rankings within Google. This way you are able to interact with potential customers when they are browsing content, but more importantly when they are seeking out relevant services that you want to rank for. 

How to measure success? 

When it comes to measuring success with digital PR, the following metrics are great to have within your reporting toolkit: 

All of the above are great ways to measure the success of campaigns, of course the ultimate aim is to build revenue and grow the business in a profitable way, but with more top of the funnel activities like digital PR having the above metrics to benchmark against is a great way to show the value of campaigns to clients and senior management. 

Some of our digital PR case studies 

Digital PR is a great way to create noise in your industry whilst also benefiting your SEO, at Varn our approach to digital PR is as transparent as it is effective. We always report on campaigns, and some get amazing results, others a slightly more muted, but we are always up front with performance. 

Some of our favourite case studies include the Thought Clothing Black Friday survey push and the Festival Bag from Paper Bag Co. These are examples of two great digital PR tactics: 

The above tactics are great for getting a large hit of links from news relevant sites and also consistent links to support your SEO over the long run. 

Get in touch to learn more 

Digital PR is a growing industry and is a very important part of a strong ongoing SEO strategy. If you would like to learn more about digital PR and the benefits it could bring to your business then get in touch with a member of the Varn team. 

We have put together campaigns in the past which have driven great results for clients both in terms of coverage and impact on SEO. Our campaigns are set up with performance in mind, which is why we are trusted to deliver on our promises. 

McCann ploughs ahead with next phase of campaign for Britain’s largest organic dairy brand

Yeo Valley Organic, Britain’s largest organic dairy brand, is set to launch a new above-the-line campaign as part of its carefully crafted masterbrand advertising activity, created by McCann Bristol.  Leveraging the creative line “Yeo Got This!”, the multichannel campaign aims to give people the confidence to make good choices for themselves and the planet, every day.

The creative will be appearing in out-of-home channels, supported by a radio sponsorship with Magic Radio and social content. Further bursts are planned throughout 2023 along with exciting partnerships, experiential and in store activities.

Yeo Valley Organic Brand Director, Niall McKee said: “We’re delighted to see our masterbrand campaign starting to gain in momentum as we head into the autumn.  We want this campaign to give everyone the confidence to make good choices for themselves and the planet every day. Our campaign is a little fist bump of encouragement.

“The latest activity is certainly timely for us as a brand.  According to latest data from Deloitte, there has been a sharp increase in the number of people who have adopted a more sustainable lifestyle in the past 12 months. It’s therefore important that we actively demonstrate how we’ve been pioneering this movement for over 25 years, and it’s central to everything that we do.”

Talking about the brand platform, McCann Bristol’s Executive Creative Director Zane Radcliffe explains: “We landed on a truth that most of us have good intentions when it comes to making choices that are good for both us and the planet. But we’re not all Greta Thunberg, and it can be difficult to know how to make a positive impact. Yeo Got This! reassures us that we can all do our bit, even if it’s just popping an organic yogurt in our shopping baskets.”

The campaign builds on the insight that Yeo Valley Organic has been making good choices for over 25 years as an organic and sustainable business: prioritising nature friendly farming, animal welfare, and not using artificial fertilisers or chemical pesticides.

Radcliffe adds: “We’re helping people make positive choices in an effortless, fun and informative way.”

McCann Bristol won the work through a competitive pitch process last year, and it marks an exciting new era of growth for the organic dairy brand as it raises awareness of its regenerative organic farming credentials.