GLASGOW: The advocacy and opinions of influential bloggers can be more useful than a high-profile ad in connecting with a target audience by creating unique content and boosting SEO strategies, according to leading industry figures.

But, warned Jo-Ann Fortune, fashion and retail editor at digital agency iCrossing, brands should not think of them as just a cheap option. A professional partnership, she told The Drum, brings the best results.

One brand doing this successfully is fashion retailer Uniqlo, which commissioned fashion bloggers to create content around a new collection. "The most successful approach for us is to create bespoke campaigns and experiences that bloggers and their followers can get genuinely excited about," said Alice Frost, European digital and CRM manager for Uniqlo.

Google algorithms are also playing a role in influencing consumers looking for an authoritative voice. Adam Keyes, content and promotions executive at The Search Agency, noted that Google Authorship Markup meant the search giant could now rank the authority of particular bloggers as well as blogs generally.

"Blogger outreach is essential in accelerating the necessary 'know, like, trust' process that is essential in achieving the required conversions you set out for," he stated.

Underlying this was a need to operate a co-ordinated digital marketing strategy. "It is surprising how often you see blogger and influencer engagement from a social and PR perspective running cluelessly in tandem with tactical SEO paid link-building," observed Aresha Krishnan, senior content manager at Cheil.

"Too many agencies fail to identify the huge opportunity to join the dots to form a more holistic digital content strategy," she added.

Brands and bloggers also have to be wary of breaching advertising rules that require paid-for content to be made clear to readers. The Advertising Standards Authority recently updated guidance on its website, urging bloggers to be "up-front" about any financial relationships with the brands they were writing about.

It said that it had received a "steady stream of enquiries" from bloggers, some of whom had raised concerns about agencies offering them money to advertise on their behalf while encouraging them not to declare their interest.

Data sourced from The Drum; additional content by Warc staff