Article | July 7, 2020
Anyone hear the letters CCPA or GDPR this week, or working on getting privacy controls in place for marketing communications? Just six months after CCPA went into effect – and with half a dozen other states drafting privacy and/or data protection legislation – marketers are still clamoring to understand what it means for how we target and engage with prospects and customers.
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
Article | July 7, 2020
Search engine optimisation (SEO) has come a long way, with continued developments, advancements and algorithm tweaks giving business owners, brand agencies and marketing gurus more than just a digital headache.
But traditionally, SEO has been a numbers game, with ranking positions the all-important deciding factor. However, with the purpose of the activity to reflect and cater to user behaviours, can SEO really be simplified to numerical values?
In this piece, Nate Burke, CEO of Diginius, a proprietary software solutions provider for digital marketing and ecommerce, takes a look at how far SEO has come and how more recent advancements in intelligence are helping it towards its ultimate goal.
For any business operating online, SEO is an essential element of the digital marketing mix. Forming the foundation of website designs and content output, SEO helps businesses build an online presence by increasing the chances of web pages and products appearing in visible positions on search engine results pages.
Over the years, the activity has advanced significantly. Of course, it has come a long way since the early days of cramming as many keywords as possible into text, or using spam websites to backlink to yours in an attempt to gain authority.
And while many of these activities are now frowned upon, and can in fact, negatively impact SEO rather than help it, the motivations are the same. For instance, using keywords in website copy or product descriptions is still key in ensuring they rank for the right search terms. Similarly, backlinks remain the golden ticket for website authority, albeit from genuine and trustworthy sources.
The difference is that today, SEO is much more intuitive. Best practice is all about optimising content for logical human behaviour and user experience. For example, keywords that are integrated into copy in a much more natural way are likely to gain more SEO points than a page which uses the old cramming approach.
The reason for this shift is all down to advancements in intelligence, which are enabling search engines to assess and score content in more sophisticated ways than previously possible. Ultimately, today’s ranking assessments understand pages and content in ways that are similar to human usage and interactions.
For example, Google’s roll out of featured snippets has shown significant insight into how the search engine is being used, and in turn, how businesses must adapt their content in order to reach the top-ranking positions.
Emphasis on Q&A style results in position zero of results pages is clear evidence for users turning to the platform for question queries, for which they want quick and straightforward answers. And with these featured snippet boxes taking up significant space on the top of the results page, pushing other organic results further down, it is essential for businesses to include such content into their optimisation strategies.
Additionally, there is a strong case for the use of PPC ads in order to ensure higher visibility on pages that are becoming much harder to rank on organically. This is also true for product searches, as the search engine prioritises shopping results when a user’s query is interpreted as an intent to purchase. Therefore, shopping ads are a great way to ensure your products are visible among competitors in the most prominent position on the page.
Evidently, intelligence in SEO is enabling it to reflect user behaviours and intentions more accurately. And while this is a positive change from a consumer perspective, as results are only becoming more relevant, convenient and useful, for businesses, the playing field is more complex than ever.
So, with ranking criteria constantly being adapted and advanced by search engines, there are ways for businesses to leverage their own intelligence in order to improve SEO activity.
For instance, the backbone of any effective SEO strategy is data and insight. For many, collecting this information requires a trial and error approach, whereby businesses implement tactics and learn from what is and isn’t working.
But as search engines become more complex and intelligent, it can be difficult to get things right, or to really be able to assess activity without waiting months in some cases. Therefore, businesses should use their own data and insights to inform any decisions or activity. This can be a key way to ensure you focus on the right channels, customers and keywords.
For instance, using lead intelligence gathered and analysed by a sophisticated management system that takes into consideration all sales channels, including owned and third-party marketplaces, can provide valuable information on which channels your customers are using most frequently and what products or services are most popular.
This information can then go on to inform the channels you should focus your SEO efforts on, and which products or services will provide the best ROI.
In SEO, the numbers will always be important, as ranking positions will always determine the success of any efforts. However, intelligence should be given just as much attention, as it is only with the latter that efforts can be streamlined for more effective results.
Article | July 7, 2020
Depending on what industry you’re in, you might suddenly find yourself with a little more time on your hands than usual. Time for some DIY marketing? Sure, why not?
I’ve been talking to a lot of companies who are focusing on marketing right now. Yes, really. When we get back to “real life” – or whatever the new “real life” is going to look like – they want to be ready to hit the ground running. Smart.
Not all marketing projects are suitable for DIY, though.
DIY marketing: 4 projects better left to the pros
Let’s make sure you don’t waste time or money (definitely not money!) on these four projects. Call a professional for help.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
There are two kinds of SEO – SEO lite and SEO for realz. I’ve written about SEO lite before, though I haven’t called it that. You can do very basic keyword research for your blog to understand what keywords people are searching for.
SEO for realz is much deeper than that. “Real” SEO optimizes your entire website for search based on the best keywords for your company. It is based on many factors, such as what your current ranking is; what keywords you are ranking well for; what keywords are competitive versus less competitive; etc.
Once all that research is done – using special tools that I couldn’t even name without Googling it – each page of your website is optimized. It’s a whole process. Depending on how big your website is, it can take a long time.
Needless to say, proper SEO that actually helps you rank for the keywords you want to be found for requires an expert. And not just someone who says they’re an expert, but someone who has a track record.
I have mentioned Google AdWords exactly once in all of my blog posts, and when I did mention it, this is what I said:
“This is not an area of expertise for us, so my advice is to work with a company that specializes in it (and has proven results).”
Google AdWords is nothing like social ads. It’s about as far from a DIY marketing project as you can get.
First, it is an auction. Instead of bidding on a painting or lamp, you bid on keywords. Cost and placement depend on the competitiveness of the keywords you're bidding for.
Here’s how bidding works (courtesy of Wordstream):
The actual position of your ad is determined by your ad rank (Maximum Bid times Quality Score). The highest ad rank gets the 1st ad position. Your actual CPC (cost per click) will be determined by the ad rank of the next highest ad below you divided by your Quality Score. The only exception of this rule is when you are the only bidder or the lowest bid in the Google Ads auction; then you pay your maximum bid per click! AdWords bidding heavily penalizes advertisers who bid with low quality scores. Conversely, those with high Quality Scores get higher ad ranks and lower CPC.
Are your eyes glazed over? Yeah, me too. As you read above, you also need to meet certain Quality Scores for this to work.
Second, you need keywords that are relevant to your company. If the best keywords are too expensive, you might be tempted to bid on less relevant keywords, which could be a waste of money.
Third, writing ad copy that converts is the hardest type of copywriting out there. Trust me.
Web design and development
SquareSpace, WIX and other web builders are DIY marketing dream tools for small businesses that just need a basic, no-nonsense website. These platforms are built specifically for non-web designers and developers, and therefore they are pretty easy to use.
A custom website that includes a lot of functionality is not a DIY project. What do I mean by “a lot” of functionality?
Think about a membership site or online learning site. Those require a member portal, dashboard, chat function, resource library that supports videos or audio, learning modules, module tracking/grading, etc.
Then there are companies who want a custom design, not necessarily custom functionality. These sites use unique fonts, scripts, graphics and art. They’re the ones that make you stop in your track (OK, maybe that only happens to me, but believe me – these are the sites you notice).
Anyway, my point is: a custom website is NOT a DIY marketing project.
Lead generation strategy
A lead generation strategy requires you to hunt down new opportunities in new places. How can you be expected to spot a lizard in the jungle when you’ve only ever looked for ants in a desert?
A great lead generation strategy requires an outside, objective perspective. Heck, I don’t even do my own lead generation strategy – I hire someone (Nicole at SocialLight) to do it for me.
When a pro does the strategy for you, he or she might uncover:
Completely new audiences – or new segments within existing audiences
Messages, offers, products or services that will better resonate with your target markets
Different communication channels to use
Topics that your target market cares about most
When to reach your target market (and how often to reach out)
You can’t be expected to uncover all of this, and you won’t be able to do it as quickly as an expert.
So remember: when in doubt, turn to an expert – especially for these four projects.
Article | July 7, 2020
Search engines are incredible. You pop onto your favorite one, type in a few keywords, and magically the search engine has scoured the entire internet to find the most relevant content. Except it’s not magic, of course. It’s algorithms and a lot of ideas from a lot of brilliant people. And we’ve started to wonder: With all the brilliant minds behind them, to what extent are search engines using artificial intelligence? Thanks to those same search engines, I was able to find some great research explaining how search engines use artificial intelligence.