When I first started in digital marketing back in 2006, I had a dream of helping people take over the internet realm for their particular niche. At the time, I had 4 automotive clients and with the thought that content and links were so powerful for SEO while social media was the future, I pictured a product where my clients were blogging several times a week and posting them on several different blogs that fit in with particular topics.
One of the most amazing parts of my job is spending time reading, watching, and testing the practices of others. It’s conceivable that the true secret to my success over the years has less to do with creativity and more to do with listening and deciphering. You have to listen to the channels like Google and Facebook. You have to listen to your customers. You have to listen to your customers’ customers (if you’re an agency like me).
The annoying part of my job is sifting through the recycled techniques and reinvented terminology that surrounds so many marketing practices. In most cases, it’s the same old things repackaged into a different form or applied from a different angle. Those are valuable, but not gamechanging. Still, it’s important to go through them all in order to find the hidden or not-so-hidden gems that arise. The best practices I’ve found over the years haven’t been on the pages of Mashable, Search Engine Watch, or Social Media Today. The real winners have come from some of the least likely sources.
With all of that out of the way, let’s get to the point. There are three types of marketing. Despite all of the various names – push and pull marketing, social media marketing, gravitational marketing, search marketing, influence marketing, content marketing – the easiest and arguably most pure way of looking at it is to tackle everything from a perspective of venue and intent. Where are the people going and what are they doing when they get there? It’s important for me as well as business owners to look at it from this perspective because the collision of the various marketing types is forcing a holistic marketing model to outperform niche marketing techniques or specialized strategies.
In other words, if you look at venue and intent, you can craft your overall marketing strategy much more easily. We look at it as following the quest – what are they doing, why are thy doing it, and how can we be there to help them choose our clients. When people buy your products, they are fulfilling a quest. No, they’re not slaying an actual dragon, but if they’re on a quest to buy a car, then your dealership selling them a car is the culmination of that particular quest.
Here are the three types of marketing for 2014 (well, early 2014 at least – it changes so quickly) that we like to tackle:
Fulfilling the Quest
This is the easiest to understand and often the hardest to achieve because of the simplicity of purpose. Everyone knows that if someone is interested in buying a car, they’re probably going to go to Google, Bing, or one of the various classified sites to start looking. They might go to review sites and OEM sites as well, but for the most part they’re ready to seek the fulfillment of their quest, they’re going to try to look for cars.
Search engine marketing of all types, whether it’s SEO or PPC, gives you the opportunity to drive them to your website so they may fulfill their quest. They aren’t searching for Honda dealers to have fun. They have a purpose. They’re in buying mode. This is where you have to be in order to help them fulfill their quest.
Renewing the Quest
More businesses are starting to do this. Many of them tried to do it in 2009-2012 and failed miserably. Part of it was because the venues such as Facebook, banner advertisements, retargeting, and other forms of “passive” marketing arenas weren’t developed to the point that they are today.
Now, the goals have come full-circle thanks to the overall availability of the internet. Mobile devices have made checking social media sites and reading websites the common activity when there are no activities to do. As people ride a bus, wait in line at the bank, or even perform other mundane activities like watching television, they are also surfing the internet. They aren’t going to Facebook to buy things, but they’re open to the concept. They’re open to having their quest renewed.
When they go to Fox News to see what’s going on and the retargeting ad pops up in front of them, they are reminded that they are still on a quest even if they aren’t actively on it at that point. When the business they visited last week pops up on their Facebook news feed, they get that reiteration that they still need to buy something. It might take a dozen instances of seeing a brand and its message before they actually click through, but the statistics are showing that it’s working. Not every sale is made through Google. In fact, some of the most important and actionable clicks come through other venues when they’re not in active buying mode.
Creating the Quest
Of the three, this is the one that’s ignored the most. It’s the hardest to do and the least rewarding when not done right. However, it can be the most rewarding when companies are able to make it sing. This is one that we focus on in particular because in our industry, nobody is doing it right.
In many ways it’s like good old fashioned advertising. No, it’s not like the commercials that we see on television today. Think along the lines of the early days of television when brands were built by establishing a problem that people will see in the normal course of their day and then having that problem solved either in the middle of the initial marketing effort or after further research.
The reason that it’s so hard today is because of attention span. We have seconds instead of minutes to get the message out through most advertising and marketing venues. There’s no longer time to tell a story…
…or is there?
The art of creating the quest is about putting the right content on the right venues that will reach people and establish a need whether they’re in the market right now or not. With this particular article already breaking the 1,000-word mark, there’s not enough time to go into it in detail. We’ll do that next time. Instead, watch the following video that shows two commercials that worked well in their day. Today, having a minute-long television commercial isn’t practical for most businesses, but taking advantage of the various channels online to accomplish the same goal and better is something that we know will move the needle. It’s hard. That’s the point. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
More on that next time. For now, here’s the video:
Let’s keep this one short and sweet. If you run a business, you fall into one of four categories:
- Those who are using social media and seeing mixed or minimal results
- Those who have used social media in the past and stopped because they saw mixed or minimal results
- Those who have never really bought into social media
- Those who are killing it on social media
It’s easy for me to say that the last option is the one that just about every business should be striving towards, but the reality is that if everyone was in category four, it would actually mean that everyone was in category one. Despite the vast nature of social media, there is still a finite amount of room on news feeds, Twitter streams, and other visible portions of social media for businesses. It’s for this reason that I am glad most fall into the first three categories – it makes my job for clients much easier.
With that said, there definitely needs to be more in the last category and the likely reason that there aren’t is because so many fall into the second category. Whether on your own or through a vendor/guru hack, you’ve lost faith in social media. That was actually okay in 2012. It became less okay in 2013. In 2014, successful businesses will make it into category four or they’ll find it harder to keep their status as a “successful business”. Everything is migrating to include social as a major component. If you rely on organic search to drive traffic to your site, for example, you may will soon find that your traffic is dropping if it isn’t already. Google and Bing are betting high on social and they’re leaning towards social signals and page/profile quality as major components of their algorithm.
Search is just the start. This is the part that amazes me the most. There are local businesses that are spending thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars on digital advertising every month but they can’t seem to justify a couple thousand dollars to dedicate to a killer social media presence and integrated search engine optimization components. It’s the most trackable, tangible form of digital advertising and marketing – the smoke and mirrors required to try to prove value are gone (at least for some vendors/gurus). Make it real or go home – that’s what we’re faced with today.
In 2014, make it a priority to re-evaluate your position. Take a pitch or two. Read some blog posts. This isn’t about buying into a trend, though that alone should be pretty obvious. It’s about reading the writing on the wall – I see so many individuals who are active on social media, yet are unable to see the value of social media for their business. It’s not your fault. You simply haven’t been shown the real deal.
Find the real deal about social media. Your business success may depend on it.
Do you see the darkness in the background? That’s a presentation being done without the accompanying Powerpoint. Sixteen minutes into an hour-long presentation, the power on my computer ran out.
I had forgotten my power source at home so an hour before my presentation, I was in Staples buying a new one. It was supposedly compatible and seemed to fit the computer, so I ran with it. We were in a rush and as I prepared to start I didn’t check to make sure it was charging.
It was the best thing that could have happened. The remainder of the presentation after the initial awkwardness of standing in front of an empty theater screen was better than it would have been had the presentation not failed. The reason is simple. I was forced to go back to what I knew without assistance of a visual – analyzing individual business situations. Rather than go through the tips and tricks that business owners could use for their social media, I interacted with the audience to find out their specific needs. The point, I believe, was made in a better way than had the presentation gone without a hitch.
Any business can use social media. Any.
Here’s the video. Be sure to give it a thumbs up, if only for the sheer fact that I had to go through 45 minutes without my presentation.
I’m not a big fan of redundancy, especially on social media. Under normal circumstances, if you have good plugins and widgets properly placed on your blog, there’s no reason to have others. If you want to annoy me with a blog post, put an inline plugin, a floating plugin, and another one at the bottom. Oh, and throw in a “Share It” widget just in case three ways to share weren’t enough.
After years of fighting, I’m actually going to make an exception to the one-place-to-share-them-all rule. I have two Pinterest plugins on my blogs now and they’re both useful. I have, of course, the standard inline plugin. Some like the floating plugin and that makes sense, but it slows the page down a bit too much for my liking and it often isn’t visible on all devices even if your blog is responsive. I follow the unspoken rule of 5, 5, or 5 sharing options (no more, no less) and I prefer the big-5 for my particular blog (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn) but there are variations to this rule that replace LinkedIn with Tumblr if there’s no business-reason to share your site. Reddit is an obscure option of you have truly viral content of general interest or if you’re the mast of a popular niche.
I recently added the jQuery Pin It Button For Images. I have held off for a long time because I’m not crazy about it graying out the images upon hover and I don’t like that it’s an overlay, but I relented and haven’t looked back since. It works. People are pinning more. More importantly, they’re pinning the right link rather than pulling it from an archive or pinning the individual image itself. It’s light on the load and does have a nice little protection of not allowing your images to be right-clicked and saved.
One might ask why I wouldn’t eliminate Pinterest from the standard sharing section. The image button does not have a count and is only visible if people hover. Some people like doing all of their sharing from the same basic area, so they both stay up. Most importantly, it doesn’t work on all mobile devices.
The best part of the button on the image is that it acts as a good reminder to visitors. On a desktop, it whites out the image and displays the Pin It button when they hover over any image with their mouse. This is a prompt, a call to action, and it actually works very nicely.
Pinterest is quickly becoming one of the most important social networks when it comes to search. Some would say that the inclusion in Bing image results was the last surge of importance necessary to put it over Twitter on the effectiveness scale. Regardless of where you place it exactly on the social signal list, it’s definitely in the top 4. It helps with search engine optimization, period.
The traffic that can come from it can be pretty useless if you’re not selling items to a wide audience, but it’s still a good bulk play. Depending on the topic, it can be the second best traffic-driving social network showing up on analytics.
Nobody knows exactly where Pinterest will go and how long it will stay so important in the whole scheme of things for both search and social, but for now, you might as well take advantage of it while the ride is still hot. This plugin is an easy win.
The next age of advertising is right around the corner. With Google’s announcement of +Post ads, we now have a venue through which to advertise and garner true interaction from people as they surf the web. Think of it like Facebook advertising that reaches beyond Facebook – WAY beyond Facebook. With millions of websites out there that display Google ads, this expands the business footprint of Google’s social network in ways that Facebook will likely never be able to touch.
+Post ads take Google+ posts and display them on various websites. The example they use from their pilot programs is Toyota who used these ads to promote the launch of their Corolla earlier this year. They took Google+ posts and put them as ads on automotive sites like Autotrader as well as non-automotive sites that likely had a demographic or retargeted preference towards Toyota specifically or automotive in general.
Rather than just a plain banner that took people to the Toyota website or a landing page, the ads were interactive from the websites themselves on which they were found. If someone wanted to interact with the ad or Toyota in some way, they didn’t have to leave their website. They could comment on, +1, or share the post directly from the website without having to go to Google+.
This opens up doors for businesses to be able to truly interact with people much in the same way they’re doing on Facebook right now. The difference is, of course, that it’s not a walled garden. People will see the ads on many of the websites they visit and be able to engage with companies directly rather than having to click thru or visit the social network itself.
The possibilities are limitless. The potential is high. If Google stays true to this direction (and there’s no reason to believe that they’d make a fatal pivot) then this is going to be one of the most powerful forms of advertising that businesses can use. Small, localized businesses will gain the most benefit if they handle it properly, but big brands will be able to get traction with their own launches and offerings as well.
We will keep you updated. In the meantime, it’s time to get your Google+ pages in order, active, and worth your customers’ attention. Here’s the video describing Toyota’s trial:
The merging of search, social, and content marketing into a single digital marketing strategy has been happening for years. Intuitively, many of us have been guided by this fact to create the type of strategies that bring the disciplines together appropriately. As the evolution of the three reach a tipping point that is breaking down a good chunk of the practices of the past, it has become paramount to gain an understanding of how everything works together and why the flow of data between each has such a tremendous effect on digital marketing as a whole.
To do this properly, it’s becoming necessary to break it all down into units. The easiest way to understand this is to compare digital marketing strategy to a living organism. Every action has an effect of some sort on all of the parts. With this comprehension, you’ll be better equipped to make decisions about how to craft the overarching strategy as well as how to organize the individual actions.
A Quick Breakdown
If the model to make this work is like a living, breathing organism, then understanding what the different units are can help you grasp how it all plays together. We’re going to be breaking them down individually then bringing them together as a whole. In preparation, here’s a partial list of the individual units that we’ll be covering.
- Inbound Links
- Business Content
- Useful Content
- Company Blog
- Site UI and Navigation
- Social Media Profiles
- Social Media Shares
- Customers and Visitors
Over the next few weeks we will be breaking down how each of these works individually to support the whole. In the meantime, start thinking along the lines of holistic processes rather than individual tasks. While the tasks themselves are important, how they affect the entire body of marketing processes is the key to finding success.
Statistics can be a wonderful thing. They can show us information that can guide our decisions and bring us to see things in better focus. They can distract us, taking us down an incorrect path based upon lack of understanding. They can entertain us.
This infographic from Yoda London can likely do any of the three. As with any set of numbers, if you torture them long enough, you can make them say anything. For example, seeing that 93% of online experiences begin with search engines can be useful in that it highlights the importance of SEO. It could also be detrimental if misunderstood as “online experiences” could mean just about anything. It entertains (if you’re a search geek like me, at least).
Check out the graphic:
There are those who have been spreading (indefinitely, it seems) the thought that SEO is dead. It never ends, the thought (hope?) that search engine optimization has reached its conclusion. The main reason for these calls is, of course, when “experts” in search marketing start to find that their techniques don’t work anymore. Nothing will make someone believe a practice is dead more than finding out that they’re processes aren’t working.
Unfortunately for them (and fortunately for the rest of us), SEO is alive and well and growing in importance every day. The reasons are many, but here’s a quick breakdown:
- Mobile visibility is driving clicks on the go. Many people are no longer doing the majority of their searches on desktop computers. The computers in our pockets are doing just fine (sometimes better) at delivering the information we need. Mobile’s continuous onslaught on our time and eyeball share means that SEO today must maintain a “mobile-first” mentality. If you can make it rank well on mobile, you can make it rank well on desktops.
- The vision is pretty much set for the near future. Google and Bing are known for frequent updates and since 2011, Google has sent out some big ones. We will see a slow down on the major updates and a focus on tweaks for quality and adjustments to fight spammers. The gameplan is right there in front of us, which means that those who are good at SEO can duck their shoulders down and start barreling through the line.
- Competitors are increasing but true competitors are diminishing. Everyone is getting into the SEO game, but there’s only a handful that truly get it. By focusing on quality of content, links, and social signals, SEOs are able to succeed. Once you introduce shortcuts (and the majority of them do) you lose the effect. This is a benefit to those doing true SEO because it allows them to rise to the top more easily.
Don’t get trapped in the SEO-is-Dead mentality. SEO is alive and well in its purest form. Bad SEO is dying. This is a good thing.