A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.
Topic: Baking SEO into the entire digital marketing lifecycle
Keeping search data at the end of the marketing lifecycle means missing out on opportunities to optimize your message and content. In this episode we talk about improving overall marketing efforts by using search data at every phase of a marketing campaign.
Erin O’Brien, President & COO, GinzaMetrics
Karen Scates, Manager, Marketing & PR, GinzaMetrics
FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT
Karen: Hello! Welcome to this week’s edition of FOUND Friday, our video and podcast episode where we talk about trends and topics for SEO, content, and digital marketing. I’m Karen.
Erin: And I’m Erin.
Karen: Today we’re going to talk about how to improve overall marketing efforts by baking SEO into the entire digital marketing lifecycle.
Let’s start by talking about how SEO is viewed and used in those organizations. So often SEO is viewed as the department that fixes the website and content problems. Do you think that view is changing?
Erin: I think the view is changing as content marketing has taken a hold across the marketing world. But it’s not necessarily changing to place search data and best practices at the forefront. Instead, it’s often thought of as a way to guarantee an organization’s investment in their content. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. It just might not always yield the best results if you aren’t considering the larger picture of what all this data can do for you.
Karen: That’s a really good point. Let’s delve into that a little bit. What are the benefits do you think of bringing your search team in when you’re analyzing your current product and marketing situation?
Erin: Often organic marketing is one of the first ways an audience is exposed to your brand or reaches the content on your site. The search team has access to information on what kind of keywords and topics are really doing well for your site as well as how those topics and terms are really changing in your industry. They really know at a deep level what content matches up with those topics the best and how that changes over time, they can also discover how competitors and other sites are leveraging specific topics and terms to drive traffic more successfully when you are and what you might need to do to improve on that.
Search data can also include a lot of keywords and topics that you’re not currently creating content around that may be considered adjacent topics or markets or audiences that you should really consider weaving into your product marketing conversations, your content creation conversations, your overall strategic conversations. These things really change a lot over time.
One of the things you mentioned at the beginning is this idea of people come in, it’s considered a fix or maybe a one-time thing. It’s not a one-time thing, it’s an evolutionary thing. So you have to approach it that way.
Karen: To really get the most out of it, what search data should be considered when looking at strategic marketing objectives and planning?
Erin: In a strategic marketing plan, you really need to understand how your audience is finding your brand and what’s working and what’s not, and how that is changing over time. It’s like this evolution because what worked a month ago may not be working two or three months from now. So if I only dive in and do this once in a blue moon may not be helpful.
Your SEO department should have its finger on the pulse of exactly how people are finding you down to specific devices they’re using, location information, insights on how both of those things are continuing to change or not change, because in some cases, no change is actually a bad sign. It may not be but what terms, what content, what types of content are really continuing to resonate?
For example, everyone knows this but over the last few years, video content has become increasingly popular across all forms of marketing. Obvious things like B2C and retail but B2B too. We’re technically B2B company and here we are doing this video, and people really enjoy and appreciate being able to have these one-on-one conversational styles of learning. Video tutorials on how to use particular software platforms, etc. are really prevalent and a good idea and that has changed a lot. So keeping your finger on the pulse of what exactly that might be or what’s next is important.
This information shouldn’t be thought of as reactive but rather predictive and pointing to trends and used as a consideration for what to do next. For instance, if you noticed that a few years ago people were referring to industry terms in one way but that terminology has shifted and that people are talking about things in a different way. Are you updating your content to reflect the most current language? How do you weave that into how you share your content on social? In e-mail, do you update advertising, etc.?
Unfortunately, a lot of times that data isn’t shared with all of those other departments. So in larger organizations, you may get better search data and you may change some content around but maybe the e-mail team doesn’t know that they should be changing subject lines or headers. Maybe the advertising department doesn’t necessarily weave in this keyword information into better ad optimization. Unfortunately, that happens. So if you’re not doing that, congratulations. You’re doing way better than a lot of other folks because often search and social are going to be the first places you’ll notice these kinds of shifts. The data that comes from these things needs to be shared far and wide and you need to have this kind of conversations.
Karen: I think that’s a good point about being predictive instead of just reactive and putting SEO as a way to strategize what you’re going to be doing and determining what future content is going to be instead of just fixing it on the backend.
Once the marketing department gets into the tactics, what role can the SEO department play when marketing tactics are being executed?
Erin: You will be looking to your search department to provide feedback and a lot of different points throughout the marketing lifecycle. You want to know before you ever even start creating content: what other types of content are out there, how they’re being consumed by your audience? What are the mediums, methods, and messages that these pieces of content have and how is what you’re going to create be different and better than that? Because if somebody has already created an infographic on this exact topic, why are you creating the exact same thing? What are you going to do differently? How is this going to be better? Even if what you are considering to be better is you just have better distribution, you may want to think, “Are there other updates we can make?” because you’re also going to get dinged for creating duplicate content.
Once you’ve created content, obviously you want to ensure that it’s going to be as findable as possible by both search engines and audience members. Your SEO team should have best practices in place obviously that’ll help you optimize content before it goes live. There are ways to do that. If you’re not doing it, if you’re waiting until it’s already out there and then post-optimizing, you may be missing a crucial step.
Once you’re live, obviously you should be continuously optimizing based on conversation trends, any feature or update changes that your organization has made, competitor content and how that seems to be reacting with audiences. This is so important because what we’re talking about is utilizing what you’ve already got in market to really stay on top and relevant and ranking higher instead of feeling like the only way to stay relevant is just generate new content all the time. There’s so much that can be done in terms of updating, optimizing, and repurposing things that you’ve already got. This goes back to conversations we have a lot around the use of evergreen content and how something that may not seem evergreen now because it doesn’t have a lot of traffic going to it could become evergreen with a few small updates.
Also, after a campaign is over you should have a review of the mediums, methods, and messages that were used and then overlay those against medium, method, and messages from previous campaigns. Your search team can actually tell you how these played out across findability in terms of keywords, in terms of content, and in terms of how competitor keywords and content did for the same mediums, methods, and messages so you can actually really get a lot of insanely granular highly useful information from doing this.
If you want more information on mediums, method, and messages, how those things are calculated, we got a whole really cool presentation on it. I talk about it almost every show or at least allude to it. I know we’ve got a few deeper dives so we’ll probably throw those in the blog post.
Karen: Yeah. One of the things that we have talked about before is just even weaving SEO into that individual piece of content. As you’re creating the individual piece of content, SEO isn’t just the backend thing. You need to know what keywords are trending. You need that information that needs to be in the first 100 words of the first paragraph and all that kind of stuff without actually stuffing in keywords. I’m not talking about stuffing keywords. I’m talking about creating…
Erin: The irony of that conversation is like, “I’m going to create content and I’m going to take SEO or search into consideration,” is backwards to me. The way that I look at creating content is “What are people looking for? I’ll create something that serves that need,” instead of being like, “I’m going to create something and then I’m going to try to make it be the thing that people find.” What are people trying to find creates stuff that matches that. The idea that you would develop a content strategy and then say, “Now I’m going to SEO the heck out of this thing.” What are you doing? Why did you do it that way?
Karen: That’s right. I think that’s how people end up with keyword stuffing because they’ve actually just created something and they’re like, “Oh gosh! This piece of content doesn’t actually have any of our keywords. Let’s stick some in here.” So that becomes awkward.
Once the content is created, who’s responsible for making sure that it ranks well? Marketing or SEO?
Erin: The short answer is everyone. It’s because like this chicken-egg conversation. We actually did a SlideShare on this a while ago that’s still super relevant called “The Tail is Wagging the Dog” and other tales of creating content based on nothing. This is exactly this conversation. We’ll add this SlideShare into the blog post. But that entire presentation talks about how to go about finding that relevant topics and creating content that will resonate with your audience and that will naturally rank well because it is the thing that people are looking for. You are creating the thing that has the answer. You are creating it based on these good practices.
Content ranking well – technically, if you’re using search to inform your content strategy and then you create content based on that and then your SEO team is ensuring that everything is, from a structural point, really sound, crawlable, and findable and from a content perspective that keywords and terms and things shift, that they’ve alerted you and giving you the content that you might want to refresh and update, you should actually be in a really good place. If what you feel is you created all this campaign content and then you hand it to the search department and you’re like, “Make it rank,” unfortunately, they have don’t little magic rank 1 that just makes all your potentially crappy content better. There’s nothing they can do to header tags, meta data, and things that it’s just going to take something crappy or a duplicate of something else and just make it this amazing thing all of a sudden. That’s just not how it works. It’s on everyone.
It is true as well that if you have really good content on the counter side of that, if you have really, really good content, it naturally should rank decently but if your overall structure just totally sucks and you got it buried or your URL structure is all wonky or whatever, you’re going to have trouble being found for those reasons too.
It’s everyone’s job to make sure that the content is going well and I think that’s why what we’re talking about is there are obvious basic best practices – we talked about this last week, right? What are a couple of things, where a couple of places that somebody can start. I’d go back to that conversation, if you’ve only got time to do a few things or if you’re only going to focus on a couple of things, go there. Search should inform what content should be created. I think search and social, honestly, should inform what content is going to be created. You create the content and then you make sure you’re using search best practices and continually optimizing to stay on top.
Karen: You’re talking about the SEO pyramid where there’s the bottom layer of what everyone absolutely has to do and then the top layer of –
Erin: Self-actualized content?
Karen: Exactly. That’s where they get the blue marble. This is not a real question but it’s a leading question: why should SEO be key players during campaign and content reviews? I think that’s kind of obvious but I don’t know if you want to address that a little bit.
Erin: While it’s an obvious question, unfortunately, it doesn’t happen all the time. So while we’re saying that this is an obvious place for SEO to be involved at the campaign review phase, I actually want to say that I think campaign review is multiple-part process. There’s a campaign review at the very beginning before you actually create the campaign. What is the campaign going to be as you should be involved because they should know what keywords are trending, how things are ranking, how competitors are starting to change in rank for something. They should notice these trends and shifts.
If your search department doesn’t notice these trends or alert you to them, you might want to go over there and say, “Hey, what’s up?” or talk about how your company is structured and why they don’t feel that they can come to you with that information because chances are they have it, they should.
Then there’s the campaign review phase when you’re talking about what deliverables to create. This is especially true on the agency side. But when you’re talking about what deliverables do we create with the campaign, when you’re talking about search, you should absolutely know what type of content is most findable. Is it a video? Is it images? Is it social conversations and forums? Is it a landing page? What type of content? Is it blendable those things? It probably is a blend but there should be some information there on the overall types of content that already exist in market and how they’re findable too.
At the campaign review phase, the search team should have an intimate knowledge of everything you created for that campaign in a bucket, how exactly you’re ranking for those terms changed while you had this campaign, how that content individually performed in terms of findability by your audience, changes in audience and traffic that occurred during that time period, changes versus competitors in overall organic traffic versus that time period. They should have a bunch of information.
They should also have some suggestions on how you could do it better next time or what could have gone differently or what they would have done or maybe some suggestions for new keywords for an upcoming campaign. They’ll say, “Based on this, we’ve seen conversations around this other thing happening.” Maybe you’d consider doing a campaign there.
Honestly, the whys, all those reasons and the campaign and content review situation is that’s not just one time. You don’t just review a campaign at the end for 20 minutes and call it a day.
Karen: When you’re talking about having all this information, buckets for campaigns, I’m assuming you’re talking about keyword and content groups that “Ha ha I got to say it first this time!”
Erin: I was going to see if I could get through an entire segment without doing it. If you go back and look at any of the materials that we’ve referenced during this keyword groups and content groups are incredibly important and they’re not just important for the search team, they’re super important for the entire rest of the marketing department and, honestly, for the product development department because you can group keywords and content by things like feature type and product type and all these different things, which means you can actually figure out what features are more important, what types of products are more important, what competitor groups are more important, or what campaign messaging has done better than other campaign messaging.
If you find out whenever you talk about this one type of messaging, things really resonate, figure it out, “Hey, people really like this. Either we need more products around this, we need more messaging around this, we need more content around this, we need more education here. Maybe this is a thing that we should have been focusing on as an entire organization a little bit harder because it’s the thing that’s constantly comes up.”
Karen: I feel better now that we’ve actually talked about keyword and content groups. I feel like now we can end the show. I think that’s our show for today.
Let us know your thoughts and questions. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or join the conversation on Twitter at #FOUNDFriday. Be sure to join us next week as we continue this conversation. Until then have a great weekend, Erin.
Erin: Bye, Karen.