A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.
Topic: Using Search Data to Optimize the Entire Marketing Mix
In the digital marketing ecosystem, all roads lead to branded content and the company website. Since all marketing channels either give an assist, or ultimately lead to the conversion, creating a unified message means coordinating visibility across all departments and functions.
Today we talk about the importance of using search data as a way to improve visibility and the benefits that of an integrated approach to digital marketing and SEO.
Erin O’Brien, President & COO at GinzaMetrics
Karen Scates, Manager Marketing & PR GinzaMetrics
FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT
Karen: Hey there. Welcome to this week’s edition of FOUND Friday, our weekly YouTube episode and podcast where we talk about trends and topics affecting SEO and marketing. I’m Karen.
Erin: And I’m Erin.
Karen: Today we’re going to talk about using search data as a unifying glue that improves all marketing PR and SEO efforts. First, let’s talk about the importance of focusing on the end user, the website visitor or person consuming the content and not just optimizing for search engine bots.
Erin: I’m sure I’m not saying anything that most people don’t already know. But when you’re looking at creating content, obviously you’re supposed to be creating it for someone to consume, not something like a bot. The bot situation is interesting because what the bot or what the search engine is supposed to be doing is uplifting the content that it thinks leaders or consumers will most enjoy. By creating content that is optimized for a search engine, you technically should just be creating content for the end user because the search engine is mimicking what the end user should want.
A few things that are interesting with that is obviously things that people may not think are end user-focused but actually are stuff like page structure and crawlability. At the end of the day, what it’s really saying when we’re talking about some page structure elements is beyond tags and things, what we’re talking about is making sure that things are in an optimal flow to be enjoyed by both the eye and the mind so that if you had a header or a title, it doesn’t reflect anything that’s in the actual content. Not only is that weird to the search engine but it’s weird to the search engine because it’s weird to the reader.
What you’re really talking about is you want to create – everybody says this. This is not new information. You want to make sure that when you’re creating something, you’re not creating something that’s already out there. So don’t duplicate content. You’re not creating something that is in some way, shape, or form misleading by its title or initial paragraph and then later on it switches and becomes something else and that you’re creating something that can be found easily by adhering to not only good search practices but adhering to really good content practices.
Karen: Right. You’re doing yourself a favor because you’re creating a nice flow for prospects but also maybe for customers who are going in and looking for support materials. It’s not just about ranking but it’s actually about providing a service and being helpful in general. I think sometimes people lose track like, “We want to be on the first page and we want to rank.” Then you have to sit back and think, “Why am I really doing this? I’m doing this because I want to create a nice experience for the people who are coming in.” It’s such a great experience if they want to continue to be my customer or they want to become a customer.
Erin: I think there’s a lot of back and forth or people feel like they’re pulled in different directions which is we have to create new content because we have to do this campaign. We just need to create something to go with it. But if you don’t think of your campaigns that way, if you think of your campaigns instead as let’s develop a campaign around content that will actually be engaging and try to structure the campaign – going back to media, method, and message – structuring things around messages that resonate and then creating it on mediums that people enjoy and sharing it on methods that your audience will use, this is really the core foundation of how that works.
We also have a lot of folks who talk to us about lead gen issues like “I’m responsible for driving X number of leads for my client and I have to get that.” They feel like they need to do these things that are unfortunately called clickbait or all those negative terms. At the end of the day, if what is in the content is the same thing that’s in the headline, enticing people to click, in my mind, is not a bad practice. You have to compete for attention. This is a really tough job – competing for folk’s attention, not just attention about your product but just competing for people’s attention with everything that’s going on.
Whatever gets somebody to click, as long as what’s delivered after the click is what they think they clicked on, I truly believe that this is acceptable and that a lot of times people feel like that’s not a good marketing best practice or that’s not in keeping with SEO. I really feel like it is as long as, like I said, it all ties together and you’re not being misleading.
Karen: Another challenge is the challenge of knowing – you’re talking about the medium, the method, and the message – where to distribute content or where to show up. We talk about the importance of knowing which marketing challenge is driving traffic. But does that mean that if one or two marketing channels are not engaging your audience, you should stop delivering content on those channels?
Erin: I think this is hard because it depends on whether or not you’re creating unique content for that channel and you’re expending a lot of time in resources in doing so or if you’re simply sharing content there and maybe not seeing an amazing return.
I go back to the medium, method, and message thing and that’s because what you want to know is is it the channel that’s not working? Is it actually that? Is it how you’re sharing things on that channel? Are you trying to put only videos on Twitter or are you sharing too much text on Facebook? What are you doing? How are you using e-mail? What exactly is it that you’re sharing? Or is it possibly the message? Have you not figured out what message works with that channel?
I think a lot of times if people get a good response on a couple of channels and not a good response on some others, you’re like, “That channel is just not where our audience is.” I’m like, “Maybe your audience is there and they’re just not receptive to how you’re speaking to them on that specific channel.” Going back to medium, method, and message will help you actually really figure that out.
A lot of times, too, we talk about content as an ecosystem and it really is. Content is not just about this one-time thing and whenever somebody ends up clicking is the thing that wins. A lot of times what people need is – this is an old advertising practice. How many times does an eyeball need to see something before somebody decides to take an action? It used to be back in the advertising world 5 to 7 before any sort of awareness was even achieved. That was stuff like billboards, TV commercials, radio ads, flyers, mailers, and all these things.
Now, because we’re in this one medium, people feel like we’re stuck in one medium which is online, people forget that online has all these different mediums. We’ve got all these social channels, we’ve got e-mail, we’ve got different things, and you can mix it up with some online stuff. Get back to being creative in both on and offline methods and then figure out how does this work? But I feel like when you really just cut off a couple of channels out of the ecosystem, you don’t know if those are the channels that are helping get people to that general awareness situation to where when they do go search. The reason they’re searching and looking for something specific is because of the messaging they’ve been getting from you on social, on e-mail, on all these different things.
I was just talking with a potential user the other day about this. I’m talking about the ties between how they do social promotion and what they talk about with their products and brands and how later on when people search for something, really understanding how what they had talked about on social had contributed to that final decision to look for their specific item.
I think you can’t just cut things out of the mix. Like I said, we all have to prioritize how we create content, where we spend our time and where we spend our money. But I think that the place you should be spending you’re time and your money initially if you don’t know whether or not you should cut something out is in doing medium, method, and message research, not in continuing to create content that you don’t know what its usefulness is.
Karen: It’s important what you said about content being an ecosystem. I think a lot of times people think of content marketing or content as a campaign. Content itself really isn’t a campaign. Content marketing takes a long time. This is the long-term activity. So I think that looking short term going, “This channel isn’t performing right now,” or “This channel isn’t performing right now,” is really putting content more in that content is a campaign bucket instead of content is what we’re going to do over time.
Lots of organizations, different channels belong to different departments. They might say, “We’re going to focus here,” or “We’re going to focus there,” but it seems like to get a cohesive message, there is some data that needs to be shared. What data do they all need to be looking at to create a better synergy?
Erin: I’m sounding like a broken record but I’m not trying to. This really is where medium, method, and message is super important because that data is gatherable across all channels. One of the reasons that I like it so much is because it’s a normalizer of data. You’re measuring efficacy across different things. Beyond traffic you’re looking at things like engagement and conversion and all these different things. But if you segment it out by medium, method, and message, no one channel feels like they are necessarily winning or losing. What they’re doing is they’re optimizing their channel for these medium, method, and message outputs so that they don’t feel like it’s my channel versus your channel and that I have to show these numbers to make it look like I’m doing a valid job.
A lot of times what you can show is, “Hey, when we did this campaign over here with this type of messaging, we got a really good response. And when we did these two campaigns, we didn’t get as good of a response. So maybe this channel actually resonates more with this type of messaging.” Or “What we’ve discovered on our channel is that while we have lower traffic numbers, we have really high engagement. So maybe we’re not a big eyeballs channel. Maybe what we are is a really good conversational place, so maybe we should put more work into forum-type discussions or deeper data in there because that’s a deeper engagement channel.”
These are all things that you can consider and have way more productive conversations with your fellow team members around other than what’s normally seen as a much more competitive conversation in a lot of organizations and I think that that really just detracts from everybody actually making the real most of their channel, not the vanity number most.
Karen: We’ve been talking a little bit about building those connections between departments and really getting the SEO team involved with all the data and information they have with the marketing team, with the customer success team, with the PR team. I really think that once you start looking at it – as you said before, it’s an ecosystem – and get the overhead view, then all of a sudden thing start to make sense.
Erin: It’s true. A lot of what we find with folks feeling frustrated or confused or making decisions and then not having things pan out the way they want is a lack of this cohesion of information across a lot of different places and a way to feel like everybody is really comparing things on a real basis. I don’t like saying comparing apples to apples necessarily because apples to apples is not really the way that data from different places is going to work. There really is a big difference between the kind of data you get from an e-mail campaign versus what you get from working on something with Twitter or Pinterest. Because that data is different, I would like to say that even though it may be apples and oranges, it’s all still fruit, right? Let’s get together and try to figure out how to make the most of the data that we’re looking at.
Then again what you’re trying to get to is no channel is necessarily a bad channel. It’s just you’re not optimizing your medium, your method, and your message together to really work in the most optimized way. I think that that’s where search comes in to being an interesting factor. I’ll get to use my keyword group and content group thing here. When you create keyword groups and matching content groups, you put in this idea of the messaging that you’re sharing.
Let’s say Baskin-Robbins is doing something and maybe they’re going to do a Saint Patty’s Day green mint ice cream and they just really want everybody to come in with this green mint ice cream. Maybe they do an e-mail to Baskin-Robbins loyalty people. Maybe they do a social campaign saying, “Hey, if you’re one of the first 20 people in the store, we’ll give you free green mint ice cream.” Maybe they’ll do all kinds of different promotions.
Then what they can do if they have put in these keywords for their campaign around Saint Patty’s Day and green mint ice cream and things like that, they can actually understand how not just how these things are working and how the content that they’ve created is working. What they can really see then is when people go to search for Baskin-Robbins and green mint ice cream, what people are looking for is their local store and all these things, so they’ll actually be able to tie together how they had done all these other things that had gotten some awareness with people’s eventual searching for that specific thing. That’s like a B2C example but you can apply it to anything.
Karen: What would you say are some maybe not so obvious benefits of everyone making decisions from the same data?
Erin: I feel like all of them are so obvious. One, less arguing among all of your departments hopefully. So if anybody is arguing or feeling like they’re getting back channeled, that should cut a lot of that out. A more collaborative situation. Even if you’re not arguing, that doesn’t necessarily mean everybody is being super collaborative, so more collaboration.
Honestly, I think that a couple of the things that are really important here are faster decision making which is really important when we’re talking about creating content and doing things because as we all know, the online world moves really quickly, so faster decision making is key. It’s also better decision making because you’re measuring things in a way that allows all the fruit to be part of the conversation. Because I don’t necessarily feel like apples to apples is the real thing, but if you actually add in all of these different pieces and talk – I don’t even just mean among the marketing folks. I always go back to this. You need to be talking to customer service and customer success. You need to be talking to account management if that’s a different function from customer service and customer success. You need to be talking to your sales team.
You need to understand when they’re hearing things from folks in their organization. What exactly is it that they’re talking about? How can you leverage what they’re hearing a lot to create better content? How can you leverage what they’re hearing and rope that into your messaging? How can you figure out how you might be able to curtail some customer service issues or support issues using your existing marketing channels by providing certain information up front or in a more clear fashion?
There are so many ways that you can get together. That’s why I say better decision making, faster decision making, and collaboration. Maybe people don’t think about it as being external to just their department. If social media marketing is one thing, e-mail marketing is another, like paid is something, search is something, whatever, I’m not even just talking about those groups. Get outside the marketing organization. Even product can benefit from this and you can benefit from product development. Product development should know what people are talking about and what they want and your data as you’re seeing what people are searching for in SEO specifically should really help inform what it is that people in your market are looking for because a lot of times that signals information about how people’s wants and needs are changing first because they’re describing their pains to you in a search bar. You should know. Maybe it’s unexpected. I don’t think it’s not an obvious benefit but those are some of mine.
Karen: You’re talking about knowing what people are talking about. But even more than that, how they’re talking about it. Talk to your customer success team. What words and phrases are people using when they’re describing confusions or how are they phrasing the questions? Go back and look at chat scripts or whatever is available. Record a couple of calls, sit in on a couple of calls. Find out the words that the sales team is using. Find out the words that customers are using. Find out the words and phrases that prospects are using. And now you have another cash of keywords that you can create content from.
Erin: A number of years ago, seven years ago I think, I was working with sharing widget company. It was early on in the days of people trying to share things online. One of the things that we found was we had to do a lot of different stuff to figure out how to get this more integrated into people’s process. We’ve given a lot of folks a sample page online and we did this with our family which was both hilarious and frustrating. We said, “I want you to share this with me. I want you to figure out a way to send this information to me.” We had everything from people obviously doing the copy and paste of the URL to people taking screenshots to people copying the entire text of a webpage, ads and all, sidebar information and all, and then e-mailing it. We had people putting it in a Word doc. Somebody did that and e-mailed the Word doc. We had all kinds of interesting things.
One of the things that we’ve found when we were like, “Obviously this is a bigger thing to crack into than we’d originally thought,” we had to figure out why is it that no one knows what to call anything and we had everybody using the words differently. So people didn’t necessarily know the difference between obviously a browser and a search engine, the difference between where URL was and where their search bar was. They didn’t know that. We had a lot of people typing full URLs into Google, which you don’t need to do. You just put it directly on top.
A lot of these things were happening. This was a number of years ago but it was the nomenclature that folks were using when we were trying to educate people about how to use a sharing widget that was already just installed and all you had to do was click it, that people were not sure what we meant by a lot of phrases. So we had to get really specific.
A lot of times, your customer success folks or your customer service people are looking at search data around your entire industry where I think Keyword Discovery is really awesome is because it can really help you discover how people may be talking about stuff that you’re not already tracking is a really great opportunity for you to create some kind of know-how information or maybe to update something like maybe people just aren’t referring to it the way that we’re referring to it.
Karen: They could be looking on your website for help or support and just not searching for it correctly, not using the same words and they think that the material is not there and it is there.
Erin: If you have a search bar on the top of your website and you’re not looking in that thing and seeing what people are searching for the most frequently, you’re missing out on something like customer success gold. If people are just constantly writing stuff in there, obviously whatever that stuff is, (1) you need to make sure that’s how you’re describing whatever that thing is and (2) you need to make sure that that stuff moves closer to the home page or to your landing pages because if people are always searching for it, it means it’s not obvious on your site. So throw that thing up in the top nav or put it in a home page site or something. It’s obviously something that everybody is looking for and you’re not making it as easy to find.
Karen: That’s exactly what we’re talking about today. Just making sure that you create a good experience, whatever you’re doing – creating content, website or whatever, creating a good experience.
Great conversation today. Thanks for that. You can send your questions and comments to me, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can join in on the conversation, Twitter #FOUNDFriday. We hope to see you guys next week.
Erin: All right, see you guys later.
Karen: All right, bye-bye.