FOUND Friday

A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.

EPISODE INFO

Topic: Understanding the entire marketing mix and how the various tools fit into the landscape will help you to be a better marketer and help you get your brand found online.

Speakers:
Ray Grieselhuber, Founder & CEO at GinzaMetrics
Erin O’Brien, COO at GinzaMetrics

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FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Erin: Hey, everyone. Welcome to FOUND Friday. Today’s topic is about the landscape of search and content marketing tools. As always, we have Ray, founder and CEO of GinzaMetrics and myself, Erin, COO of GinzaMetrics. You can tweet questions to us during the show using the #FOUNDFriday. You can also post questions on Facebook @GinzaMetrics or tweet directly @GinzaMetrics with any question or comments that you have, as well. We always pick suggestions for show topics or future things to discuss or guest that you’d like to see, so feel free to let us know.

Let’s kick it off with a more esoteric question. Do we think that traditional SEO tools will be around five years from now?

Ray: I personally think that the functionality will be there but no one is going to be calling them SEO tools anymore. They are going to be part of more broadly focused working tools.

Erin: I have a lot of thoughts about where this is going in terms of the landscape of the market and as to why this is even a question today. Let’s talk a little bit about just some things that have been discussed this week in the market. BrightEdge doing a collaboration, advanced content optimization technology for Adobe Experience Manager, Conductor releasing content insights powered by the Adobe Marketing Cloud, Adobe and seoClarity to launch ground-breaking marketing cloud integrations to solve the major challenges facing Enterprise SEOs. That’s a really long press release title.

One, what’s up Adobe? Two, it looks like there’s a lot of SEO marketing integrations happening and I know that this week happens to be a lot of Adobe type announcements. But these kinds of things happen for tons of companies, not just Adobe, not just the SEO companies that I just mentioned. One of the things I was thinking is: are these things coming together because SEO is getting absorbed into marketing and saying, “Oh, SEO should’ve always been a part of this and that’s what it is”? Or are SEO companies trying to morph into more marketing in content companies? Or is it that marketing companies finally are really realizing the power of organic search and are now saying, “We really want to make sure that these capabilities are included”?

Ray: I think it’s more of the first two than the last one, unfortunately. Adobe separately has separate issues, a pretty common desired acquisition target. A lot of these companies are building integrations and the hope is that Adobe is going to start picking some people up.

But more generally, the search obviously is clearly evolving. In order to get the same sort of importance and priority that it has in the past, it’s going to have to learn how to make an appeal to traditional marketing and traditional marketing managers – online marketing managers of course – more so than prior arguments which are much more focused around search performance.

It’s primarily a branding thing. People are trying to figure out marketing. They’re trying to figure how to really create content that resonates with users and everything else. So people are just tired of talking about pure SEO and they want to see how it fits in the general context of things. I think that pretty much everybody in this space recognizes that as a shift and as a result, people are making moves to adapt to that.

To point number three, I personally haven’t seen as many marketing types, people with a non-SEO background saying that they really want to try to integrate SEO better into their marketing plan. It’s always more of an afterthought or something that they hear about but they don’t really fully get it. A big opportunity for SEO platform companies is that despite how people feel about SEO, it’s taking a branding hit maybe over the last couple of years, despite how that’s happened over the last couple of years. Some of the most useful data both in online marketing and content marketing really comes from the type of data that you collect when you build a search platform and it’s really data that you can’t get anywhere else.

It’s been interesting. I spent a lot of time obviously researching things and there’s a lot of content marketing audits out there now and there’s a lot of things that are basically gearing up to help people understand what the most valuable type of content is and what you should be creating everything else. Inevitably, it comes back to the fact that search as a traffic channel obviously drives ton of traffic for people, but it’s also very useful for people doing marketing analysis because there’s really no other way to get competitive data. There’s really no other way to see the entire index of the Internet at any given time other than through the type of tools that you have to build in order to succeed at SEO.

You’re not going to be able to get that from social. You’re not going to be able to get that from anywhere else. The insights that you can get from that are very valuable. So I think that platform vendors that are interested in continuing to make themselves relevant to CMOs and VPs in marketing are going to have to adapt in order be able to show the value of the insights and data that they can deliver because it is unique, but they have to do I think a better job of showcasing it to the rest of the team.

Erin: We were talking a little bit about this landscape. We were talking about both search and content here and what these things are – separate, moving together – how that is really going to shake out.

Right now, it seems as though tool breakouts fall into a few different categories. There are traditional SEO vendors that really have a backbone in link building keyword tracking, really traditional SEO guts. There are new SEO vendors that have incorporated things like social media and some content insights into the next. There are content marketing dashboards that are actually mostly editorial calendar in nature and then there are content marketing dashboards that seem to provide some top-level analytics but really lack heavy recommendations for both the structure and content of marketing items.

Based on that, do you think that they are going to continue to be standalone tools based on your previous statement? Or do you think that what’s going to happen is that all of this stuff is going to continue to get absorbed by the Adobes, SAPs, and Salesforces of the world, and that there will only be a handful of really small niche providers after a while?

Ray: I personally think it’s going to be more of a handful of platforms that have been put together through various acquisitions by companies like Salesforce and Adobe over the years. There are only so many companies that are going to buy that many different platforms and try to stitch them all together into a single holistic platform. I think we’ll see maybe four or five companies that really make a run at it.

Erin: But do you think that they’re actually going to try to stitch them together? Every company goes about their acquisition structure a little bit differently. Some companies have this thing where they say, “I’m going to build an actual tank or moving vehicle so I need all of these parts to build the tank.” Other companies say, “I just want some of the data and the capabilities but I’m going to let the product keep standing on its own.”

One of the things that really concerns me about the acquisition of the space is when people get absorbed by the Adobes, SAPs, and Salesforces of the world and added into the Salesforce Marketing Cloud and all these things, it pushes people that are in mid-sized SMEs and SMBs out of the market because they can’t afford this stuff. So then they’re left with Google and a handful of really small providers that keep churning out because they either can’t compete with the big guys or they get absorbed by them.

The problem there for me is Google, one, is going to always going to always give you data based on what’s going on with Google, so it’s not like you’re going to be able to see other search engines necessarily around the world and all of this other data. And, two, Google Analytics because it’s a free tool, you’re not Google’s customer. So if you have a problem with your analytics, you need some new analytics, something appears to be wrong with your analytics, whatever the case may be, you’re not Google’s customer. People that pay for AdWords are Google’s customers. They’re always going to get priority and Google has no problem with admitting that to you.

For me, the more absorption of all these companies and rollups that happen, I do worry about people getting left behind. It’s hard to become a big company without any analytics, but if you have to spend $30,000 a month for an analytics platform, at what point is that really going to happen?

Ray: There is a positive trends in that until I would say probably in the last three or four years in SaaS market. The only real exit pass for the smaller niche player is once you sell to a company like Salesforce or Adobe. Obviously, only so many of those are going to happen. I think if that scenario had continued as it was, what you’re outlining here would certainly be the case where a few larger companies get acquired by two or three main players and then there are just tons of niche players and you have a ton of market fragmentation and everything else.

That’s actually really happened over the last five to ten years in SEO, in particular where you haven’t really had any big exits and you have a ton of market fragmentation. What’s interesting now though is public markets are getting better dealing with SaaS companies. SaaS company founders and executives and venture capital teams understand what it takes to hit scale in SaaS and there’s a lot more repeatability happening.

You’re seeing Mercado is public now. HubSpot is going to go public. I think you’re seeing a lot more companies that can get to scale. If they can hit that 50, that magical $50 million in new revenue, they can go public. It’s a lot less than $1 billion. It’s something similar that you would have to hit for a B2C company for example to be considered at scale.

If that continues and markets continue to respond well to SaaS in that way, then I think that there’s probably a lot of good news in store for the market as customer to those platforms because you don’t need that many customers to get the $50 million in revenue.

Erin: Do you think that there is any possibility that these larger players like we’ve mentioned earlier, the SEPs, the Salesforces, the Adobes of the world – and I say “let,” not in a physical barrier type of a way, but won’t let companies get that big without making them an offer that they can’t refuse? That’s always the thing I wonder.

When Facebook offered Snapchat, all that money and they said, “No,” everybody said, “You’re crazy,” they decided to wait it out. But for the most part, when Facebook shows up and offers someone $250 million to $500 million, a billion dollars as an acquisition – I know that that’s really super hard to say no to and that investors are going to be hard pressed into saying yes to those things. I guess my question is: do you think that it will be allowed for companies to continue to grow to the $50 million, $100 million in annual revenue mark?

Ray: I think so. Yeah. I’m pretty optimistic about that. Facebook only have so many multibillion dollar acquisitions left in their war chest. They used probably 40% of their cash over the last 12 months or so in making these acquisitions. And that’s B2C. A B2B company, a SaaS company is never going to command the type of multiples that those companies are getting on any – stretching the imagination.

For B2B-SaaS companies, there’s always just going to be a multiple on either revenue or return, so you’re never going to get these offers that are just too hard to turn down. Eventually, founders are looking around and seeing what’s happening to a lot of these companies after they get acquired. It’s pretty sad in many cases.

Maybe if it’s your first company, you’re 25 years old, you have no money in the bank, and your only option is to sell, then okay. Maybe that’s more attractive. But if you’ve been around the block a little bit and it’s not like you’re doing this for the money in the first place and you’re trying to make a dent in the world – I think there are a lot of those companies out there – then I think the incentives are much more aligned with trying to keep you on the game and to scale on your own.

Investors are becoming increasingly more willing to defer to founders in a lot of those things. Not everybody, of course, but there is a very strong founder-friendly movement within the B2C community as well, so I think that you’re starting to see some positive changes there too.

Erin: For saying that acquisition may not necessarily be the route that everybody’s going to be taking moving forward, let’s talk about a different angle which would be partnerships. When there’s a lot of small companies, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody has to get absorbed by a large company, but it does mean that at some point – there are a couple of options like build out capabilities yourself, buy somebody that has the capabilities, or partner with somebody that has the capabilities and move forward. What’s your thought on partnerships between things that have symbiotic relationships that could benefit the market?

Ray: Partnerships are always tricky. They’re interesting but they’re only interesting in the instances where they create new revenue opportunities from at least one company and ideally both companies involved.

I think most people would agree that nine times out of ten, those sorts of partnerships never really bear any fruit. It’s sexy and nice to be able to put on your website some partner’s logo and say, “Hey, we’re partners with                  .” But most of the time, most people would agree that those usually don’t bear any fruit.

I think partnerships that do drive new revenue for people are obviously great and you really can’t argue with that. The sort of partnerships that are strategic investments that potentially would lead to a large injection of cash and potential acquisition for something down the road, those are great for a founder. Usually if you can get them as long as they’re not too restricted but I would say they’re far and a few between and not really a great strategy to depend on.

The partnerships that I really like are those partnerships that are very loosely coupled, free structured in the sense that we’re a platform, we have an API. Companies like Salesforce and all these other companies out there, their platforms have an API. They recognize that there is a greater benefit to both their own business and the ecosystem as a whole by being transparent, open with their data and letting other people do things with it. It creates more of a market incentive for people to consume and use that data in different ways. Everyone gets paid and it’s very clear. There may not be as many TechCrunch articles about it but it’s ultimately much more practical and [16:42 inaudible] strategy for the long term.

Erin: The API conversation is really interesting. Let’s go back to the four major groups that we were talking about earlier: what the current landscape is made up of. You have traditional SEO vendors. We have newer SEO vendors that are incorporating things like social and content a little bit more. We have content marketing things that are editorial calendars but maybe a few other features along the way. You have content analytics but maybe lacking some real depth or recommendations or actionable insights.

For people like these traditional SEO vendors who really maybe want to move into this content place, if we’re talking about maybe acquisitions and partnerships being moved out a little bit, what’s the best way then for them to build out these capabilities? We were talking about a huge undertaking in engineering power and technology and education of their staff and current customers.

You and I talk about this all the time; we talked about it on the show before. We built the platform and we have customers who are loyal users of the platform. If we decide to change what the platform is, we have to understand that this may be alienating some people unless we do it in a way that provides them with a really good, seamless transition and still keeps the core functionalities that they signed up for.

If people are trying to move, like the ones we mentioned earlier, BrightEdge and Conductor doing these things with Adobe’s existing experience or marketing Klout stuff. Where do you see everybody else having to go? Or conversely, people there in this content marketing dashboard situation who have this, who want deeper search information. They have to get that from somewhere. Like, we have an API. We share data.

Ray: I think that if you’re coming from a non-search background, you’re eventually going to need a search data. These platforms such as ourselves or other companies out there are in a nice position to be able to provide our data via API. It’s something we’re excited about.

Your other question, there is still a big audience around SEO and SEO tools. There are people and budget and everything aligned behind that. But everyone is seeing the writing on the wall in the sense that it’s expanding out. It’s not going away but it will be part of something larger and different.

The challenge for a lot of companies in this space, if you look at the majority of SEO tools out there today and ourselves included, I would say 90% of the functionality they provide they’re around monitoring and analytics insights. Companies are going to have to continue to support that because it’s a need. People need it. Marketers need it. It’s something that you can adapt to other things, but you need to start being able to bring other things. But what you need is this bridge between the current monitoring platforms that are out there today and where everyone sees things going forward.

For us, what we’re doing is we’re starting to invest in the sorts of insights and recommendations that only someone with our data set can provide and trying to make those relevant in a larger marketing context – relevant to SEO people because it’s traditional things like competitive discovering and keyword insights and topic, insights and that sort of thing. But it can also be made relevant to marketing managers who are trying to figure out what topics to create, what type of content is most valuable. How does that affect things like share of voice and everything else? That’s the bridging opportunity but it’s not easy for a vendor in any space at all to try and navigate that. It does require both a huge product and marketing investment.

Erin: You have a point in the fact that such a small portion of the actual available market is being taken out if you look at how much money is being spent on search and content tools currently versus the total amount of budget allocated towards content and search.

A Forbes article a few months ago said content marketing is worth $44 billion moving forward and is only projected to continue increasing through 2020 at least. We’ve seen so many changes over the last six years. We’re talking about the increase continuing to spend over the next six years. It’s why you and I were saying that squabbling over the few customers that are already spoken for is a bad tactic because it means that you’re ignoring the huge market out there that’s left unserved by your product and the ability to evangelize and work towards teaching new people like the benefit of a tool.

Like you said, we were talking about: how do we create this connectivity between purely outputs of data that are based on monitoring to real insights that create action and, in some cases, create predictability or create prediction?

As the Internet continues to get smarter and as you continue to allow data to manifest over time, trends and patterns appear which is how predictions are made. Using a lot of data, we can almost become like a Farmer’s Almanac type thing of stuff, which I think is funny. I love the Farmer’s Almanac because that thing is like 100 years old, if not older.

Ray: Actually older.

Erin: It will still tell you which years are going to be rainier. Which year is going to have certain dry months? They’ve known that way before there was any sort of Internet situation to fall back on. So, it kills me that we can’t predict to when certain types of content will be better than others. I know we can do this. You and I talk about this a lot.

The thing we released yesterday, Channel Performance Insights is a first step towards giving our customers a view of the entire marketing landscape. To keep SEO from becoming this siloed thing where you only look at search and organic data, we said, “We want you to be able to see paid. We want you to be able to see e-mails, referrals, mobile – all these different things together. Then you can look at the percentages of how everything is broken down. You can click in there and dig around and see what about that stuff is working.” While we’re not trying to be an e-mail performance management company or get into paid advertising, it’s the idea that you should not look at everything in silo.

An interesting example for me – there’s an article about this in Inc. but also some conversation about LinkedIn’s new content score. There’s new score that LinkedIn has released to me. While it’s a good step for LinkedIn because it’s their channel and their data, to me, it falls a little bit short because it’s staying in this silo. The way that this data is useful is if they have something that you and I can plug in to our platform and if other people can plug in to their platform.

Understanding how all the analytics about just my LinkedIn data falls short of being awesome for me because I want to know how it’s performing against other content on other channels. I want to know how that same piece of content that I shared on LinkedIn or that I published on LinkedIn would fare elsewhere. Or once it left LinkedIn and it had gotten shared – how did that work out? What was that spread looking like? Or is there content duplication that I could be working on? Are there topics on other channels that I should be using on LinkedIn that would do really well based on the performance of things that are there? I feel like they have a little work to go on integrating or maybe that’s our job.

Ray: I think it is our job. I was thinking about the content marketing score that released earlier. It’s good for them because, frankly, out of all the social signals platforms and networks that we monitor, they’re probably the weakest in terms of data they’re providing. So it’s nice to see them starting to ramp that up. But they have very little incentive to drive in something more holistic.

They’re providing the data out of their platform based on the data they have. It’s up to people like us to create that bigger picture. I don’t really see a company like LinkedIn trying to do more than that. At the end of the day, it will make our job easier. But I guess it’s nice that they’re not too because it gives us something to work on.

Erin: Every time a tool like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest, or whatever creates more analytics, more scoring, and those types of things, I’m excited because I want access to it because I want to build it into a bigger view. To me, when they create cool stuff like that and then hang on to it, what are you scared of? If you really want people to use the data, let them use the data because using it to make smarter marketing decisions will eventually only increase their user view if your platform doesn’t suck. Don’t build a sucky platform and share your data. It’s my moral of that story.

The same thing with Klout getting acquired by Lithium. Klout, a week or two ago, they’re publishing and sharing platform nonsense which – sorry for all you Klout tiers out there – but I was not a big fan of that whole idea. I did think that acquisition by Lithium was interesting. A lot of people said, “I don’t get why Lithium wants them.”

It’s really interesting. To me, it was a good purchase because if they use it right, if they use it correctly, Klout has a lot of information around influencers and around specific people with specific topics, which is a very interesting thing to know. Specifically, who talks about what?

If you mix that with a lot of other particular analytics, you have potentially a very powerful set of insights about what type of content to create and who to create it for. There’s a lot of potential with that purchase. If you look at Klout as something beyond people sending out potato chips to people who tweet about food, and you actually get down to the nitty-gritty of the real data that they have, there’s potentially some really cool stuff going on there. Hopefully, they turn into something.

Ray: It’s an interesting point. I’ve always been a little bit puzzled by Klout. I think a lot of people have been puzzled by them. The score itself I think in that context is a lot less interesting than what you just said – that ability to generate.

What we see in a lot of industries – and we’re starting to see this as a trend – is that the real valuable data sets are data sets that facilitate discovery of audiences of potential target companies, competitors, topics, keywords, and everything else. Being able to assemble data that creates these lists or indexes of whatever market you’re interested in, that’s something that really holds value in an acquisition.

Erin: When you build something, you can be the smartest platform that no one uses. Klout had scores that you and I as general people saw – either like or didn’t like, or paid attention to or didn’t pay attention to. But Klout’s real money-making thing was selling that information off to other people so that their companies could reach out to the top 10,000 people who are mostly likely to buy your product.

There seem to be so much more that could’ve been done with it. A really cool dashboard for discovering influencers by different metrics, by volume, by impact, by region – all these different things that could’ve created a bunch of really awesome graphics for the general public to use, not just for big businesses.

Of course, I get that there are a lot of revenue situations going on there but there’s a reason Lithium bought Klout. There is a reason Klout decided to move more towards this publishing platform. Klout seems to lie dormant for a while and I have a feeling about was them hankering down and focusing on building new stuff and maybe getting ready for this acquisition.

But I think we’ll see some more stuff like that. That, to me, in the list of acquisitions that we were discussing today is one of the better ones. Like I said, assuming Lithium does something cool of it and doesn’t just tack it on to something and then add Klout scores to their Lithium dashboard.

Ray: Yeah, that would be unfortunate.

Erin: It would be very unfortunate. I’d say, “Hey, send Klout back out into the ocean. Do a catch-and-release program if you don’t end up doing something with it.”

Ray: You have 12 months to do something or you have to put that fish back in the water.

Erin: I’m serious! That’s a real problem to me – people taking something and not doing anything with it. You just own it now and I have to pay more for it and you didn’t enhance it in any way. I fail to understand this.

Next week we’re going to be talking about understanding your competition by using content marketing insights. Diving into understanding what your company and industry’s competitive landscape looks like and what particular insights you might want to look at, what metrics you should be discovering, and how to go about that.

Next week maybe a little bit more tutorial-ish. Maybe I’ll even prepare some visual aids.

Ray: Sounds good.

Erin: Thanks, everyone. Bye, Ray.

Ray: Bye.

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