A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.
Topic: Beyond Retweets and Likes – the SEO Value of Social. Find out what to measure and how to measure your social media campaigns to show ROI for your efforts.
Ray Grieselhuber, Founder & CEO at GinzaMetrics
Erin O’Brien, COO at GinzaMetrics
FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT
Erin: Hey, everyone. Welcome to FOUND Friday. It is Friday, February 6, 2015. I cannot believe how fast the year is already going and then we started this a couple of years ago. Also, today is National American Heart Association Wear Red Day. That’s where you’re getting red lipstick and fun red printed shirts to support everybody out there in the American Heart Association. So shout-out to you, guys.
Today we’re going to be talking about the topic beyond retweets and likes: the SEO value of social. While I know that there are a lot of conversations about big data, metrics, proving ROI, and tons other jargon, heavy stuff. The fact of the matter is we’re really talking about serious things here. What we’re talking about is how you’re spending your time and money and why you need to make sure that you’re doing both of those things in the best way possible.
To start, I want to talk about the current state of measurement in social. Obviously, people have realized that measuring social media is important. If they’re incorporating it into their marketing mix, they know that they need to be tracking things, showing some analytics, giving people some numbers. But what data are we really getting? And how is this helping them actually make any better choices?
Ray, I know we’ve added a lot of the social features to the platform recently over the last year or so. Tell me a little bit about why this evolution of social has made its way into what started out on an SEO platform, because it’s apparently relevant to findability.
Ray: Definitely. Social and SEO have always had a lot of – in my mind – things that played off of each other really well. It’s always been something that I have felt should be measured together. The difficulty was a lot of times the departments and customers we were working with – and we’ve seen the pattern across a lot of the industry – is the different departments were working very independently from each other. So there wasn’t very much worthwhile to give to SEO managers, for example, early on in terms of social tools because the social media team, they were just going to be using their own tools anyway.
I’d say what’s changed over the last couple of years has been content marketing as a major them for a lot of companies has really started to get people to think more holistically. So we’re moving away from this idea of, “You do social, I’ll do search, I’ll do e-mail.” CMOs and everyone down from there are looking at things from more of an integrated perspective.
I’d say this is still early though. There’s a long way to go in order to make this really a complete vision, but that’s the direction everyone is moving. It’s something that I’ve been very happy to see. So we’ve been adding in more social features that correlate and correspond very nicely with all the search insights that were provided.
Erin: We talk a lot about this whole silo problem and a lot of people are addressing this. But I want to go back to what this really comes down to from a marketing tracking perspective is your ability to gauge and value how you’re spending your time and how to accurately measure and learn from each thing that you’re doing.
Last week we talked about how all marketing is content marketing because everything is content. We’re saying that there is this aspect of content marketing but I personally don’t think that content marketing is a part of marketing, it just is marketing. We know marketing is content. Advertising is content. Videos are content. Social media is content, white papers, e-books, etc.
I go back to my broken record of this idea of being able to track the media, the method, and the message. If you are tracking media, method, and message then high five, but that means you’re also tracking how each specific piece of content works across different channels as well as how content performs by type.
For example, asking yourself questions like: does video content worth well for your brand? Have you placed videos somewhere besides YouTube to see if those channels also get good traction? Is it video that’s working well or is it YouTube as a distribution channel that’s working well? You don’t know that if you’re only making one video and it’s only on YouTube. Or all videos are just on YouTube.
Is it the content of the video that’s good? Is it particularly the messaging and what you’re doing in there? And if so, can it be repurposed into other medium to see if audiences will gravitate towards it as a case study or an ad or a blog post or social media promotion? Take that content and see how it performs in other places.
Could you be optimizing your YouTube channel further, taking good content to being great content? If you’re saying, “Okay, this has a lot of views, that’s good,” what would make it great? Is there a step beyond that?
I want to talk a little bit about your thoughts on this common quick view of social media, that easy glance that says, “Yes, we’re getting clicks on all the YouTubes and the many tweets on the Twitters.” There has to be something beyond that.
Ray: There is. You and I talk a lot about this and I’m sure we’re in agreement on this. What we see is companies focusing on these so-called vanity metrics like clicks and retweets and so forth. They get very interested in measuring those, but they don’t really take the time to understand what that’s actually going to mean for them and what the impact those things are going to have on their business.
What we always recommend is when you start looking at investing more on marketing, spend some time ahead of time up front, basically documenting your strategy, what your goals are for that strategy for the year for example, making plans specifically on how you’re going to execute against that strategy, decide how you’re going to measure performance for that execution. Once you’ve done that, you’re going to have a much better idea of how relevant things like clicks are, retweets are.
Some of them may affect you, some of them may not. So I would recommend focusing on the things that really are only going to help you improve your performance against those KPIs.
Erin: Because what we’re talking about is improving performance, the idea behind this medium, method, and message methodology is a measurement tactic to help you understand the content that you’re currently creating or that you’ve created in the past, and how to optimize any effort that you make moving forward. So if you haven’t heard me do the rant before, I’ll quickly explain what each of these things is for clarity sake.
The medium is the channel that you’re using to distribute your marketing. This is stuff like Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Marketo, SlideShare, whatever it is.
The method is the type of content or asset you’ve created. Examples include: video, image, white paper, e-mail, podcast, landing page, etc. Be sure to note that we are separating out the video itself from the place that you shared it. This means that you can really measure whether it’s that video that’s awesome or the medium that you’re sharing it through.
The message. This is the campaign or main thing you’re trying to convey to the audience. For example, it may be Black Friday holiday deals, new sales solutions for B2B marketers. This is how you measure the efficacy of your campaigns regardless of the methods and mediums that you’re using for them.
This comes in especially handy when you add new mediums or methods to a campaign and things either go great or flop. You can point to specifically what is or isn’t working and make real adjustments.
It’s also great for people who’ve been using the same marketing mix for a really long time. Say every campaign that you do has an ad set, an e-mail, a landing page, and some social promotion, but some campaigns perform better than others. Being able to measure these things will really help you take into account what specific content works well across other areas.
Ray, anything to add to using a methodology like this?
Ray: No, I actually don’t. I think as a framework, it’s really powerful. Most people don’t have the mindset if they haven’t been through a lot of large-scale campaigns like this before. So I think that focusing on these three areas, building a system that enables you to track each one of those things, the core advantage that that gives you is it lets you really drill down into what’s working and what’s not working on very small instances of everything that you’re doing so you can figure out what to optimize.
A lot of the problems with these types of campaigns in contrast to the type of precision that you get with paid advertising is with paid advertising, then you can get very minute insights about each one of your different campaigns, exactly which copy is working, which keywords are working, what’s not working. When we’re talking about content marketing and social media marketing and search and everything else, it’s just inherently messier system. So this lets you provide a lot more logic to that process. If you can build this into your overall content creation, product, distribution, and measurement workflow then you’re going to be in really good shape.
Erin: It’s funny because I think one of the things we talk about is how stuff like this and words like “big data,” “big data platform,” and “enterprise marketing solution,” and all this stuff gets thrown around and it gets scary because we’re talking about telling someone who may only be responsible for a single line of business or a single aspect of marketing that they now need to understand specifically the metrics and measurement of a million other things that either they’re not responsible for, don’t have any insight into, or wouldn’t know how to measure regardless. Or we’re telling people who actually are responsible for all these things that “Somebody is going to come and take your job if you don’t start measuring and using this massive platform full of tons of numbers and facts and figures.”
One of the things that we’ve done really well taking this into account is trying to simplify some of those views about how channels are actually contributing to overall findability, showing people at a combined level the overall efficacy of e-mail paid search, affiliate marketing, whatever it is, and you can actually bucket those things out by keyword group, other things like date range, etc. to be able to separate out how all these different factors are contributing. If you want to drill down and get more information, you certainly can. But there’s no reason to make this so scary.
Erin: I want to talk a little bit about what we’ve seen in the marketplace is starting to change – or is it not starting to change people’s perception of these surface level metrics that you can see like just the number of likes, clicks, and retweets.
Ray: I think it’s definitely starting to change. I look at things often from both the position of someone like the CMO or the marketing team and also from the perspective of the vendor, which is what we are. I would say from the perspective of a CMO, the big themes that we’re hearing from everybody that they’re to focus in on is they’ve got to get better at measurement, they’ve got to get better at defining and understanding what their ROI is on content marketing. Budgets are starting to increase. A lot more people are spending more money on content and, in many cases, shifting money away from advertising. But as soon as you do that, you immediately get asked how effective this is.
People are really struggling with being able to do that. So what that leads to is the third [11:48 inaudible] for CMOs I would say specifically in 2015 going forward is investing in technology and analytics that’s going to help you answer that question. I’d say that’s what they’re dealing with.
From vendors, because we do tend to be on the data side of things, it’s easy for us to sit back. It’s clear to us that measurement is always going to be a big deal, and so we’re usually first out of the gate to build new technology. But what we have to remember is two things. One is because we have this view on the world, we tend to be a little bit ahead of the market in terms of their adoption cycle when you create this sort of new technology.
The second point is also the way you deal with the first point. You have to take the step back and again, look at where people are today. Figure out how you can make what you’re doing now relevant to what their existing reality is and provide a path from what they’re doing now to what they should be doing in the future.
Erin: You bring up an interesting point about getting people on board the stuff. It makes me think of another question. You and I haven’t talked about this in a while, actually. Measurement is important. People are understanding that this needs to be a thing. But I hate the phrase “data silos” or whatever, but people understand that their departments and likely not everybody who does everything across any sort of marketing, advertising, PR, social channels, all hangs out together all the time.
Do you think that there is a benefit to or will there ever be a super platform where all types of measurement for all types of marketing efforts can really be encompassed into one specific place and that all teams could use this platform to accomplish their needs? Or is that just too big of a thing for anybody to undertake? Like there’s no way for every department to get everything they need in one place.
Ray: I think it’s an open question. I would say that the corollary to that on the advertising world is things like DMPs where you do have these platforms that are collecting tons of information and people are getting very effective at using those platforms. From a pure definition, they are kind of this ultra platform that does everything.
But the flipside to that is very rarely do I hear about a company adopting only one DMP. They’re usually working with multiple systems because each individual system has its own strengths. A lot of times, one of the things that we see quite often is there are these companies, there are these platforms that they claim to do everything, they claim to have access to all these different data sources, but what you ultimately get is a very thin layer.
So I think there’s always going to be a combination of these horizontal platforms that attempt to do this data collection across the broad range of things and that’s going to make sense to certain companies. But then you’re always going to have these much more vertically integrated systems where companies have determined that they have a need for certain core features that really require a much higher degree of specialization.
I think it’s going to be messy for a long time. I think it’s going to be fragmented for a long time. There certainly will be leaders who’d come out and have a large place in both the horizontal and vertical side of things, but I think we’re a long way off still from seeing the one or two uber platforms.
Erin: From a purely competitive standpoint, it would be nice to allow people to have a choice as to what type of data they want – configuration and things like that.
We were talking about this idea of medium, method, and message, this is something that every individual contributor can be tracking and every department can be tracking. But at the end of the day, the responsibility for medium, method, and message is truly usable at a strategic level at the upper management and decision maker level, people who are really coming up with the kind of long-term strategy for things and diving in.
Where people keep getting tripped up is – the reason I’m suggesting uber platform – the normalization of the data, to say that everybody is actually tracking things in the same way. The problem that people keep having is: “You’re counting something as this but I’m counting it as that.” So now we’ve got disparate data sets that we’re all trying to compare to use to make decisions.
Whatever you’re using, regardless of platform, having a real conversation about how you measure certain things and what actual valuations are across all of your mediums and methods will ensure that the data that you actually get out to start making decisions on is real usable stuff.
I want to tie this back to understanding social and search as a revenue-generating system. The things that people are searching for and are naturally coming through your SEO would likely make really great insight for social and other marketing initiatives as these are the topics, the phrases, and words that people natively use and you know that they’re already interested because they are naturally searching for them on their own.
Conversely, what’s being heavily shared on social and already has a lot of traction across those channels is obviously something that you would want to consider amping up from an organic marketing perspective. That means ensuring you’ve got the right keywords that you’re tracking because what the language that people are using when they’re having discussions on social media and sharing things, it’s probably language you should consider using or at least be tracking.
Take a look at how your content is being optimized to be found by your target audience. Check out our recommendations tool. We’ll make sure your landing pages don’t suck. If something seems to be catching fire, see if you can take that topic and create additional content in other places like videos, case studies, white papers, ads, whatever. Don’t stop at excitement about a single good effort on one social post.
Ray: Absolutely. Probably the biggest disconnect between search and social to date in getting people to talk to each other is SEO people talk all about keywords all the time. From my experience anyway, social oriented people talk all the time about topics and, even more broadly, trends, categories of things that people are paying attention to. One of the things that for some reason has taken longer than I expected to happen has been getting people both sides to understand that.
In most cases, we’re just talking about the same thing. At most, you’re probably going to have some sort of aggregation of keywords into topics and different categories, trends to talk about. Those tend to make their way out on search and social a little bit differently, but ultimately you should be getting both groups of people to understand that that is the case.
The advantage that you get by doing that is if you can take your larger topics and your trends and everything else that you’re talking about and boil them down into specific keywords or search phrases, you can get a lot of really useful insight in terms of how many people are actually searching for those topics. And you can build a much more powerful aggregate, topic, traffic model based on that by looking at all the different keywords that may be relevant there.
I think that really getting the search and social teams to come together on that understanding and work together to build those models can give you a lot more predictability in the business overall.
Erin: There’s so much to be said about that disparity between the two teams and I do think that a lot of it is nomenclature, as you’re pointing out, semantic differences that people can’t seem to get past which is really getting in their own way of making the best possible decisions.
There are so many different ways, phrases, and colloquialisms or whatever the terminology that people use to discuss a very similar topic, whether it’s about a solution to solve a problem or about a brand or something that they’re looking to purchase, that ignoring the ties that you could be seeing between conversations that people are having natively amongst to themselves on social and the actual implementation of how they’re searching for things when they go to find it is such a missed opportunity of connectivity to create better conversations, to create better content, to drive better traffic, and to drive more relevant traffic.
This goes back to the thing that I always get annoyed about which is somebody saying, “I want to know how much traffic I have to have to my website to have X number of shopping cart fills or form fills to get X number of leads to get X number of purchases.”
I’m like, “While you may actually be able to get those numbers, at the end of the day, if your goal is to have 100 purchases at the end of the month, that could come from the 100 right people visiting, filling out the form and taking the action that you want them to take. Or it could take you a million people because you’ve obviously attracted 999,900 of wrong people to your site.”
Why are you so concerned about just driving excess traffic? Get the relevant traffic, so create the content that gets the relevant people to you.
Ray: We just had another rant recently where we were talking about this topic: how do you measure content marketing effectively? We just did an event where we had a lot of good speakers talking about this. The funny thing is you’ve got a lot of brands, you’ve got a lot of e-commerce people at these types of events, and they’re two different worlds. The common theme among all of them though was they’re still struggling to figure out exactly what metrics they should be focusing on in order to measure the performance.
Content Marketing Institute, they always produce really good annual reports on the state of the industry. In my opinion, one of the most relevant questions asked is: how are you actually measuring effectiveness?
It’s funny but a vast majority of the companies out there, whether they are brands or e-commerce or whatever, they’re still using page views as their primary KPI. On the one hand, that’s fine because it’s better than nothing. It’s showing that they actually are attempting to measure things. But on the other hand, there’s nothing about that page view metric that speaks to relevancy.
Erin: Is it better than nothing? Is it more dangerous to base your marketing efficacy on the wrong thing, to assume you’re doing fine? What if we got 10 million page views and not a single new customer? Would you see it like we’re doing an effective job? What if we get 100 page views and 99 new customers? I would say that’s like a bang-up marketing job. Is the page view thing actually doing more harm than good?
Ray: Well, it depends on the industry as well. For SaaS, obviously I think that’s a clear example of where it could do more harm than good.
We had some CPG brand marketers and for them, it’s very hard say… We had a beer company and one of them said that basically there’s no way for them to effectively measure some sort of digital correlation between traffic or anything because they’re not selling online to more beer cans being sold. I would probably take issue with that and challenge that and say, “You probably could if you took the time to do it right.” But that’s their current state of mind. For them, getting more page views was a legitimate brand measurement.
But again, the missed opportunity there is you’re not accounting for relevancy at all. The underlying assumptions behind the way they’re trying to measure that has nothing to do with relevancy. I think that’s one of the biggest things that’s going to have to continue to change.
Erin: Beyond the relevancy thing – because obviously that’s so critical – I want to discuss further the thing that you just brought up which is saying they’re like, “We cannot draw any correlation between people coming to our website and additional beer sold.” I have a pretty large problem with spending any significant amount of time and money doing anything that I can’t measure or cannot show that it works or doesn’t work.
If they just shut down the website, how would they know that had any effect on sales? But you’re paying for something, right? You said it yourself, they could probably figure it out if they wanted to spend the time to do it. I just cannot fathom knowing what a website’s cost (especially large enterprise websites’ cost) and the type of maintenance that they take to put together and the type of money and time that people are spending generating content and driving traffic to them – doing all of that and having no clue how at the end of the day and in any way, shape, or form affects things.
This is the same argument that PR got into a long time ago controversially too. People would be like, “I don’t know how being in an article sells me more stuff over how speaking add such thing sells me more stuff because I can’t take the direct one-to-one drop.”
We need to figure out how to measure what you’re doing. Even if it’s not an exact decimal number or whatever, there needs to be some metrics that show something. Page views, honestly, just seem like a copout to me. It’s not an irrelevant number, it’s just not the only number.
Ray: You’re not going far enough. That’s the problem with it.
Erin: It’s just the surface. Like I said, I think that in some cases, it’s more harm than good. That’s why I always hesitate when people ask us what out platform does, to jump in immediately and say, “We’ll help you increase traffic,” because I would actually rather help you increase conversions or goal completions. That’s what I want to help you do and that’s what I think we will help you do.
So if you’re using our platform and saying at the end of the day what you’re trying to accomplish is just more page views, sure. Hopefully that happens, too. But what we’re really trying to do is increase your revenue, increase your conversions, meet goals. So if your goal stopped at page views, then you need to reassess your goals, not the platform that you’re using.
Ray: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s going to be one of the biggest things. It really depends on industries that you’re talking about. The industry that you’re in is probably going to play a lot into how good you are at these sort of things. So SaaS marketers naturally have to be very savvy at this and have always had to be very savvy about this. That’s why they’re probably better at it today.
Brands for reasons of historical holdover and everything else, they still spend massive amounts of money on things like television, prints, outdoor advertising, and everything else. Today they live in this world with ambiguity where they’re okay with not being comfortable with knowing the actual performance numbers on a lot of those things.
That’s going to continue to shift. It’s all going to continue to go more digital. But the people that we talk to who come from that background, they’re a little bit old school in that regard. I think that the CMOs of those companies are going to be faced with the challenge of basically changing that culture because if they can’t, the executive board is eventually going to find the CMO who can do that.
Erin: I think that there’s always this conversation about what the value of awareness is. Because we’re talking about things like commercials, we’re talking about speaking engagements, we’re talking about a lot of times PR like certain articles being posted, because you do get metrics like page views, reads, shares, whatever it might be, like when you do an article or attend an event. But there is obviously inherent value to awareness, so I don’t want to say that because you cannot just measure awareness all the time in a really neat, pretty, little box that there’s no value to people being aware of your brand. There obviously is.
But at the end of the day, what you should know is taking all of these things that you’re working on at some point you need to be able to track back to. If you stopped doing them, would you have fewer conversions? Would you have fewer goal completions? Would you have fewer purchases?
It’s this idea of, what percentage of or where in the funnel are these things important and are we really leveraging them the most effectively? For some people, events are used to generate awareness. But for some people, the event is not actually about awareness generation, it’s really a deal closer. People there are already aware of their product or their service, and they’re going there to have specific deal closing things. They almost used the event as a case study or a white paper further down the funnel. So you definitely need to be able to measure stuff like that. That’s super important.
Ray: Yeah, absolutely.
Erin: I want to make sure that you close out any last thoughts. We probably tend to ruffle some feathers or make a few waves, maybe come around and tell people that if you’re measuring page views – I know that I said that if you’re measuring page views – you’re probably only scratching the surface and not really doing all that you could be doing. I don’t want to ever say that what we’re identified as a problem and said that we don’t care about helping you find a solution. We obviously very much care about helping you find a solution. We want you to do marketing in the best possible way, regardless of using our platform to do so.
Always go back and check out the blog posts. There are always links to other resources that we’ve found, that we’ve created, that we’ve amassed some other things. We’ll put a link back to that Content Marketing Institute survey that was published that they always do every year that reviews a little bit about the current state of marketing and where people think that things are going.
We did talk to Joe Polizzi, who founded the Content Marketing Institute, at the end of this past year about where he thinks we’re headed and his predictions. We’ll put the links to those things in there, as well, so that you can go back and look at some resources on how to get started with some of this.
We’ve got some other resources on this idea of medium, method, and message and how to get cracking with that. We don’t want to leave you hanging after we’re just said that maybe you’re doing it wrong.
Ray: Maybe that will be a good follow-up topic for the next FOUND Friday, to talk more specifically about how you can take some of those steps.
Erin: We also promised to talk about getting a pilot program started because that was one of the things that Joe talked about in his conversation with us. If you’re going to get started with changes in your content marketing and changes in your metrics and measurement, really try to start with a pilot program so that it’s not an all-or-nothing deal. I think that maybe that’ll be a good topic for FOUND Friday.
With that, I will wish everyone an awesome first Friday in February. We’ll see you guys next week!
Ray: Cool. Take it easy. Take care. Bye.