A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.
Topic: Matching SEO and marketing needs to a tool that works for both
In the last few years, SEO and marketing professionals have had to adapt to an ever-evolving internet environment. The challenges for both will continue, and in some cases accelerate, in 2016. As these two functions become more and more reliant on each other, having a tool that allows collaboration and relevant insights for both functions has become invaluable.
Erin O’Brien, COO at GinzaMetrics
Karen Scates, Manager Marketing and PR, GinzaMetrics
FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT
Karen: Hi. Welcome to this week’s edition of FOUND Friday, our weekly Hangout where we talk about topics of interest for SEO and marketing. I’m Karen.
Erin: And I’m Erin.
Karen: This week’s topic is “Matching SEO and Marketing Needs to a Tool that Works for Both.”
Erin and I have been talking a lot about how SEO and marketing are becoming more reliant on each other and what that means in terms of sharing data and having tools that allow for more collaboration. The question is should companies even be focused on building a tool that can be used by multiple disciplines within an organization? Or should we continue with specialized tools that address the needs of individual departments?
Erin: Obviously, some of this goes back to the answer that you hate the most from me, which is “sometimes it depends.” But I would say that on the whole, whether or not we’re building a tool that’s the only tool that the department utilizes for something is not really the question to me. It’s more about understanding how various data from different departments actually affects the whole.
In the overall ecosystem, there are tons of places and ways to gather information on what will help improve rank? What will help improve overall findability because that’s the purpose of improving rank? What’s really going to help draw people in and get them to your site and help them convert?
Beyond just what people consider more traditional marketing and SEO stuff are other areas of your organization that people don’t even necessarily consider which customer success and customer support. Like what kinds of things are they hearing about on a regular basis, taking those topics in and considering how findable that information is? What kinds of things are your sales team members hearing on a regular basis? How can you loop that into better SEO and content creation and all kinds of things?
When we’re talking about multiple disciplines using a tool versus creating specialized tools is the tool might be specialized for the discipline. Like GinzaMetrics at its core was developed to be an SEO tool but there’s a lot of information in there that comes from content marketing and comes from social media that can be used by SEO. There’s a lot of SEO information in there that can be used by content marketing and by social media.
I think that there’s no way in my mind to currently build an SEO tool that’s going to work out really well for somebody that does not include somebody’s facets of content marketing and social and doesn’t take into account a lot of local discipline and mobile discipline and how those things are having an effect. And as that industry continues to evolve, I think that we’re going to continue to see that. Whether or not the tool itself is actually used outside of the SEO team, maybe not, I think it would actually be tragic to not share the data.
I think part of the reason for building the tool to include these multiple disciplines also means that you have to build the tool to be able to share data with those other disciplines in a way that they can find usable, which is a focus of hours especially moving forward into 2016.
Karen: We’ve talked a lot about where is SEO right now. In some organizations they’re still a separate department and in some organizations they’re part of the marketing department. Marketers are more and more trying to get their SEO skills honed so that they can do some of that on their own, too.
It just seems like it makes sense for these two functions. They can’t really survive without each other – content marketing and SEO. It makes sense for them to build, to share data into some kind of a logical way. And built to do reporting and even customized dashboards so that each of them will see the specific information they want to see but they can share information, too.
How much of a blend of content marketing and social media information really needs to be in an SEO tool?
Erin: Going back to the idea of overall findability – and that’s the real genesis or reason behind any of these disciplines, whether it’s search or social or content – is getting the content that you’re creating, getting your site, getting your brand offerings, products, features, whatever found by your target audience. Because those disciplines are becoming more and more interwoven and seeing more widespread effects of these disciplines on each other – and I’m always very quick to tell people this when I go through the platform – while we have social media information like social media trends, social media Share a Voice information, audience engagement overviews and things, we are not a social media analytics platform by nature and we do not make that our business in terms of a lot of in-depth necessarily like Twitter data or things like that. We provide an overview of this information so that you can compare how it’s having an effect on other elements of the search and content area.
Similar with content marketing, we provide a lot of information around all the marketing channels that are driving traffic to your site. We talk about how individual pieces of content are performing, how they perform in relationship to specific keywords and keyword groups. We allow you to group your content.
The answer to that question is there does need to be some connective tissue there because I feel like it’s really hard to have a solid SEO output without some of these content and social inputs. If your SEO platform had no content and no social media layer to it, I’m wondering how deep and really thorough is the data that you’re getting. But if you’re using an SEO platform that seems to be starting to shift all the way towards social and content data, you may be making some sacrifices in terms of their real focus on SEO.
That’s always a question to ask. Where do you see your platform going over the next year or two? What does your product roadmap look like? I think that asking somebody to share their product roadmap with you when you’re looking at and discussing tools moving forward is that if that’s what you’re really trying to use it for is a search function or a blended search and content function. You need to be sure that they’re not trying to move away from search and into something else. Or else you’re going to be stuck in a potentially year-long commitment or whatever with a tool that’s no longer making that their bailiwick.
Karen: I was doing some research on predictions for 2016. Content Marketing Institute is saying that 88% of organizations are now employing content marketing or predict to employ in 2016. That’s now.
Moving forward, it’s going to be even harder to break through the clutter to get noticed. What content insights will marketers and SEOs need to help them decide where to spend their efforts either optimizing content or creating new content?
Erin: I’m kind of curious as to who these 12% of organizations are that don’t do content marketing because they think that they’re doing it and they’re just not calling it content marketing, which is fine. I think content marketing is a weird buzzword because all marketing is content marketing. You create an e-mail, that’s content. You create a landing page, it’s content. You write a post on social media, that’s content. It’s like marketing marketing, not content marketing.
The thing about insights that people will need in order to figure out how exactly they’re going to spend their efforts is – there are a lot of different things that go into this. It’s a bigger question than I can dive into during the show. But from a broad overview, there are a lot of factors at play and some of those include things like how is current content performing? That’s not just content you just released. You need to look at evergreen content. You need to look at what else is driving traffic to your site? What continues to drive traffic even though it has been in the market for a while?
You need to look at topics and keyword trends. I know that SEOs know this and I know that most marketers know this but I’ll say it again because it’s relevant to the conversation. Keywords are not individual words most of the time, it’s phrases. When we’re talking about phrases, what we are really talking about is topics. What topics of interest are trending and how does that actually shift and change over time?
One of the ways that we address that is Top Keyword Activity area. It shows you and your competitors all the topics that are raising the most in rank and all the ones that are declining the fastest in rank over the last few weeks. One of the things that’s really cool about that is that it helps you understand where are audiences moving? What kinds of content are being found in relationship to those topics? Is it your content? Is it your competitor’s content? Is it mostly video? Is it mostly photos? Is it mostly blog posts? What does that look like?
A lot of times when you start to examine it this way, getting those kinds of insights in there will help you figure out, “Hey, I went back through my content and we had something a year or two ago that was similar to this that we could just update.” If you go back and update that content, you don’t have to spend a ton of time reinventing the wheel.
Folks have to be careful looking out is cannibalizing their own content. People are so quick to want to create a bunch of new content. If they’re like, “Look, I made this new thing,” that you forget that you already have this other content out there that was ranking pretty well and now you have content that may be duplicate content or maybe really similar content and now it’s competing with each other. I think when we’re talking about how to get insights and optimize, you have to go back and consider again this stuff is an ecosystem. And instead of creating just better content about a specific keyword or topic, try to create complementary sets of content that all work together.
We talk about this when we do media, method, message conversations, which I haven’t even done this year. Two or three weeks end of the year and I haven’t even set it yet. Here we go, breaking the ice. If you find something that’s working out really well that’s a really good topic and you already have a blog post on it, consider doing a video. Consider doing a SlideShare. Consider doing an e-book or a feature page or whatever. But don’t just create necessarily tons more blog posts about it. Consider creating complementary content around that topic.
Karen: Sometimes it’s just as easy as finding out how people are talking about something you’ve already created content about. Maybe it’s the same subject but the actual words they’re using or how it’s being talked about has changed slightly and simply updating your existing content that may already be ranking well. It’s just going to give you that little bit of boost. Lots of ways to look at that.
Frequent Google algorithm changes in 2015 caused a lot of chaos, and “Mobilegeddon” is a really good example of that. From what I hear, there’s going to be more of that coming in 2016. I don’t think that’s going to end.
What kinds of features will help marketers and SEOs get an early warning that their site and content is being affected so that they can respond quickly?
Erin: There are a lot of different ways to do this. The first is obviously to keep up with industry blogs, trends, new sources, etc. that’s fairly standard. They’re going to get a lot of that information first and let you know what’s coming, maybe some predictions or insights as to how it may affect you.
I feel like one of the funny things is every time some large change comes out, there’s a little bit of Chicken Little-ing going on and “the sky is falling” type of conversations that I try not to really participate in because it’s not that I don’t want to have people be prepared. It’s because it’s very rare that Google rolls out an algorithm change that kills everything and smashes everything to the ground at once.
A lot of times these roll outs take time. A lot of times it takes time for things to refactor and figure out what’s going on. You may experience a quick surge, you may experience a bit of a dip, but a lot of times if you have been focused on creating good, relevant content for your audience, you’re not likely to get super screwed by anything unless you’ve just been creating things in a structure that’s really bad, which obviously you would need to address.
Some other things that you should think about when you’re looking at: how can I get more information about this and keep track of them? Not just what’s coming but how have things affected you over time. It’s one of the things that we do, which is annotations inside the platform itself. Annotations, to me, is really useful because it tracks Google algorithm changes and separates them out like Panda and Penguin and other things, and you can toggle them off and on. But it will highlight inside of the platform over time when algorithm changes happen and you can add in your own annotations so you can make notes, not just about algorithm changes but about anything. But specifically with changes to the algorithm, you can make notes in there.
Especially for agencies or people who are doing a lot of internal reporting, it’s a really great way to go back and point and say, “Here’s when this came out. Here’s what is its effect on us,” and make some notes. You can also add in annotations for preparations you’re doing for upcoming algorithm changes that may be really helpful for you to note like, “Here we did XYZ in preparation for this to happen.” That’s especially helpful for your own internal tracking and measurement for agencies looking to report to clients things like that.
That’s another really good place to start. I know that we have some things that are coming out over the next few months that we’ll continue to address that and we’ll talk about those as they roll out.
Karen: That will be exciting. Beating a competition is a goal that I think marketers and SEOs can agree on. How do things like Competitor and Keyword Discovery help to make this task easier?
Erin: It’s funny because it seems like such an obvious question but I still don’t see people doing it all the time. While it seems obvious, it’s not common yet. When we’re talking about beating the competition there’s again a lot of different things that go into that, but one of the first things is really understanding who your competition is and how that industry and how that market changes and how its effect on your audience changes.
I will talk about competitor landscape as this series of concentric circles and we have a visual for that that we’ll probably put on the blog. If your brand and your content are at the center of this target, there are probably competitors all within that target that may be closer to the center where you are and some may be further away. But if they’re on the target, it means that they’re in some way, shape, or form affecting you.
Some of them may overlap with you in terms of content. Some may not. We call that “adjacent competitors.” People who are creating content that may not be creating a product or service that competes with you but they’re creating content that takes traffic away from you. Or they’re creating, that they have a product or service that may be complementary to yours but because they’re talking about it in a similar way, they’re taking traffic from you.
Competitor Discovery is going out and finding all those additional sites and all those additional things that are taking traffic so that you can see the exact list of keywords that you’re matching on and the exact content that they’re creating that matches that stuff. It’s really important to keep that in mind when you’re trying to figure out a content list so that you can make sure that what you’re doing is actually creating content that is truly relevant based on the entire sphere of whatever everybody else is creating.
It’s also a really good way to figure out that you’re creating duplicate content for something that already has either domain authority or really high rank and maybe you shouldn’t have done it that way. Maybe like, “Hey, this topic is really important and this blog post has really good rank for a competitor. Maybe I’ll do something different and create a video.” That’s always an interesting way to look at how you really want to go about addressing the content market.
Keyword Discovery is also really cool because that’s going to help find additional topics and keywords that may be able to drive traffic to your site and your content that you may not be necessarily aware of. Again, this is not going to give you a list of keywords and say, “This is your keyword list. This is what you need to create content around.” What it’s doing is it’s exposing this growing series of concentric circles of additional keywords, of additional topics that may be relevant to give you more insight, more ideas, more of like thought generation [17:36 inaudible] to get that stuff together.
In the tool we make it really easy if you want to add some of those keywords and competitors into your mix. You just check, check, check, click on them and they’re added. You can start to track them if you want to do that. You can add them to keyword groups or competitors and things like that. But again, in my mind, beating the competition a lot of it is mostly centered around do you really know what the competition looks like now because competitors from six months ago may still be competitors but they’re not the same competitor that they were six months ago. It always is.
Karen: You were talking about how you think that it’s sort of an obvious question, right? But I think a lot of times people think of competitors strictly as those brands that are directly competing with them for sales, who are the sales people coming across where people are saying, “I’m comparing your product with this product.” And what they’re not considering, which is what you’re talking about, is people who are competing with you for content, people who are competing with you for eyeballs.
Karen: For attention, for audience share. They’re your competitors as much as the people who are taking sales because if they’re getting eyeballs over you then there’s an audience that you can’t address. So I think it’s obvious but I think that it means that people need to expand their understanding of what the competitor is. Right?
Karen: The market of SEO platforms has typically had a few large enterprise players, a handful of smaller solutions and then a number of free tools. Do you think that mix is still in place and does it serve the current market?
Erin: Oh man, I wrestle with this all the time and Ray and I talk about this a lot too regularly which is, what is the real need of the market? Do people really fall into these two, maybe three very polarizing categories which is really big expensive enterprise SEO tools that start in the thousands of dollars a month and then some smaller stuff that may be in the $100-a-month range and then a cobbling together of free tools to do different things and then the use of multiple spreadsheets and stuff internally.
Ginza is what I would consider to be a mid-range player for a really long time and in a lot of ways if you look at it just purely based on pricing, we still are more of a mid-range tool. But our offering itself, the platform is an enterprise-level platform just based on daily crawls, powerful data scalability like depth of data. It’s an enterprise tool offered at a mid-range price.
I think there are a couple of different things to be addressed there. The first is that when we’re looking at enterprise value like enterprise offering versus enterprise pricing, it’s not just about the money. We believe that we can offer a really great product to people who may need enterprise-level data but can’t necessarily afford it yet and that’s one of the reasons we have the tool that we do.
The converse side that which is something that I am focused on this year is, how do we offer a mid-ranged tool at a mid-range price that also has what I want to call mid-range output? And I don’t mean mid-range output as a lesser quality output. I mean it as a less Goliath-sized output, something a little bit more accessible to folks who say, “Hey, I have a smaller team, I don’t have 10 million pages and 500,000 keywords. I just have these other needs and I just want these specific insights.” How do we get that to them in a usable way and at a price that they can afford? I think that that’s a challenge that a lot of folks are dealing with.
On the more affordable end of the scale are things like Moz and they’ve actually continued to raise their prices over the years too as they’ve expanded some of their service offerings and data, added local and things like that. But you have a number of free tools or lesser expensive tools.
One of the things we also talk about is what you really have in terms of trade offs and a lot of times with free tools what you have to do is you have to do a lot of cobbling together of multiple different things. There’s a lot of manual labor involved in that. You have to have all these different spreadsheets where you manage a bunch of stuff. And you have to think about: what is the cost of my time and do I have a lot of time and not a lot of money? This is like a perfectly adequate trade off. Or if I spend a little bit of money and I had more time, could I be using my time to do other things that would generate more money for my company?
This is the constant conversation that everybody has. Like is it cheaper to hire somebody to do this or is it cheaper to buy something to automate the process? I always tell people that they should re-examine what that looks like for their team and for their organization every six months. If you can’t do it every six months, at least once a year really think about that.
I’m not really sure if this is what continues to serve the market. Honestly, I believe that this idea of a mid-ranged offering, a mid-range price with a real output that can be used by the tons and tons of organizations that are not tiny little startups or one-man shows or huge, big like Coca-Cola, Nike, Fortune 500 type companies – those people need this help too and I don’t think that they should be stuck either paying exuberant prices and dealing with really, really big, heavy platforms or forced to cobble together a bunch of tools.
I think that continuing to create a platform that is scalable, not just in terms of more and more data but scalable in terms of how the offering is actually put together and accessed by different types of users will be a really a big challenge this year. I’m looking forward to seeing what we come up with and how we continue to address it and how the market receives it. That’s kind of a lot of it too. Is that what people really want? I usually try to ask to find out.
Karen: One of the things I know we’ve talked about is for the organizations that are cobbling together all these tools is the problem with getting inaccurate data. Because tools run differently or they may be gathering their data differently or whatever, you end up with data that’s not matching up, so then what do you do? So you have this one tool that’s giving you this data and it comes over and it overlaps. Some of these other tools is giving some more data but the data that overlaps isn’t matching up. It just seems like for small organizations, it’s just a headache that they don’t really need.
Erin: That’s definitely a challenge for folks. I even talk about this in larger organizations where we’re talking about how an SEO platform may have some content information, some social media information and then people say, “What happens when that data doesn’t necessarily match up? How do we deal with that?”
The integrity of your data throughout your organization is a bigger conversation and obviously depending on the size of your organization there may be really big structures and systems in place to handle and double-check on these kinds of things. The value of data when you’re using free tools, just because it’s free does not mean that this data has no value because you are making decisions based on it.
So anytime you’re making a decision based on an output of data, it has great value to your organization. I think that being sure that you are checking in and understanding how data is being collected and tabulated and utilized is going to be really key to making sure that you can continue to use it effectively moving forward. That sometimes is what creates that next step up into a different platform or into a different tool. It’s like, “We got really sick of having to cross compare all this information all the time.”
Karen: We’re going to continue these conversations and as 2016 unfolds we’re going to be capturing some of the trends and topics that are hot for SEO and marketers, so be sure to join us as we do that. I think that’s all for today.
Be sure to join us next week, same bat time, same bat channel. Be part of the conversation on Twitter at #FOUNDFriday or e-mail either of us with any questions or suggestions at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until then, have a great weekend, Erin.
Erin: Bye, Karen. See you next week.
Karen: Alright. Bye-bye.