When I took a look at the agenda for SMX Toronto , I thought the content was not for me. Personalization algorithms, offline conversions, ranking tactics and Google Sitelinks were surely not what I had in mind when I signed up for a marketing conference.
As I sat through the sessions however, it quickly became apparent that everyone really was talking about marketing: best practices and tools for optimizing the exposure of our companies; products and services to the marketplace to tell our stories; how to forge relationships, boost our brands and grow our customer bases. Even if I didn’t understand every technical conversation or Droid in-joke, I learned a lot. The sessions and speakers were tremendously insightful into the current state of search marketing and the five places it is headed:
Data without insight is useless. Avinash Kaushik, author, Google analytics evangelist and SMX Toronto keynote says that metrics, data, stats, and numbers – all of it is meaningless unless you put it into context and define what it really means to your company. Does the data indicate seasonal trends in product sales, the number of whitepapers that have been downloaded from your website or that there has been an increase in ticket sales? Without understanding the “why” (qualitative) of your data, often the “what” (quantitative) is of little value. Anyone can spit out reams of data; the art is in understanding what it all means. “Don’t puke data out ,” he says.
Before you can change people’s behaviour, you must change their perception. A lot of marketers look to search and/or social campaigns as channels to blast out messages in hopes of driving sales. Typically, however, purchasing is based on loyalty, familiarity and trust – your customers buy from you because they know you and trust you. If your company and your brand are perceived negatively (or not at all) online, you must reverse that before asking those same people to do business with you. Look inside your metrics and analyze the sentiment and emotion in conversations and across topics of discussion. They can give you great insight into what people are already talking about and how they feel about your brand.
Remember, too, that while everyone talks about key influencers — those very vocal, powerful people who shape perception and incite action in social networks — it’s important not to forget long-tail influencers. Collectively, and over time, those people will likely contribute more to your brand and your bottom line.
There are very good reasons to keep search in-house. Not every organization handles their own search campaigns. Some outsource it entirely while others use a hybrid approach of in-house-plus-agency. Mike Suh, search engine marketing specialist at Coastal Contacts, offered compelling argument for keeping it within the organizational walls:
- The search experts on your own team have a stake in the success of the campaigns they put in place because they have a stake in the organization itself.
- In-house search means better and more personal coordination between the organizational teams needed for effective search strategies – marketing, IT and product development – and allows for better synchronization of online and offline efforts.
- You own everything! Databases, resources, reports, analytics, insights – it all belongs to the company, and can be adjusted to better suit the organization at any time.
Everyone in your organization needs to understand search. Search, SEO, optimization and PPC can be unsettling terms for many people in an organization. Those who don’t understand the value a search team brings to their organization’s success and bottom line commonly remain uncommitted to that team and its efforts, which may result in inadequate financial and human resources.
It’s imperative that everyone in the company understands the basics of search: what a PPC campaign is, what it really means to manage online campaigns, what conversion rates mean and why it is so darn critical to optimize everything. Now, this doesn’t mean that everyone in the company needs intensive and expensive training – you already have a search team. It simply means that your marketing, finance, product development, IT and management teams need to understand the fundamentals and goals of search in relation to the company. Let your search team hold quarterly internal training for others in the organization to demonstrate what their efforts can do to better the organization’s branding, customer perception, competitive positioning and, ultimately, revenue.
Mobile is social. Mobile devices are tools for real-time news, information, entertainment and connection to social networks at all times. Users are connected 24/7. What does that mean for marketers? For many companies, it’s an opportunity to build strong, longstanding relationships with mobile audiences by providing them with highly customizable content. Delivering permission-based, targeted, branded content to customers is branding and marketing utopia.
For many organizations, from media conglomerates to restaurant chains, the app is where it’s at. Digitaria’s chief customer officer Warren Raisch calls mobile devices “A brand in the hand.” Marketers also need to understand, he says, that mobile users are hunters, not browsers. Typically they are looking for something local, and something immediate, like nearby Starbucks locations or hotels with available accommodation. Marketers need to start thinking of ways to engage those customers, provide solutions to their problems and answers to their questions in real-time.
The truth is, I’ve criticized myself of late for being “analytically challenged” and perhaps not the marketer I could – or should – be. Paraphrasing some sage advice from Avinash Kaushik, I’m going to worry less about the “what” of search, and more about the “why.”