Poll Results: Net Neutrality

 

Net Neutrality Debate The conversation over Net Neutrality has been highly debated over the past few months, with players in both the public and private sectors weighing in on the idea of Internet regulation. What is the sentiment surrounding the topic within the SEMPO community? We conducted a poll to find out.

Our data indicates 77% of the SEMPO community supports the concept of Net Neutrality, while 17% opposes it. Although polls from other sources indicate a majority of Americans support Net Neutrality as well, it is typically by a much slimmer margin. A recent Google Consumer Survey revealed most people don’t know or care much about the issue. In the survey results, 26.8% support Net Neutrality, and 14.3% oppose it. A full 60% of survey participants declined to specify support or opposition and instead indicated they simply do not know enough about the issue.

The SEMPO community is comprised of digital marketers invested in utilizing the Internet to support their clients, brands, and e-commerce initiatives. As an audience that spends much of its time leveraging the Internet for marketing purposes, it’s not surprising the SEMPO community demonstrated strong support for Net Neutrality in our poll.

Dan Shewan of Wordstream warns of some of the dangers of net neutrality for digital marketers.  He expresses concern over ISPs providing advantageous treatment to media companies that have a “preferential service agreement.”  Smaller businesses may not be able to compete with blogs of bigger companies even if they are offering quality, specialized content. Loading times of landing pages affect quality score rankings, so paid advertisers could also be harmed if bandwidth is restricted on their sites.

Do you have an opinion on the issue of Net Neutrality? Participate in the poll that is still open here on our blog, and/or let us know in the comments.

 

Be Sociable, Share!

    It’s back – the SEMPO State of Search Survey

    SEMPO State of Search Marketing Survey Research StateofSearch Research

    Yes, it’s that time of year again – when marketers assess what went right (and wrong) as well as look forward to fresh beginnings.  This time of reflection is also the perfect opportunity to take a few moments to participate in SEMPO’s 10th annual State of Search Survey.  The survey continues our well-established template of capturing and segmenting data relevant for both marketers/clients and agencies so it is open to all digital marketers, whether they are SEMPO members or not.

    We are also pleased to announce that this year we are partnering with Third Door Media (publisher of Search Engine Land and Marketing Land) to field the survey and report the results.  This edition includes focus on digital marketing trends including Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click Advertising, Social Media Marketing and other digital channels in the following areas:

    -Channels being utilized and changes in investment by channel/property

    -Ability to measure return-on-investment (ROI) by channel/property

    -Technology and tools utilized to manage channels/properties

    -Resource/Personnel allocation and/or fees paid to third parties to manage channels/properties

    -Prioritization of challenges in managing channels/properties

    As always, in return for your time and participation in the survey, you will receive access to a free, advance copy of the in-depth report, normally worth $400, when it is published. You will also be eligible to win a new iPad 3, courtesy of SEMPO, or a FREE All-access pass to SMX West in San Jose, CA, March 3-5, 2015, courtesy of Third Door Media.

    So now that you’ve read this far, why not take the few extra minutes to take the survey now by clicking here: http://www.etouches.com/esurvey/sempo

    Be Sociable, Share!

      E-commerce and Social Media Advertising Part 1

      Social media advertising is an important and evolving facet of digital marketing, and especially valuable in the E-commerce buying cycle. Because the E-commerce buying experience is less defined than the experience of shopping at a brick-and-mortar business, there are unique opportunities for digital marketers to reach out to consumers at various points in the buying cycle.

      At retail locations, attention-grabbing signs, sales information, and other elements can be employed to influence consumers. The avenues of influence are less obvious in the digital space, so it’s important for marketers to leverage social media advertising as part of an integrated marketing mix to drive traffic and sales.shoppping cart icons on tablet 492 x 348 px  6.83 x 4.83 in  72 dpi

      At brick-and-mortar businesses, consumers engage in “Search & Discover” by walking through the aisles, picking up products, reading labels, or asking questions. In E-commerce, there is no direct interaction between the product and the consumer, so marketers use other tools to achieve the same benefit as physical interaction with the product, bright signs, sales people, and displays found in stores.

      With targeted social media advertising, marketers can reach consumers who are already in the Search & Discover process of the buying cycle, which means they may be more likely to ultimately purchase a product. A study performed by AOL Platforms found that using paid social media advertising leads to a 25% increase in conversions compared to organic social media.

      Every piece of social media content is a chance to convert, so it is imperative to capture consumers who are already searching for the product.

      Although investing in social media advertising is important, content does not always gain the level of organic traction marketers were able to capitalize upon in the past due to Facebook’s algorithm changes. With social media advertising, businesses can reach and influence consumers in the buying cycle.

      Promoted Posts, a subset of social media advertising, can also be utilized to increase brand awareness. Unlike social advertising which has a lot to do with an individual user’s search behavior, promoted posts help reach consumers whose extended social networks (i.e. their “friends” on Facebook) are already connected to your brand. Although marketers should not expect a promoted post to have a direct influence on E-commerce, the tool can be used as part of an aggregate digital marketing strategy.

      Promoted posts can raise awareness for a product or brand outside the Search & Discover process as well. Because there are fewer clear distinctions between the different steps of the buying cycle in the digital space, marketers can take advantage of the rich data left over by consumers who have completed the buyer’s journey or aren’t even in it yet.

      Even after consumers complete purchases, they remain connected to social channels. Marketers can use social advertising to connect to consumers and foster brand loyalty even when they aren’t actively looking to purchase something. Consumers who frequently purchase products online may visit other E-commerce sites for similar products, and they may potentially purchase those kinds of products again. Social advertising can be used to target those consumers and attract others in their extended networks.

      There are many avenues of influence marketers can use to drive consumers to a particular destination or goal. In the case of E-commerce, social advertising is an effective way to communicate with consumers at various points in the buying cycle. It can be an important component of a targeted digital marketing campaign and an overall aggregate strategy to drive sales. Social advertising can help marketers fill the strategic gaps that arise from the absence of a physical connection between the consumer and the product.

      How is your business using social media advertising to drive E-commerce?

       

      Be Sociable, Share!

        Multi-Cultural and International Search: Trends and Opportunities

        search keys 478x359As the world becomes increasingly globalized, the roles of multi-cultural and international search in search engine marketing are shifting as well. What trends and opportunities do marketers anticipate?

        SEMPO asked industry insiders what trend they think will have the biggest impact on international search within the next year. Jose Saldaña, Elena MacGurn, and Daniel Hucks provide their insights.

        Daniel Hucks of Digital Strategies, Inc., thinks mobile-friendly sites and content will drive the greatest impact on international search.

        Jose Saldaña of Covario agrees. According to Jose, it will definitely be mobile consumption.

        “Search is becoming more specialized,” adds Elena MacGurn of Covario.

        “A successful search campaign in this maturing market now requires a multi-channel network of seasoned subject-matter professionals, e.g., mobile, usability, UI, local, social, and content marketing experts who specialize in the variety of marketing verticals,” MacGurn says. “With so many facets and opportunities for your brand’s presence on Google, there’s a lot more we now have to take into consideration.”

        The opportunity to capitalize exists, but how do global search engine updates affect international budgets?

        “It keeps the budgets shifting at a much faster pace through the different specialty areas,” says Saldaña.

        MacGurn notes that several big international search engines, including Google, Baidu and Yandex, have recently implemented a number of anti-spam measures targeting poor quality backlinks, link farms, and excessive use of links to game ranking algorithms.

        “These anti-spam measures caused a natural shift in the amount typically invested in link building and content marketing for those markets,” she adds.

        MacGurn anticipates an increase in the importance of multi-cultural and international search.

        “Our analytics, attribution, and local targeting options are becoming more sophisticated to allow for additional customization and localized approach, creating the type of content that can better meet local demand,” states MacGurn.

        According to Saldaña, cultural embracement helps build trust in consumers.

        “I see [multi-cultural and international search] of critical importance, especially as the purchasing journey continues to integrate new and emerging touch points outside of search that empower consumers to have more information and options,” shares Saldaña.

        Daniel Hucks isn’t quite as convinced.

        “Maybe on the B2B side,” he states.

        What trends and opportunities do you see in multi-cultural and international search in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments.

        Be Sociable, Share!

          Multi-Cultural and International Search: Research and Strategy Q&A

          As the world becomes increasingly globalized, multi-cultural and international search are becoming an integral component in search engine marketing. What are the best international search campaign tactics and how are marketers implementing them? SEMPO asked its members for their insights.

          1. How do you conduct research for international search campaigns? Can you share any tools or tricks?

          Jose Saldaña of Covario:
          “First, I understand the market by researching demographics, general interests, and whereabouts. Secondly, I investigate preferences and search behaviors and patterns, and lastly I integrate emerging topics and opportunities.

          Common tools:
          1. Market & Demographics – Display Planner, Hitwise, ComScore, SimilarWeb
          2. Target Audience – Keyword Planner, Bing Keyword Tool, YouTube Keyword Tool, Google related results
          3. Trends & Insights – Google Trends, Trendsmap, Google News, Google Alerts

          I use Google advanced operators to narrow down to various criteria and to discover geographically relevant terminology that I then combine with a list of purchase oriented (or other categories) terms to ID highly refined keywords.”

          Elena MacGurn of Covario:
          “Covario’s strategy for international search campaigns relies on proprietary technology, as well as local search engine platform services. When researching local markets’ organic demand, we also look at local paid campaign insights, user-generated content from local social activity, product reviews, competitive data, internal search results, and related data.”

          Daniel Hucks of Digital Strategies, Inc.:
          “Generally, the research is industry specific first and country and culture more secondary.”

          2. In what ways do you accommodate international holidays and events into your search efforts?

          Jose Saldaña:
          “We celebrate local culture and incorporate seasonal campaigns, exclusive offerings, and semantically-related content for broader non-brand coverage.”

          Elena MacGurn:
          “Seasonality and local search patterns are very important factors in understanding local demand for most verticals. Accommodating international holidays, seasonal events, and any ongoing marketing efforts already targeting local markets is a significant component of our international search campaigns.”

          Daniel Hucks:
          “Only if they are relevant to a campaign.”

          3. What search tactics do you feel are the most beneficial to reach a multi-cultural audience?

          Jose Saldaña:
          “1. Cross-referencing between content languages for awareness
          2. Finding emotional connections to invite reviews and user generated content 3. FAQs for broader content coverage”

          Elena MacGurn:
          “When dealing with multiple cultures and international search, I believe it is important to go a step beyond geo-targeting in order to accommodate any blended search needs of the local consumers. At Covario, we work closely with local trending topics, localized content, local social networks and search engine tools to boost engagement and capture search demand within multi-cultural markets.”

          Daniel Hucks:
          “Have content written by one who is native to the language and culture.”

          4. In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge in multi-cultural and international search?

          Jose Saldaña:
          “1. Acculturation – Understanding the different marketing languages of the target audience.
          2. Cannibalization – Competition between various geographic areas of the same brand competing in one same area and impacting customer journey to purchase. 3. Scalable process for managing href language annotations.
          4. Regional search engine updates. Centralize frameworks that make regional adoption a long or impossible process.”

          Elena MacGurn:
          “The biggest challenge in multi-cultural and international search is understanding real-time local demand and making the most out of those insights to target new and existing content. Scaling this effort across multiple countries or regions often results in missed targeting opportunities at a local level.”

          Daniel Hucks:
          “Understanding cultural nuances and regulatory environment.”

          5. Do you find you are more likely to run ads globally or by country? What factors drive your media strategies?

          Jose Saldaña:
          “Country
          1. Total market opportunity
          2. Cost to reach audience
          3. Brand affinity
          4. Competition”

          Daniel Hucks:
          “By country; culture, language and regulatory.”

          SEMPO thanks the contributors to this blog post and invites you to share your approach to multi-cultural and international marketing in our comments section. Also, come back soon as our contributors continue the discussion on multi-cultural search trends and opportunities.

          Be Sociable, Share!

            Comprehensive Local Search Strategies Increase Online Visibility and Offline Conversions

            Consumers who are searching locally are ready to buy. It’s not rocket science, just common sense! And being discovered through local search makes strong business sense too. The search landscape has evolved, and businesses must evolve their digital strategy too if they don’t want to risk getting left behind.

            There are two main types of local search visibility that a business can achieve – intent visibility is being found when someone searches for a very specific product or service in a specific location. The intent is to purchase within that geo-locality. Extended visibility is being seen when a searcher is looking for a related product or service. For example, someone searching for flights to a particular city might also need a hotel, or car rental.

            Quick wins can be earned with intent visibility.  Many national businesses concentrate on corporate campaigns, and national advertising – it may have worked hard to rank #1 for a national search (e.g. “insurance providers”) but if a local strategy is not in place, it will not rank as well for a local search (e.g. “insurance providers Chicago”), and these are the lower funnel searches, where intent to buy is higher. Local aligns naturally to audience intent.

            So, what can a business with regional locations do to increase online intent visibility – not just from a search perspective, but also from a social perspective?

              – Website Optimization for Search Engines – First, understand what people are searching for to arrive at your site. At the very minimum, optimize your site for your product or service, plus a regional modifier. This can be best achieved by creating a website page for each and every location that the business serves. The pages should be rich with regional/location keywords, and linked to the appropriate local social pages (Facebook, Google+). Include locally relevant keywords in meta data, headers, body copy and urls. Keep page content unique, and specific to the local market you are targeting.

              – Mark-up Content with Schema if possible – This can result in higher click-through rate (although it will not have any direct impact on rankings).  Using schema to describe location information can be one area where you can use rich mark-up to communicate to the engines local information about your business.

              – Local Directory Listings – The impact of local directory listings on the local ecosystem is huge, and the accuracy of directory listings is vital for local SEO. When the name, address and phone number (NAP) on your website matches the same details on verified citation pages, Google sees it as more trustworthy and ranks it accordingly. Get listed on various local directories, review sites, hometown blogs, community websites etc. as this will not only help you build incoming links to your website, but having a strong presence on these types of sites is a huge benefit to local SEO efforts. Businesses with higher ratings from review sites are more likely to appear higher on Google for unbranded, regional search terms (and Google’s July 2014 Pigeon update reflects this approach – directories are being favoured over local businesses, which could be due to the authority that a directory has built up overtime compared to the local business listing).

              – Google+ Optimization – Google+ Local has a significant impact on local search visibility, and Google+ Local pages are directly tied to the appearance and position in a local search query. Ensure your physical address is up-to-date and accurate and make sure you are listed under the appropriate categories. Use relevant keywords and location information in the descriptions to increase your chances of appearing in search results. Google+ Local offers numerous advantages to local businesses, primarily inclusion in Google Maps and the local listings box of the search engine results page.  However, relying on visibility in the local listings on the search engine results page alone is not enough – Mediative’s new eye-tracking study, ‘The Evolution of Google Search Engine Results Pages and Their Effects on User Behaviour’ looked at the interaction users had with various elements of the Google search engine results place, including local results, and we discovered that the ability of local listings to attract attention and win clicks is dependent on the placement of the local listings box on the SERP, and on the nature of the search query.In the event that the local listings box is positioned further down the SERP, a strong on-site SEO strategy will help move your website listing further up the page.

            This heat map from Mediative’s recent study shows how attention on the local listings box is greater than attention to the top two organic listings when the local listings box is above the organic listings. It’s a different story when the local listings box is below the top organic listings.

            This heat map from Mediative’s recent study shows how attention on the local listings box is greater than attention to the top two organic listings when the local listings box is above the organic listings. It’s a different story when the local listings box is below the top organic listings.

            - Drive Local Engagement on Facebook – Businesses with multiple locations must have a dedicated Facebook page for each location in addition to a brand-level page. This gives each location the ability to deliver unique content that targets its neighborhood’s demographic. Fans are more likely to engage with content that is relevant to them. The key with social media is using people’s networks and peers to influence them into choosing your business over a competitor – pulling people out of the open market of natural search where they could potentially choose any brand that is listed on the search engine, and engaging instead through a social channel.

              – Local Search on Mobile – Mobile search users have a higher purchase intent than their desktop counterparts because their search indicates a sense of urgency, therefore mobile optimization must be a priority for local businesses. Responsive website designs will automatically adapt to the visitors screen size, eliminating the need for a separate mobile-friendly website. Take into consideration what a consumer needs when they search for your product or service on a mobile device – as they are on-the-go they likely need information such as location. Retail consumers might want product information, whereas food and beverage consumers would be looking for a menu, or ratings and reviews.  Note: While 78% of local-mobile searches result in offline purchases, according to comScore’s latest Local Search Study many searchers believe that they can find more complete information about local businesses on a desktop rather than a smartphone or tablet. Therefore, it’s equally as important to optimize your local online presence for desktop and mobile experiences.

              – Incorporate paid media into your strategy   Once your website has been optimized to maximize the chances of being found online, you can think about paid media, paying close attention to relevancy and searcher intent, in order to be seen.  Google paid ads, hyperlocal mobile display ads, retargeting etc. can all work to drive more people to your local business pages.

            Note: Google has made an effort to simplify local marketing for SMBs with the introduction of Google My Business, making it easier for businesses to update their business information across Google platforms including Google Search, Google Maps and Google+

            Case Study: Let’s take the example of a fictional car rental company – we will call it ‘ACME Car Rental’. Local online visibility is absolutely critical because, while quotes and booking can be completed online, the service is fulfilled at a physical location. What did ACME Car Rental do to ensure they were highly visible online for regional searches?

            – First, ACME Car Rental created a specific website page for every one of their 53 national locations.  These pages were rich in local keywords and even linked to a few partner sites (such as a local hotel and restaurant – services often required alongside car rental), which in turn, linked back to ACME’s location pages. Also included were links to ACME’s Facebook page for the same location, and to its Google+ Local page.

            – A Facebook page was also built for every rental location (the actual location, not just the city), and ACME proactively targeted consumers through social media with local deals, check-in contests, and even offered real-time customer service support, listening and responding to customers.

            – ACME also invested in some Google Paid Ads – creating a specific campaign for each market served and leveraging geo-targeting options and ad messaging to specifically promote the location.

            – Going a step further, ACME decided to use hyperlocal advertising to strategically target potential customers in competing car rental locations in the same region with discount coupons to their smartphones, increasing visits and new customers to ACME’s location.

             

            Hyperlocal Mobile (HyLoMO) allows advertisers to target users in the right location and at the right time (where their intent to buy was at its greatest)

            Hyperlocal Mobile (HyLoMO) allows advertisers to target users in the right location and at the right time (where their intent to buy was at its greatest)

            Taking local strategy seriously, ACME was able to significantly increase online quotes, phone calls to locations, bookings, and ultimately revenue, at each location.

            Local marketing for local businesses is nothing new – in fact, local businesses have been marketing in some form or another for centuries. The problem is, businesses were not necessarily communicating with consumers when they were open to being marketed to – that is, when they were ready to buy. Search engines have become cluttered with messages from a slew of advertisers who are trying to attract anyone and everyone! From organic search, mobile search, and social media has emerged local search –purchase-ready consumers discovering what is around them. A digitally savvy business will capitalize on this to increase local visibility, driving more online traffic, and in store visitors.

             

             

             

             

             

             

            About Mediative:

            Mediative is a digital marketing company that provides performance services and access to media platforms designed to help businesses enhance their digital presence and influence consumers’ path to purchase.

            Location and research-based data fuels our knowledge, which we leverage across our range of services, online properties, and location-based marketing platforms.

            With precise and unmatched insights into how shoppers buy and how users behave, we take a holistic, consultative approach to drive the results you need.

             

            Be Sociable, Share!

              What is your agency’s reputation for client service?

              3 Ways you can use your client focus to win new business.  

              How does your agency differentiate itself? Do you focus on the experience of your team, the awards you’ve won, or your impressive client portfolio? There are many ways to stand apart from the competition, but there is one that is resonating more with decision makers today: a real commitment to client service excellence.

              Chances are you’ve heard a potential partner or competitor tout its commitment to customers. Perhaps your agency even claims to be ‘customer-centric’ as well. What does this really mean? You send out client surveys? You have your ‘go-to’ client references or testimonials? Your agency’s client service values are listed on your website?

              While these actions can certainly make it appear you care about client satisfaction, there are actually many different layers to achieving true customer-centricity. Senior leaders must lead the charge and regularly reinforce its importance, employees need clear ‘line-of-sight’ into how their actions contribute to the client experience, action must be taken based on input received from clients, and so on.

              How can you illustrate to potential clients that your agency actually ‘walks the walk’ when it comes to customer-centric attitudes and behaviors?

              1. Describe your customer-centric philosophy. Your approach to maintaining an open and honest dialogue with clients; the formal feedback collection efforts you have in place; the importance you place on hiring the right employees and retaining them; setting business goals based on client experience objectives; the senior team’s involvement with each account; the escalation process if an issue arises. These are all areas potential clients will be pleased to hear about as they see how you’ve embedded customer-centric processes and behaviors in your organizational DNA.

              2. Explain how you act on client feedback. It doesn’t matter if your engagements are project based or retainer based – having a systematic and disciplined process for gathering feedback shows potential clients that their satisfaction matters. Tell prospects how often you solicit feedback, who reviews it, and any procedures you employ when “closing the loop.” These actions provide further assurance that clients’ voices are being both heard and used to help inform important operational and resource decisions.

              3. Outline the client experience metrics your agency tracks. Why would a potential client care about the KPIs your agency measures? Many prospects have been burned before – constant turnover on their account team, deadlines missed, poor ROI. Boasting about how successful you are at establishing true partnerships helps you differentiate from the competition. Net Promoter Score®, client retention, employee satisfaction, and the percentage of accounts that serve as references all provide verification that keeping clients happy is a top priority.

              Potential clients are beginning to catch on: any company can announce that it’s customer-centric, but it’s quite different to actually live it. Give prospects the confidence that your agency will treat them better – you will not only win more deals but also retain and grow your existing accounts.

              Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily SEMPO.

              ®Net Promoter, Net Promoter Score and NPS are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld

              Be Sociable, Share!

                Has Blogging Outlived its Usefulness in SEO?

                In an ever-changing industry like digital marketing, it’s important to stay current and implement practices that will give your business an advantage over the competition. With close to a billion blogs on the Internet, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. With so much competition, has blogging outlived its usefulness in SEO? The answer depends on a few factors.

                The Importance of Content

                Whether or not blogging for SEO is useful anymore is a complicated question. No matter what your goal, a blog post needs to be compelling to both readers and search engines in order to be effective.

                Long gone are the days of writing blog posts stuffed with keywords for “SEO.” Now, blogs should focus on great, sharable content. An initial focus on blog content rather than intent can ultimately increase SEO value through the result of engaging content. Blog posts that are useful to readers are more likely to have a positive impact on overall traffic than those written with the intent to lure visitors to your website. Engaging blog posts shared on social media drive traffic back to your website, improving social signals picked up by search engines.

                Search engines have become sensitive to the content itself, so a blog lacking rich content can be counterproductive. Search engines’ complex algorithms pick on up on the content as a whole. A blog with well-developed content can help leverage your business or brand as an informed thought leader in the industry, fostering an engaged online community. This thought leadership sparks engagement in the social space, resulting in improved SEO value.

                Additionally, consistent blog posting helps keep websites fresh and up-to-date, something search engines like to see. Many business owners struggle with keeping their website pages updated. Sharing blog posts on your website provides a solution to keep the website fresh.

                How SEO Can Help

                But is great content enough? SEO best practices should always be utilized to leverage your content. Conducting comprehensive keyword research can help you write an effective headline, develop proper meta tags, and contribute to on-page SEO. An SEO-friendly blog post should also include internal links to relevant content, descriptive image tags, and more. While these steps are no longer the only thing needed to maximize a blog’s reach in modern times, they are still an important foundation.

                Proper search engine optimization on your blog posts can help drive high quality traffic to your site. Good SEO practices attract links, general social signals, and allow search engines to pick up on more keywords.

                Harmony is Key

                So has blogging outlived its usefulness in SEO? Not at all! Blogging and SEO are integral and interactive parts of a successful digital strategy. Today, it’s less about blogging for SEO and more about learning how to blog with SEO.

                Engaging content combined with good SEO practices is still a great way to enhance your digital presence. Be sure to anchor your blog on high-quality content, but increase the reach of that content by incorporating SEO tactics on select blog posts. Once that foundation is in place, social signals can maximize SEO value. Blogs are still a critical component in a comprehensive digital strategy, but it is important to make sure great content, smart SEO strategies, and social media all work in harmony with one another in order to make the effort worthwhile.

                Does your website have a blog? Why or why not?

                 

                Be Sociable, Share!

                  Identity Crisis: Do you know what I do for a living?

                  Recently, a respected veteran of the search engine marketing world – who also happens to be the head of search engine marketing for one of the largest and fastest-growing companies on the planet – asked something on his Facebook account that surprised me. I won’t give a direct quote, but the gist of the question was: What should I call my department?

                  Few would think that the head of SEO at one of the world’s largest companies would have such a basic identity crisis. After all, this search engine optimization thing has been around for a long time. I started doing “SEO” 15 years ago in 1998. There are others who I know who were in the profession well before then. And, very few people would argue that Search Engine Marketing is not important to most companies.

                  However, my friend’s identity crisis was real. In fact, I think it is a real crisis for many of us who are members of SEMPO and members of the search marketing community worldwide. It’s very rare that I meet a search marketer who describes the whole of their job as “getting stuff to rank in Google.”

                  We’re asked to be analytics experts, coding experts, content marketing consultants, conversion rate optimization specialists, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention that we are the ones responsible for knowing about that latest thing that Google did, or the new mark-up language requirements that need to be followed, or how Bing and Yahoo! will react to the new website. Then there’s also the fact that many of us end up being business consultants, guiding our clients and employers on basic business principles – the same principles that, if presented without an online component, they would have no trouble understanding. But, put a piece of HTML code in the mix … well, you get where I’m coming from.

                  What do you do when your job description doesn’t adequately describe your job anymore? In the real world, most ask for a promotion. I think that’s exactly what many of us need to do. I believe that the company website should be the center of the marketing universe for most companies. Everything a marketer does should aim to drive consumers to properties you own and control. This has been a controversial opinion in some circles. Why not just convert the visitor on Facebook or Twitter? That’s great if you can, but those conversions should be considered gravy instead of the main course.

                  Sustainable and scalable marketing comes from a consistent flow of customers through a variety of channels. Over-dependence on any channel is a recipe for long-term disaster. Those of us in search have realized this earlier than many other marketers. We learned because we have a harsh teacher. Google has taught us that what works today may very well not work tomorrow. Those who survive in the ranks of search engine marketers don’t just expect change – they embrace it. Most SEOs I know have a near obsession with solving problems, and that is what makes them more valuable every year.

                  That’s why I think search marketers need more than just a seat at the table. We need to run the table. The time is right. No, Mashable, SEO is not dead. We’re just switching to the big, comfy marketing chair at the head of the table.

                   

                  Be Sociable, Share!

                    The Future of Digital Is Here and It Is Targeted

                    Here at SEMPO we’ve been thinking a lot this month about how digital has evolved so far this year and how we expect it to continue to evolve over the second half of 2014. There are many angles from which we could write about the topic—from Matt Cutts’ statements on the changing nature of guest posting, to Google’s de-emphasis of Google +, to the penalization of content networks and more.

                    With this article I want to focus on one specific way in which digital is changing, specifically, how we target and address our audiences.

                    The graphic below is from SEMPO’s State of Search research study. The ‘peaks’ in each section represent where marketers are developing a keyword strategy based on the position in the buying cycle of their audience. Although the degrees to which this is occurring vary widely based on the activity, the presence of the peaks—and the inclusion of the question in SEMPO’s annual report for the first time—reflect a mindset shift for marketers towards a more targeted approach in addressing their audience.SEMPO_Future of Digital

                     
                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                    In 2014, what we are witnessing is the next step in the maturation of digital marketing. Carried by the renewed focus on content marketing, digital is evolving from the old ‘cast one wide net and see what lands’ to the new ‘cast multiple focused nets’ with a clearer expectation of not only what will land, but what will drive the prospect to the next step in the buying cycle, culminating in a conversion event.

                    The ‘multiple nets’ approach applies not only to content focused on speaking to your audience based on their specific needs based on their position in the buying cycle, but it applies to evolving from speaking to a broad ‘audience,’ to speaking to individual personas who each have their own unique pain points, desires, and motivations for evaluating your product or service.

                    Oracle Study Foreshadows the Future

                    In the same way the ‘peaks’ in the graphic above portend the writing on the wall when it comes to a shift from ‘broad’ targeting to ‘specific’ targeting, the chart below from an Oracle/Eloqua study foreshadows a coming shift to specific targeting.

                    Nearly half of marketers surveyed say they are in the process of learning to align content with strategy and better map it to the buyer’s journey. The fact that this group–those ‘learning to align content’–is the largest group of all respondents shows that change is one that is occurring now. Yes, respondents to an Oracle survey likely skew to the enterprise, but changes in the enterprise often foreshadow coming to mid-market and SMB’s and this is a case where all digital marketers should be aware of what’s coming.

                    SEMPO_Future of Digital 2

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                    What Does it Mean for You?

                    Certainly there’s no expectation that you transition overnight from broad to targeted digital marketing. But you can start thinking about who the personas are that you are addressing, what their pain points are, and how you might better map your content and SEO efforts to target them. If you do so, you are likely to find that better targeted content results in higher click-through, consumption, and conversions.

                    Be Sociable, Share!