According to a Forrester Research report, as many as one-third of U.S. companies surveyed were dissatisfied with their social marketing results. The report also pointed out that only 38% of those surveyed directly targeted their followers or fans on social channels. Bear in mind, search engines also consider blogs, communities and other platforms as social channels, so we are not talking just Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc. here.
Big brands, with all the resources available to them, still seem out of sorts when it comes to online media. It makes one wonder whether the people responsible for these decisions are marketers from the ancient world who landed digital marketing roles only to find themselves out of their depths, compromising the effectiveness of the brand they represent in the process. Digital Marketing is not everyone’s cup of tea, the flux the industry is constantly in makes it extremely hard for those not familiar with its dynamics.
The magic word
Here’s my advice on what a digital marketer’s primary focus should be:
It’s not about keyword-stuffed content. It’s not about how many social media channels you are on. It’s not about the number of likes your page has managed to accumulate.
It’s about ENGAGEMENT. Yes, that is the magic word.
The SEO industry is in a state of constant flux. An expert SEO today understands the value of providing value.
Search engines offer a service, which is to direct a user to the most relevant information for their query, and therefore it’s the responsibility of the likes of Google to make sure they provide the service they promise. It should not be left to marketers to fight for SERP rankings. To cut the story short, the better search engine algorithms are able to weed out irrelevant content, the better it will be for marketers.
To its credit Google and other search engines have been slowly but steadily cracking down on dishonest tactics and promoting websites which focus on quality content. Going forward, we can expect new updates to Google’s algorithms to further rein in SEO cowboys who are experts in devious methods to influence SERP listings. This is increasingly the case. Ideally, the best content should naturally come on top. The way this is being done is by an increased emphasis on original, share-worthy content which drives engagement.
The power of social media
Metrics such as engagement, sentiment, citations, shares and interactions are being now used to measure of a company’s worth and relevance. That’s great news for digital marketers as they can now focus on doing what they should be doing – engaging with their customers.
This is also where social media comes into the picture and it’s no surprise social media is increasingly shaping the dynamics of search. Social Media has changed things forever and will continue to affect search results, but the companies which will come out on top are the ones which understand the value of high quality regular, personalised interactions; building trust and transparency; generating interesting content; and providing great customer service.
Yes, it requires effort but it’s effort in the right direction – effort that directly impacts customers. If one thinks about it, shouldn’t that be a marketer’s primary focus anyway? Isn’t providing your customers with quality content excellent customer service? The only thing that has changed is how a company connects with its customers. Unlike traditional marketing, social media provides brands an opportunity to personalise the conversations they have with their customers. Also, it’s a more direct, immediate, public ( more transparent) way of communication. That said, the results will still depend on the time and effort one puts into digital marketing. It’s not easy. It requires commitment, patience and genuine interest.
Is SEO, as we know it, dead or dying?
I believe the answer to that question is yes and no. Whilst it’s still important to have a site with a good navigational structure and one that’s free of glitches which would affect the way search engine algorithms identify the content on it, this is a relatively simple job. For digital marketers (if their website was not set-up by a hack) these basics should already be in place along with a user-friendly Content Management System (CMS). For all other essential purposes, SEO “expertise” will be consumed by improved search engine algorithms and related web technologies (eg. platform-neutral CMS) and the way social is redefining search and the emergence of social search (eg. FB search).
The importance of links is not going to go away either as it remains one of the most important factors when it comes to judging the value of a website’s content. That said, automatically generated backlinks and the remaining unethical techniques are surely on the way out.
There continue to exist doubts over Google’s actual ability to pick “good” content from “bad,” but there’s little doubt that it’s getting better. Old dodgy techniques continue to be replaced by newer ones and this is going to continue in the near future too although it is getting more and more labour intensive which is bound to make marketers wonder if it’s at all worth the effort, especially when one can use that time to build quality content.
In many ways, digital marketers can look forward to shedding the “optimisation baggage” that’s been plaguing them for so long and has led to much of the mess search engines are struggling to rise above. The keyword obsession is giving way to quality engagement and quality content is finally the biggest item on a marketer’s worry plate.
The reason many of these companies have not been as effective as they should be is because those at the helm still don’t understand this massive shift the industry is going through or perhaps the problem lies in execution. In many ways this shift is heartening and a just reward for customer-centric companies.
Remember, successful companies are successful because they don’t lose sight of why they are in business in the first place – their customers.