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Content, PPC & SEO: New Year, New Tricks

Guillaume Bouchard
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new-year-new-tricksSome of us are self-taught, some of us emulate or improvise or were mentored. As marketers, we draw on both our experience and learning to do the best work possible.

Most of the time marketers are both impressed and impressive – valuable and valued. But sometimes, and only sometimes, we notice ourselves borrowing tactics or techniques from traditional marketing practices.

The danger here is that these methods can feel surprisingly natural and terrifyingly right. Traditional marketing often intuits based on research; it has an immeasurably instinctive quality to it. It feels, in short, exciting. And how easy it is to get caught up in excitement.

In 2013, it’s more important than ever to not lose sight of the "digital" – and all of its slick, sprightly luxuries – in "digital marketing." Keep these luxuries in mind as you deliver and implement your most brilliant strategies yet.

Content: 'Create Once, Publish Everywhere'

Karen McGrane’s book, Content Strategy for Mobile, details the push toward more flexible and malleable content. She has a lot of fantastic ideas to share, but one that resonated particularly strongly is the stark contrast between print- and web-based content.

For the increasingly antiquated form of print advertising: "Want to make changes?" she writes. "Better chop down some more trees."

For web, changes can be and should be made on the fly. Instead of being forced to commit to a single enchanting headline, have several on-hand. If the article isn’t doing as hot as you thought it would, switch it up – as important as nailing the perfect subject line is for e-mail marketing, so too is the title crucial for enticing readers to read your articles.

McGrane goes on to explain NPR’s model for adaptive content, a thorough and proactive CMS that allows their content to be published across a variety of platforms, with little-to-none of its potency lost. They’ve come up with a philosophy, COPE (Create Once, Publish Everywhere), to drive how they distribute content. By examining their publishing workflows, we begin to understand how flexibility will reign supreme in 2013.

A key takeaway from COPE that McGrane identifies is having distinct, yet cohesive, headlines for distinct platforms. Try:

  • Short, emotional (Twitter/mobile)
  • Long, emotional (H2 or meta description)
  • Short, for SEO purposes (title tag/URL)
  • Long, for SEO purposes (H1 or equivalent)

Instead of hacking down trees, hack the system: go into creating your content with a little more tact, a little more insight. Messaging is no longer carved into stone. Don’t be afraid to tweak for success.

Monitor, Refine and Kill Off Your CPC Campaigns

Let’s not rehash the importance of a strong call-to-action, effective copy, and omnipotent targeting – it’s a new year, let’s talk new tricks.

A trap that marketers fall into is building CPC campaigns with an ideal, researched, target in mind, throwing money at the thing and then hoping for the best. For traditional marketers, this methodology might not seem too farfetched: Once ad copy is written, ad placements are bought in magazines, and then it’s out in the world, doing what advertisements do best.

Unless, of course, the copy is botched – or the imagery doesn’t appeal to the audience. Oops.

What we should be astounded by, as digital marketers, is the huge payoff from running and monitoring live campaigns – killing off those that are underperforming, and reallocating budget to ads that work. If that sounds laborious, it’s because it is, and yet thankfully there are ways of automating the process. For a fee.

As services like Facebook Advertisements continue to roll out new updates in 2013, it’ll be increasing vital to:

  • Build multiple campaigns targeting multiple segments.
  • Vary the imagery and copy for each segment.
  • Forget A/B testing – we’re talking about a whole alphabet of split testing.
  • Monitor the heck out of your campaigns, or automate the thing.
  • "Kill all your darlings" – even if you love the wit of a particular ad, if it’s underperforming: axe it.
  • Redistribute funds into campaigns that work.

Aggressive, Diverse & Refreshing SEO Practices

In traditional marketing, SMBs, the "small fries," had legitimate reasons to feel defeated. TV and radio advertising came not only as an expense, but also remain difficult to measure the success of the campaigns.

In web marketing, it’s quite basic to create realistic KPIs and build actionable tactics to get from A to B. What’s more, with tools like Google Analytics, SMBs can track traffic sources, multi-channel funneling – the works.

So look. I’m bored, confused and unsettled by the idea that some SMBs don't see search as a meaningful and affordable way to trump the competition. B2B companies also continually undersell their potential to rank in this new, "content-savvy" SEO landscape. Before taking up the sword in 2013, businesses need to change how they perceive themselves – optimism and confidence are necessary.

It’s a new year and together we can recognize that we need more than a guide of "best practices." We need aggressive, diverse and refreshing attitudes toward SEO. Whether it’s updating your content publishing model for SEO excellence or building the most menacing of link acquisition strategies,

Business is cutthroat, and so too should be your marketing plan. Once you’re confident that your website is well-optimized, it’s time to get inventive and aggressive:

  • Run SEMRush scans on competitors to see what keywords are generating traffic.
  • Use Open Site Explorer to identify who and where they’re getting links from.
  • Browse Pinterest to network with bloggers in your niche.
  • Build a diverse, organic backlink portfolio pointing to key pages on your own domain.

While this is separate article altogether, I want to briefly mention the importance of the relationship between conversion optimization and SEO. Using Google Analytics, it’s easy to visualize where your conversions (subscriptions, purchases) are coming from. Focus your SEO efforts on pushing users to those pages, making them viable from a content standpoint, while also ensuring that the CTAs are clear as day.

As digital marketers, it's imperative to use the tools we have at our disposal. Though we often need to draw inspiration from somewhere, I want to emphasize that looking to traditional marketing practices will only do more harm than good.

Employ thoughtful, decisive strategies that are intuitively advantageous, but relentlessly remind yourself that very little is set in stone. Flex, adapt, test – conquer.

Jack Allen of NVI contributed to this post.

Image by iStockphoto.


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