Digital marketing, especially the online kind involving search engine optimization (SEO), suffers from a checkered reputation. This is a natural effect of the industry. From the beginning of the era of search engine dominance (Google incorporated 1998), online entrepreneurs began the quest to optimize websites so they would appear higher in more search results. Except that there was no such thing as an “expert” in the field, so everybody just winged it at first.
As this science and art has developed over 20 years, old articles, books, and advice just piles up and accumulates in the pockets of the web. We end up with two kinds of misinformation that taints clients’ expectations of what digital marketing and SEO does: The outdated information made obsolete as Google refines its algorithms, and the false promises made by dodgy “black hat” SEO people who mislead clients with guarantees they can’t back up.
Technology fields just tend to suffer from myth propagation in general. Technology changes so fast that even the best-intentioned instructor can fall out of sync with the pace of progress if they don’t stay updated. Meanwhile, the Internet and social media make little distinction between the advice of the novice and the expert. The Internet makes a great museum, but a lousy school.
1. Transparency is a Core Requirement
This is a frequent complaint with many consultant-level professions: The client who hires you and then expects you to do your work blind. Nobody works well in a vacuum. We need to have a more integrated function with our clients or we can hardly tell what our goals are. We have to be in the loop.
It’s easy for business leaders to make this mistake of thinking that marketing can be treated as an exclusively external function. Just get the traffic to your site, you say. It would be nice if it were that simple, but it’s not. We have to understand your business model, sales volume, and marketing objectives. There are all kinds of business models on the web:
- Advertising platform: How most social networks typically make money
- Content broadcasting: Content accompanied by ads or affiliate links
- Retail merchant: You have a product or service and sell it directly to consumers
- B2B: You provide a product or service but sell only to other businesses
- Agency: You bring talent together with demand and charge a commission
- SaaS (software as a service): Your product is an app and you charge a fee for its use
- Brick-and-mortar: Your product or service doesn’t transpire online but uses the web to attract in-person business
- Non-profit: Donation-funded organizations and activists promoting a social cause
That’s just the most common model, with many more in-between hybrids. Each model of business has its own needs in digital marketing. Furthermore, your target market determines a lot of your marketing strategy. Do you notice on television, the ads change depending on what time of day and what show is playing? That’s because they’re targeting different markets.
We work most effectively when we have an environment of open communication and collaboration. This gives us a better idea of the goals and budget of a project, to allow us to deliver our best results.
Bottom line: Giving us as much information as we can use, and working in coordination between our team and yours, helps you get the best results.
2. There Are No Quick Results
While it is true that you can sometimes see an immediate effect from individual maneuvers online, digital marketing is a more holistic process where we have to launch a multi-faceted campaign. This is partly due to the “speed of Google,” so to speak. Just to throw out a ballpark number, it takes about a week for a website change to make a difference in Google results.
However, just writing one blog post affects almost nothing. Three blog posts targeted around a keyword takes maybe a few weeks to bump you up for that keyword, but the percentage improvement depends on how competitive that keyword is. Blasting the content out to social media channels bumps it up a little bit more. A pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaign gets faster results, but only for the campaign’s duration. High-quality external links to your content can give you another page rank bump. Good reviews and referrals take time to build up your reputation. Email marketing builds up subscribers over time.
Take all of that cumulatively, and you see a slowly growing trend towards brand recognition and a steady rise in a site’s rankings, and ultimately, more sales. That’s what we want to see because once a website gets going, the value sticks around. When you get a website top rankings for a niche, the impact is impressive. But it can take months to get there, even with the best marketing money can buy.
There’s also a huge number of variables affecting any online business’ success:
- Google updating its algorithms and throwing our system into chaos until we adjust
- Market fluctuation
- Competitors entering and exiting the arena
- Individual bits of content “going viral”
- Economic factors
- Changing trends in media
Bottom line: We work in a medium where a photo of an egg can become a worldwide phenomenon, out of a billion Instagram accounts in 32 languages. Expect to draw a few wild cards. But, as in the game of Backgammon, skill wins out over luck over time. Slow and steady wins the race!
3. We’re Never Done Improving Our Strategy
As we mentioned above, digital marketing is a constantly changing field, like anything that relies heavily on communications technology. There’s stuff we were doing ten years ago that we’d never do now, and we’re doing stuff now that was unthinkable ten years ago. The web itself is an ever-evolving landscape, and search technology is still improving incrementally.
The timeline of Google search algorithm adjustments alone ensures that we have to stay abreast of the changes in our field and formulate new methods in response. For instance, just in the past few years, search changes like Featured Snippets, My Business, and “People Also Ask” has changed SEO content rules, making it so that even a site that would rank lower is now pushed to the top if it hits exactly what the user was looking for right on the money.
It takes a ton of research to stay current, which is why this field tends to attract media and communications majors—natural newsfeed addicts. On top of that, we also have to research each of our clients’ markets and monitor our marketing efforts for results. Something like half of our job is just reading, or sorting and collating data to help read it faster.
“[We improve by] …the scrutinization that we put into all aspects of building a digital demand generation engine daily, from pouring over campaign data to auditing a client’s user experience. We are always on the hunt for opportunities to improve performance” — Rich Briddock, VP of Strategy and Analytics
4. We Have To Be Detail-Oriented
We’ll confess, this industry is for geeks! Digital marketing calls for a detail-oriented, thorough approach. Since digital marketing is largely a text-based enterprise, there’s a world of difference between almost the right word and exactly the right word.
This is another factor where communication and transparency in our clients’ collaboration is important because we use the data collected from our clients’ end to feed back into our marketing engine and find out what works and what doesn’t. We’ve identified PPC pitfalls over the years, and we’ve discovered some cool psychological tricks that help conversions.
“I constantly track optimizations done to our client accounts to the T, sometimes even marking when optimizations were implemented to the hour. This ensures an extremely accurate timeline of testing audiences, structures, and more which continues to propel accounts forward in learning, even during hard times.” — Monique Medina, Senior Media Manager
Since there are so many different technologies and sciences (psychology, sociology, and economics for starters) that come together in digital marketing, it’s always fascinating and stimulating work. Or at least it is to us! If there’s a better headline or a more compelling image, we’re going to test and track it.
5. We Want What Is Best For Our Clients
“I wish our clients knew we take pride in the quality of work we do and their performance from a digital perspective.” — Alex Kemp, Associate PPC Director
We’re in it to win it! While we do strive for transparency, sometimes our methods don’t always make sense from a layman point of view, especially in a rapidly-changing industry. Feel free to ask us to clarify anything you don’t understand.
“I become very invested in the welfare of my clients’ businesses and how effectively I think we’re servicing them, which I think ultimately translates to increased effort, good customer service, and performance growth. In other words, caring about my clients becomes the tide that lifts all boats.” — Emma Kellams, Senior Account Manager
We advocate greater awareness and understanding of web technology, online business, and the nuts and bolts of marketing for everyone! This applies even to the people who aren’t necessarily our clients at the moment, which is part of why we have an extensive blog of informative articles. We do our best when everyone does their best, and our success is your success.
Even if you’re not in the market for digital marketing at this time, you might be sometime in the future. With the way the economy has restructured around the Internet and technology so far, we see the trend continuing as our work becomes more central to online business. Check out our post on “Selecting Your First Digital Marketing Agency.”
Learn more about Cardinal’s dynamic team, a digital marketing agency for the 21st century and beyond! Check out our about us web page and visit our ideas blog for more insightful wisdom about digital marketing.