Often, the hardest part about SEO is not your SEO skill set, but more the ability to apply and integrate SEO techniques into your every day marketing approach. Take content marketing as an example. “Content is king”, a commonly used (and often abused) expression, has helped to fuel a content marketing explosion, with varying degrees of quality when it comes to output. But with so much content being created, are you doing enough to ensure your content can be found?
Content audits are wonderful for showing and understanding where your content pieces fit within the buyer journey, and for identifying content gaps and opportunities. Often these audits are applied to Email nurture streams, to tell a cohesive story that helps to move prospects through the funnel. But if it isn’t taking SEO into account, particularly for those mass of unknown people who are yet to become prospects, there’s a good chance that it isn’t working as hard as it could be for you.
This is where a combined search and content mapping model can be handy. Taking a common marketing funnel approach (Learn/Research/Buy/Use) you can not only start to map out where content fits within the buyer journey, but also the types of searches that you need to consider and optimize content development for, in order for your content to get found.
The key components of the model include:
Search: Trigger Keywords
Trigger keywords provide insight into searcher intent. These are words that searchers use to narrow down their search when they have an idea of the kind of information they are looking for. Trigger words really help to provide clues to their intent, so we can better match up content that is relevant to them.
Search: Assist Keywords
Assist keywords also provide clues, but these clues are more implied through the kinds of search a person makes, as opposed to specific triggers. For example, a general category keyword search (EG: car, camera, laptop) indicates more of a discovery/educational need; versus a brand search (EG: Ford, Nikon, Apple) which can indicate more of a research need; versus a model/nomenclature search (EG: Ford Focus, Nikon Coolpix, MacBook Air) which indicates more of a purchasing need.
Within this model, it starts to become clear as to how different content types align with search and the overall buyer journey. As you start to map content out, don’t forget about content that helps to support existing customers since these customers are much easier to resell to compared to acquiring new ones.
Within this, you can also start to consider specific vehicles for delivery of content. For example, YouTube is a great video vehicle for early education (learn phase). However, as people start to move more towards buying and using, videos housed on a company website can often work better due to the increased level of content control and fewer “dancing cat” distractions.
The question of, “Do I attempt to complete this work with in-house resources vs. getting an agency to help?” is a dilemma that comes up often, particularly when it comes to digital marketing. Here are some benefits I’ve personally experienced when it comes to taking work out to an agency.
1. Get access to deep expertise across multiple disciplines and sub-disciplines
As an in-house digital marketer, lots of varied demands are placed onto you every day, and often we are required to dabble in different areas in a Jack-of-All trades way. In a prior in-house role, I had responsibility for all paid, earned and owned digital marketing. Although I was pretty comfortable on the search, social and analytics side, I was less clued up when it came to affiliates and media partners.
This is where agencies can make great partners. Not only do they have people with deep subject area expertise, but also people who are experts within subject sub-disciplines. For example, you can be good at SEO – but are you equally an expert at SEO strategy, keyword research, site audits, on-page SEO, technical SEO, content marketing, social amplification, or link development? Because these have become such deep subject areas in themselves, it can often be hard for you to be a true expert across all.
2. Keep your projects on schedule
It’s a sad state of affairs that whenever times got tough, one of the first roles to go within the marketing department at the companies I worked for was the Project Manager. We’d then often end up wondering why a project that should have taken three months to complete was knocking on the two year mark, with no end in sight. Go figure.
Good agency partners know the value of experienced Project Managers and are committed to keeping your project on track – their profitability depends on it. Having recently spent a bit of time in an agency, it has been interesting to see how on-time completion within every major and micro project milestone truly counts when it comes to getting campaigns out on time. You really can’t put a price on having good Project Managers on your side.
3. Benefit from flexible resources
Keeping projects in-house may mean saving money on agency services. However, often that also means you don’t get to spend money on bringing in additional resources in-house either. So the additional workload then gets placed onto existing members of the team who already have their plates full of other projects that take higher priority. Is it worth the saving vs. getting things done well and on time? Things that will ultimately help drive more business. Sometimes it may be, but mostly I’ve found not.
4. Get access to best (and next) in class practices
Agencies work with varied clients, some highly mature in the digital marketing space. These many different experiences really help to build up knowledge around best and next practices along the way. So why reinvent the wheel? From performance benchmarks to more efficient processes and testing out new ideas and theories, you get access to key learnings and expert help from your agency to supercharge your own digital marketing efforts.
What have your experiences been when it comes to taking work out to an agency vs. keeping it in-house?
2013 was a roller coaster year and as expected, Google did not disappoint with their mass of algorithm updates and continued knowledge graph expansions. But Google weren’t the only ones who were keeping us on our toes. Bing teamed up with Klout in a move to better incorporate social influence, and Yandex (where mass link buying often got you to the top) set themselves on a path towards not attributing any ranking factors to links.
In between all of the algorithm shuffling, there were many other important lessons to be learned. So keeping with the tradition of December posts, here are my three key lessons from 2013:
1. Never Forget The Basics
No matter what you do, there are always lots of new, shiny things around to consume your time and attention. But if you are not building from a strong foundation to begin with, then your efforts can often end up being wasted. In SEO, sometimes just sticking to the basic values of clean on-page factors and valuable content that people will want to share, can help to reduce the time you spend on being reactive and playing catch up to the never-ending algorithm updates.
Search marketing can sometimes feel so overwhelming and fast-moving that it can be easy to forget about the basics. This year, I learned not to be afraid to put on the brakes when needed. Remember to keep in mind that search is a marathon, not a sprint.
2. Get Your Analytics in Order
It doesn’t matter how well or successful you think your program is doing, if you aren’t accurately measuring the outcome – in a way that is meaningful – you may as well not be running anything at all.
This year, going through a new CMS launch, I re-learned the importance of tracking accuracy and picked up some new tricks along the way, particularly with regards to attribution. A key takeaway I learned is that whenever possible, make sure you use actual numbers and don’t rest your laurels on numbers based on averages and calculations, which can vastly skew reality.
3. Life is About Making Big Moves
I couldn’t have said it any better than my Twitter pal, @sdmktgguy. Regardless of what the future holds, 2013 will always be a memorable year for me. It was the year that I left my first employer of 14 years, to work for a different company, in a different state, in a different industry. And despite all of the scariness that change can bring, I’ve never felt more excited and eager to make a difference.