Skip to content

Why the Importance of Mobile goes Beyond a Google Algorithm Update


From the February pre-announcement to the official April 21st launch, all talk has been around Google’s Mobile-Friendly update. However, the full impact of the update is still yet to be realized for many sites – according to Google, the rollout could take weeks.

There are now more mobile devices than there are people on earth

With more people using mobile to find, view and interact with website information, it makes sense for Google to favor mobile-friendly sites when conducting searches on mobile devices. In 2015, you would expect most – if not all – websites to be responsive to the device that people are accessing them from. Though scarily, a recent study conducted by Portent suggested otherwise, with 10,000 out of 25,000 top sites failing the mobile test.

One small step towards mobile-friendliness

Google’s move towards rewarding mobile-friendly sites in the search engine results is a positive first step in pushing more sites towards creating a better mobile site experience for their users, even if it is in the most basic form – text big enough to read, links far enough apart, content fitted to screen, mobile viewport set…

The fact of the matter is, having a mobile-friendly site goes way beyond a Google algorithm update and the simple ability to see information on a smaller screen. It’s about providing users with the best possible experience wherever, whenever, and however they need to access information, taking into account the context and intent-mindset that person is in.

A bigger mobile disruption

In today’s multi-screen, multi-device, omni-channel environment, the days of linear customer journeys are but a distant memory. The Zero Moment of Truth has progressed towards micro-moments of high intent and high engagement – many of which happen in spare moments, such as waiting in line and commuting. In these “I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-buy” moments, we reach for our phone. On average, users check their phones 150 times per day. Companies need to be present during these micro-moments even for a chance to be within the consideration set.

The journey often continues either on mobile, desktop, laptop or tablet – most people have 2-3 devices that they move between. Google’s John Venverloh reported that 52% of online customer journeys take over 19 days; and that’s just for consumer purchases. Complex business purchases can take several months, or years.

As digital marketers, understanding our customer’s voice, behavior and idiosyncrasies become even more important as we look to develop real-time experiences built around micro-moments of truth. And when we consider mobile within this context, it becomes part of a much bigger digital strategy and experience. It’s more than just a standalone channel. It is way beyond an algorithm update.

How Retargeting Can Complement Your Marketing Automation Program


Marketing automation platforms have come a long way and when used right, is undoubtedly a powerful tool in a Marketer’s arsenal.

You rely on your list of known contacts and apply profiling data (explicit information provided and/or implicit preferences inferred) so that you are able to target relevant messages and offers accordingly. This is great for those users you have contact data for. But what about those mass of anonymous prospects (often ~95% of visitors) who visit your website but avoid filling in web forms? A lot of these people likely came in through search engines.

This is where retargeting can be used to complement your marketing automation campaigns by extending your nurture activities beyond email, and across display, search and social media platforms.

With so much rich data that marketers have at their finger tips, there’s no excuse not to put this to good use. At the Zero Moment of Truth, where there are multiple “a-ha” moments throughout the entire buyer journey, every point is an opportunity to help educate buyers towards a purchase. Let’s take a look at a few different retargeting approaches.

1. Basic Site Retargeting

In it’s most basic form, site retargeting can be used to retarget every visitor to your site across the display network. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that this is not the most efficient approach.

Just like with email, we’ve learned that blasting out a message to every single one of our contacts at large will not yield the best results. We can be way smarter than that by segmenting our audience to increase message relevancy and response.

2. Segmented Site Retargeting

Just like you would segment your email lists based upon profiling data, website analytics can be used to further segment your retargeting list based on visitor behavior. Some examples include:

  • Types of pages or content viewed
  • Time spent on certain pages
  • Actions taken, or not taken, on a page (such as content downloads, contact buttons and shopping carts)

Further personalizing creative and media channels to your most valuable site visitors (those who frequent your site often or stall just before taking an important action), or even your most valuable known contacts, can also turn your retargeting program into a modern version of a Targeted Accounts Program (TAP), without the mailer or postal expense.

3. Nurture Path Retargeting

Another way to use retargeting in concert with your marketing automation program would be to retarget your known contacts through display and social media, based upon where they are within the Email nurture stream. Sequencing your retargeting ads to contacts, within different nurture stages can help further shimmy them along their journey, outside of the confines of email.

These are just a few examples of how retargeting can be used to complement your marketing automation campaigns. What other examples do you have?

How to Conduct a Basic SEO Website Audit


If you’ve been tasked with improving the organic visibility of your website in the search engine results, one of the first places to start would be an SEO audit of your website.

Here are 5 key steps that can help support an SEO website audit. Whilst this is not intended to be an all-encompassing audit list, it does provide some basic check points that can help you begin gathering key website insights. Also included are some examples of free SEO tools you can utilize along the way.

1. Understand how your site is currently being found
As a first step, it is good to understand how many pages are being indexed and how your website is being found by users today. In particular:

  • How many pages have been indexed? Is the homepage the first result returned? (Use site: search)
  • Out of all site traffic, how much organic traffic is being driven to your site from search engines (volume and percentage)?
  • What search terms are people coming into your site from? How much is branded vs. non-branded? For non-branded traffic, what kinds of non-branded words are bringing users in?

2. See how you stack up against the competition
It is always important to understand who your key competitors are and get a general feel as to their SEO savviness so that you know what you are up against. As a quick gauge, it is helpful to gather some key quantitative competitive comparison points, which may include things like:

  • Domain Authority
  • Domain Age
  • Links
  • Social Shares

3. Check your basic HTML code
Next, spend some time objectively looking at your site, and for a moment remove personal opinions around things like colors, fonts, images, etc. Instead, take a look at things such as:

URL Structure – Simply take a look at your browser URL address bar and drill down several pages. Are URLs clean, descriptive and keyword focused? Are they close to the domain root? Are multiple words separated by hyphens?

Title Tags – Look at the title that appears on your browser tab, or open source code of a few key pages and search for <title>. Are Title Tags keyword focused? Does it include your company name? Are they within the character limit?

Header Tags – Open the source code of a few key pages and search for “<h1>”. Are H1 tags present and keyword focused?

Meta Description – Open the source code of a few key pages and search for “description”. Are unique meta descriptions present on pages? Are they catchy, provide a call-to-action or next step, and within 155 characters?

Image File Names and Alt Text – Open the source code of a few key pages and search for “.jpg” and “alt=”. Are file names and alt tags present and keyword focused?

4. Check your content

Take a look at how content is structured on your site, the kinds of themes and topics being covered and the recency of information being presented to users. In particular:


  • Are key product/service areas split out by preferred landing pages?
  • Is there onsite search capability?
  • How about sitemaps? Have these been submitted through Webmaster Tools? Are they listed in the robots.txt file?


  • Does the content look recent? (EG: When was the last blog post? When was that hero content asset created or last updated?)
  • Is the content relevant? Is the topic interesting?
  • Is the amount of content substantial or shallow?
  • Can content be easily shared?
  • Are there ads that appear above the fold? If so, what’s the ratio of ads to content?
  • How are users navigating through content? Are users bouncing off key pages as soon as they arrive?

5. Understand the state of your external links

Links from sites outside of your own are super important so it is good to understand both the quantity and quality of these links, including things such as:

  • How many links do you have coming in to your site?
  • What kinds of sites are these links coming in from? What is their domain authority? What’s the mix between .com, .edu, .gov, .org? How many are directories?
  • What anchor text is being used to link to your site? Is it keyword focused? Is there anchor text variation?

Free SEO Audit Tools

And finally, here are a few handy tools to help with your SEO audit:

Happy auditing!

5 SEM Booty Predictions for 2015


Even though hoverboards, flying cars and power laces may not see the light of day this year, Back to the Future II made some pretty good predictions about 2015 including 3D experiences, video chat and wearable glass technology.

So in honour of all things DeLorean, here are my search and social marketing predictions for the year ahead:

1. In Facebook, it will be the paid way or the highway

Gone are the days when companies could post a message on their Facebook page and have every page liker see it in their news feed.

With more and more content flooding people’s feeds, organic posts on Facebook will become a waste of time and the only way for businesses to effectively reach their audiences through Facebook marketing will be through paid ads.

2. More companies will recognize that SEO, Content and Social Media are not mutually exclusive

In 2014, everyone and their grandmothers jumped onto the content bandwagon. For consumers there was so much content noise that information gems became harder to find, and many companies who had developed great content were struggling to reap the rewards.

In 2015, businesses will work harder to cut through the noise and get their content found through more thoughtful social strategies and end-to-end search engine optimization. Those businesses who apply SEO – not just as an afterthought but throughout the entire content development process (from subject identification to how and where content is served) – will be the ones who see most success in 2015.

3. Reporting on social media ROI will become a requirement, not a nicety

With companies allocating more budget towards social media, further fueled by the shift from organic to paid methods, questions around the measurable return on social media spend (and how this compares to other marketing channels), will become ripe. CMOs and finance departments will be demanding answers.

2015 will see the introduction of more tools (from both networks and developers) that help businesses to better track and understand, not just simple engagement measures, but the monetary ROI on social media spend.

4. The “year of wearable technologies” will replace the “year of mobile”

Ever since the release of the iPhone in 2007, search marketers raved about the year of mobile. Each year, it became as painful to hear as the “SEO is dead” mantra. But in 2014, desktop search declined by $1.4 billion as people shifted to mobile (eMarketer, 2014) and for the first time ever, mobile usage overtook desktop. After seven years, the “year of mobile” had finally arrived. So what next?

The “year of wearable technologies” of course! With Apple’s release of the Apple Watch this year, wearable technologies will become available not just to the Scoble’s of the world, but to everyone. And while the mass adoption of wearable search will come much, much later, 2015 will see the start of glanceable content, a further evolution of mobile ranking factors, and more advanced map optimization (including super-specific location and distance factors). Suddenly, local search will become a whole lot more important to all businesses – local and global. With this, expect more pigeon updates in our not-so-distant future.

5. Search marketing becomes a necessary skill across all departments

In order for search to become truly effective, it can no longer operate within a siloed department. Search marketing knowledge will become more of a sought after skill across all marketing functions. And as savvy search marketers work to educate and incorporate search practices, SEO will start to become much more integrated across marketing, web and IT departments.

With this, kneejerk reactionary tactics (in a “Quick! Let’s update all of our sites to https!” fashion) will decline as marketers focus more upon creating fundamentally good content built primarily around user (not just engine) experience.

What are your predictions for 2015?

3 Important Lessons from 2014


In 2014, we made trillions of searches and Google (with all of their paydays, pigeons, penguins, pandas, and pirates) ended up making 13 algorithm updates this year alone, which surprisingly clocks in at a much lower count compared to years past.

So with the new year rolling in, what were the key lessons I learned in 2014?

1. SEO is part of a much bigger story

I’ve been in the SEO space for around seven years now yet I continue to learn something new everyday when it comes to the latest techniques, tactics and ongoing Google updates. But despite all of the changes that are happening with SEO, the fundamentals (just like marketing) remain the same: it’s about creating relevant, valuable content for your audience and demonstrating this relevance to the search engines.

So this past year in particular, I’ve learned that while staying up to date is important, what’s more important is to understand how SEO integrates with the entire marketing mix (beyond PPC and social media), particularly when it comes to content marketing. And perhaps even more important is helping your organization understand how to apply SEO across all work, since SEO cannot succeed if it operates within a silo (and vice versa).

2. Accurately predicting organic website traffic is not as straightforward as it used to be

Although estimating organic traffic has always involved a certain degree of finger in air estimation, applying one average percentage, depending on rank, often got you close enough. But as time go by, it has become even more challenging to closely predict, as CTR becomes increasingly affected by so many more factors, including:

  • Local/national/international results
  • Desktop searches
  • Branded vs. unbranded searches
  • Short vs. mid vs. long-tail searches
  • Searches based on different stages of intent
  • Impact of PPC ads on CTR

This is why I jumped with joy when I came across a wonderful organic CTR estimation tool towards the end of this year. It was developed from a study by Advanced Web Ranking which looked at the impact of blended search results on organic CTR in 2014. I see this getting a lot of use in 2015.

3. Failures provide the lessons that will set you on a better path

The world of digital and search marketing is so fast-moving that change is the only constant. In order for us to grow within our profession, we must find ways to live outside of our comfort zone, and gain experiences that extend beyond our search marketing bubble in order to remain innovative in our thinking.

As part of this process, things can’t always be plain sailing. It is important for us to make mistakes, learn from them, never give up, and with this be prepared to take the risk of uncertainty. What 2014 taught me was that sometimes it is ok to get things wrong and learn from it, rather than to be complacent and always wonder, “what if”. And for those people who do you wrong, karma will always get them in the end.

How to Make Your Content Work Harder: An SEO and Content Mapping Model


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.


FIG 1: SEO and Content Mapping Model [Click on Image to Enlarge]

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.

5 Steps to Measurable B2B ROI

Marketing ROI

When it comes to digital marketing, measures like search engine rank, website visits, conversions and leads only tell half of the story. What the C-Suite really want to know is the ultimate KPI: how much is marketing really contributing towards the business? Marketing leaders in particular are looking to show the value of the marketing department as a profit (not a cost) centre.

For e-commerce, this process is pretty straightforward. But in terms of B2B offline sales, it can be more of a challenge. To get started, here are 5 key steps to help guide you in the right direction:

1. Closed-Loop Sales Process

This step is essential, but the most difficult. Having a closed-loop sales process needs to be driven from the top of the organization by the CMO or VP of Marketing and their sales counterpart, to ensure that all sales people are appropriately:

  • Indicating when a lead becomes an opportunity
  • Applying a sales value to the opportunity
  • Closing out the opportunity with a won/lost status

Positive reinforcement of sales behavior is important, particularly when this process is first rolled out. Often this is achieved through various incentives and ensuring it is included within everyone’s annual performance plans.

2. Marketing Campaign Codes

Campaign codes are used to show where a marketing lead derives from – be it an event, email, telemarketing, the web, or elsewhere. Marketing campaign codes are pretty standard practice in most organizations. No lead should exist within the marketing database without one.

3. Web Tracking Parameters

Marketing campaign codes only tell you the very broadest source of a marketing inquiry so for something like the “web”, this is a pretty big bucket.

Did these people come to the website directly? Or did they come through search engines, display advertising, social media, or from another website as a referral? This level of visibility can be achieved through URL tracking codes.

Tracking parameters that are particularly useful to capture include:

  • Source (referrer information): EG: Google, Facebook, YouTube, etc.
  • Medium: EG: ppc, seo, paid-social, organic-social

Google’s URL builder can be used to help build out parameter information.

4. Marketing and Sales Database Fields

These codes then need to be passed into an appropriate field in your marketing/sales database so that the information is incorporated within the inquiry/lead record and carried through to the opportunity being closed out by sales.

5. Ongoing Reporting

Finally, monthly reporting (accompanied by weekly run rate reports) will help you to keep track of the marketing contribution to sales numbers and provide ongoing visibility throughout the organization.

Once this process is in place, the output can:

  • be used to show true ROI (marketing spend vs. sales orders in monetary terms)
  • be used to project ROI in order to justify marketing investment
  • provide a useful framework to pitch for more budget (missed opportunities as a result of not spending enough)

Dear Marketing Agency…


I’m getting a little tired of all of the Emails and cold calling happening recently. Every morning, I open my inbox and it’s jam-packed full of messages trying to sell me services – anything ranging from SEO and social media, to call-center staffing, Email campaigns, database lists and advertising. It’s no wonder why most of your Emails don’t even get opened. Or if they do, they promptly end up in the trash.

When I’m not deleting your Emails, I’m answering calls from you. You fire off on your script, without taking pause or asking questions. It’s like I’m being shouted at by the headmaster all over again. It’s no wonder why I’ve been avoiding calls being forwarded to me from the front desk.

Despite this, I feel bad about the situation. So I wanted to take this opportunity to help out a little with some pointers that would help save both of us some time here.

Find out what I actually do

Please at least try to figure out what I do first. It’s really not that hard; I have profiles all over the Interwebz. If you specialize in services that target the right people within organizations, then why are you asking me to forward your message to the right person in my organization? I’m not a hub. I also don’t forward crap to my colleagues like some kind of dirty chain letter that no-one wants to receive.

Awards don’t impress me

Well done for winning that artsy-fartsy award five years ago, but it doesn’t mean that much to me.  And unfortunately, I don’t have a gazzillion dollar budget to help you win your next one either. I know that campaigns that focus on generating leads aren’t sexy and won’t win me any silverware, but it keeps me in a job. So rather than spend $10 million on some “chest-thumping” Super Bowl-like advert that makes us feel good, I would rather focus on programs that help drive actual business, which helps me pay the bills and go on nice holidays.

You, you, you. But what about me?

What is it that you can do for me, again? Did you even take the time to look at my company’s website or even do a little bit of research? Did you ask me questions to understand what keeps me up at night? Or share examples of how you can help me overcome the headaches I’ve been facing so I can blow away my targets and look like a hero? If not, then please move along.

I know this whole process is draining on the both of us. But if you can at least start off the conversation with something that is specific and relevant to me, and something that is meaningful for my situation, it will really help to set yourself apart from all of the noise that’s out there. If you figure it out, then let’s talk. This is marketing after all.

In-house or Outsource? The Benefits of Taking Digital Marketing to an Agency

In-house or Agency?

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?

Beyond Google Keyword Planner: 5 Free Tools Every SEO Should Keep in their Back Pocket

SEO Toolbox

Most people who are familiar with the concept of Search Engine Optimization will know about the Google Keyword Planner. However, many in the search world were not too happy with the loss of Google’s Keyword Tool to Keyword Planner last year, forcing SEOs and search marketers to turn to other alternatives to get additional levels of insight. So what other tools are out there that can help you with your search efforts? Here are five of my favourite:

1. YouTube Keyword Tool Alternative 

Video has, and continues to be, a great way to rank high in the search engine results. However, Keyword Planner is not video-specific and I’ve always found YouTube’s keyword suggestion tool rather limited, particularly when it comes to researching any non-mass consumer segment area. The YouTube Keyword Tool Alternative uses YouTube’s autocomplete feature to help you find longer tail keywords that users type into YouTube’s search box.

As you can see from the example below for “data center”, it provides autocomplete suggestions based on your query. Given the nature of video, very often you see suggestions based around educational themes, such as “fundamentals” and “tutorials”. I’ve found this to be a great research tool for video SEO that can uncover good ideas for video content and topics based upon what users are looking for.

YouTube Keyword Tool Alternative

2. FAQ Fox

If you want to find questions your target audience are asking, then FAQ Fox is the tool for you. Input your topic, select or type in a URL and FAQ Fox presents you with questions that these people are asking. One of the big benefits is that you are seeing exactly how people are typing in the question and the language they use, uncensored and all.

Very often, these are questions that users aren’t finding a good answer for in the search results, so again it is a great research tool that can help guide content development efforts.

FAQ Fox Example

 3. Mozbar

Do you want to see key SEO site metrics at a glance every time you conduct a search? Mozbar is the best way to see metrics such as domain authority, page authority, link counts, social metrics, and more — all of the basics to help you understand a page’s ranking ability.

I love this tool for the easy competitive comparisons that show why certain pages rank higher than others and how easy or difficult it would be to rank for a particular keyword. Mozbar is available as a plug-in for Firefox and Chrome.

Mozbar Example

4. SEO Book’s Rank Checker

If you don’t have the budget for an Enterprise SEO tool and are having to check up on keyword rank, then make sure to use Rank Checker.

Rank Checker is a handy Firefox plug-in that allows you to quickly see where you and/or your competitors are ranking for a keyword, and which page is ranking. It covers all Google country domains and some Yahoo country domains. I’ve used this tool for a number of years now (even alongside enterprise SEO tools). I found this particularly useful when going through optimization and comparison exercises for international SEO projects.

Rank Checker Example

5.  MobileDev HQ

Over the past few years, we’ve seen how much mobile apps have taken off, giving rise to a new kind of optimization; commonly known as App Store Optimization (ASO).

Having dabbled a little in ASO, I’ve found MobileDevHQ to be a pretty handy tool when it comes to keyword app store discovery and ongoing monitoring. Their helpful dashboards and summary emails cover things such as: Top 5 keywords by ranking change, ratings added in the last 24 hours, and actual app downloads. With the free version of the tool, the number of keywords you are able to track are unlimited and you can access up to three months of historical data.

MobileDevHQ Example

What are your favourite free SEO tools?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: