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Top 5 Takeaways from SMX Advanced

SMX Advanced Seattle 2015

It’s been a crazy four years since I attended my first SMX Advanced, in Seattle. While some things remain constant, so much has evolved in the land of SEO, SEM, social media, attribution, and mobile.

With so much rich, jam-packed information that you would come to expect from an event like this, drilling down to just five key takeaways was a toughie but necessary in order to reflect on learnings and most importantly apply them. So without further ado, here are my top highlights from SMX Advanced 2015:

1. Top the SERP with Rich Answers

Rich Answers

Eric Enge’s Example of a Rich Answer

For a long time, video has been one of my favorite ways to easily break into Page 1 in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Now, Rich Answers provide another great option to help dominate those first page results.

Eric Enge conducted a study of almost 900,000 different queries and found that around 20% of the time, Google served up a Rich Answer. Rich Answers are the answer boxes that appear at the very top of the page (yes, even above sites like Wikipedia) when a commonly asked question is searched on. It can display in a variety of ways, including tables, tabs, lists, charts, even drop down menus. Having a rich answer result allows your site to leap over all other results and significantly increase traffic to your page, even if you have a domain with lower authority.

So how do you get a Rich Answer? Rich Answers require you having a dedicated page on your website that provides a simple, clear answer to a question. Your content should not just focus on a keyword or phrase, but the context of it.

For a strong chance of generating a Rich Answer in Google, Eric recommends:

  1. Identifying a simple question that people are commonly searching for
  2. Providing a direct answer on a dedicated page on your website
  3. Offering value added information to accompany your answer

Eric managed to get a Rich Answer result in the SERP within 3 days of publishing it. As part of the content, he shared the page on Google+ and submitted the URL through Google Search Console (aka Webmaster Tools).

2. Test the Things that Matter

Testing Methodology Framework

Ryan Hutching’s Framework for Testing

Testing is such a broad topic that sometimes it can be difficult to know where to focus. With many years of experience under his belt, Ryan Hutchings shared an extremely practical framework when it comes to testing the things that are going to make a difference. When you are looking to make improvements, you test things that fit within the equation (see above).

Since you will rarely be able to influence a person’s motivation (4m), Ryan recommends that you focus your tests around the following, in priority order:

  • Reducing Friction (f) – e.g. reducing options
  • Improving clarity of your Value Proposition (3v)
  • Reducing anxiety (2a) – e.g. badges, certifications, customer testimonials
  • Increasing incentive (i) – e.g. discount, gift, prize

3. Use Gap Analysis to Manage SEO Expectations

SEO Gap Analysis Scorecard

Jessica Bowman’s SEO Scorecard

I’ve used gap analysis for a lot of things, but for some reason SEO has rarely been one of them. Jessica Bowman shared a wonderful way to use gap analysis that can be used to simply communicate SEO objectives, priorities and progress to management. It is particularly useful if management feels that SEO progress is taking longer than expected and are asking, “What happened?”.

The key areas of assessment should cover:

  1. SEO Tactics and Strategies: Where the key pillars are Crawling and Indexing, Content, Internal Links, External Links and Mentions, User Experience
  2. SEO Operations: Where the key pillars are SEO Team, Non-SEO Teams, Processes, Metrics

Pillar by pillar, you list out your SEO initiatives and tactics (a spreadsheet often works best for this) and apply a score between 1-10 for each pillar, focusing on:

  • SEO need (the level of importance a change is for SEO success)
  • Whether this need is on the company’s roadmap, or not
  • What the actual situation is

You then roll up these tactical scores and apply to the framework in order to illustrate the gaps at a higher level.

4. Remember that SEO is About Context, Not just Keywords

SEO Utopia

Rand Fishkin’s Predictions for Ranking Signals of the Future

In today’s ever-evolving SEO landscape, focusing just on traditional ranking factors will only get you so far. Throughout the conference many presenters reminded us that ranking today is not just about keywords but about consumer intent, and in order to get pages to rank at the top of the results pages and stay there, you have to provide helpful, human answers to queries being made.

Marcus Tober emphasized the importance of connected topics that make users happy. In order to win in SEO you have to become an authority on a topic and get the UX right first, before even thinking about link building.

The ultimate SEO utopia is having your brand becoming synonymous with a search topic. Rand Fishkin shared an example of Zillow showing up as a suggestion for real-estate searches because as a brand, it has become so tightly connected to this industry.

5. Marketers Continue to Struggle with Attribution

Attribution Myths

Rob Cooley’s Top Attribution Myths

Four years ago, no-one had an easy answer for attribution; not even close. In 2015, the attribution question continues to be a painful one. Although 88% of marketers believe that attribution is important, 66% of us still use a single touch (first or last touch) attribution model – Jeremy Hull. What makes it hard is that tracking cookies break when measuring cross-device – not so good when users own an average of 2-3 devices, and climbing with wearable technology.

Google’s big focus of late has been around satisfying micro-moments of truth. Micro-moments are fragmented events that happen throughout the day that all contribute towards a person making a purchase decision. Google wants to build a great platform for every moment of commercial intent across the web, mobile and apps. If this is the case, then accurate attribution tracking has to be a big priority for Google.

Google Estimated Total Conversions is a column feature in AdWords that is intended to provide insights into how ads influence conversions cross-device online, in-store or over the phone. However, it does require use of the AdWords conversion tracking tool and enough conversion volume in order to generate an “estimate” – a word that many search marketers have taken issue with. We are told that Estimated Conversions are based on very conservative estimates with a 95% confidence level. Jerry Dischler (VP Product Management, at Google) went so far to say that he trusted it 100%.

Jerry confirmed that Google are focusing more on solving the attribution question – looking at both offline conversions (in particular, store visits and store transactions) and cross-device conversions. Offline visibility will be particularly important in the consumer space since recent research findings show that search is driving more conversions in-store than online.

SMX Advanced 2015

For more SMX insights, be sure to check out my Twitter feed, as well as hashtag #smx.

Where Should You Host Your Video Content?


With over 1B video clips being viewed on Facebook each day, video popularity shows no signs of slowing. So it should come as no surprise that the use of video in content marketing continues to rise, helped along by lowered barriers to entry when it comes to video production.

However, a question that marketers commonly ask is, “Where should my video content live? — On my website, or on a third-party video platform?” …of which there are a myriad of choices. Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer as choice will often depend upon a range of different factors.

So let’s take a look at each option in turn, as well as take a deeper dive into five of the major social video networks out there.

Hosting Videos on your Website

There are a number of reasons why you choose to host video content on your own website. These include:

  • When you are looking to drive traffic to content on your website
  • When you want total control over the video viewing experience
  • When you are targeting people in the “buy” phase of the marketing funnel
  • When you are helping your existing website visitors, customers, or user base troubleshoot specific issues
  • When you want to build backlinks to your domain through video embeds

Hosting Videos on Social Video Platforms

Despite viewer distractions that are often inherent on a third-party platform, there are many good reasons for utilizing these social platforms to host your video content. Some of these include:

  • When you want to get your video in front of as many eyeballs as possible
  • When you want to connect your brand, outside the confines of a corporate website
  • When you have developed educational content that appeals to a broad audience
  • When you want to target a particular demographic in the networks where they spend time
  • When you want your video to be found through major search engines

If you decide that hosting your video on a social video platform is the way to go, the question then turns to which network to choose? Here’s a comparison of 5 major social video networks.

Social Video Network Cheat Sheet

Social Video Network Cheat Sheet [Click to Enlarge]

VineVine was founded in June 2012 and then promptly scooped up by Twitter four months later. It officially launched as a mobile app in 2013 and has since clocked up 40M registered users. Vine users skew female and is most popular amongst the younger 18-20 year old age group.

Users record short 6-second video clips with their mobile device camera. Stop motion video is a popular technique used on Vine due to the short filming length.

  • Use cases: Simple visual demonstrations
  • Examples of companies doing Vine well: Lowes and Lego

Snapchat: With 100M active monthly users, Snapchat is most popular among females and younger age groups (under 25s).

Users snap a photo or video, mark it up with text or drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. After a certain user-defined time-limit (between 1-10 seconds), the snap will disappear. Snapchat Stories was added in 2013 leading to 1B stories being viewed per day. It provides a collection of snaps anyone can view, allowing brands to go beyond the original 1:1 limitations. Stories can be viewed an unlimited number of times, for a 24 hour period.

Despite its growing popularity, Social Media Marketing Report (2015) found that the majority of marketers (83%) have no plans to use Snapchat in 2015. Just recently, Evan Spiegal, CEO of Snapchat, also spoke negatively about brands using Snapchat Stories, outside of traditional ad units.

  • Use cases: Snapchat celebrity endorsements, coupons, discounts and incentives
  • Examples of companies doing Snapchat well: Taco Bell and Grubhub

Instagram: Originally a photo sharing platform, Instagram expanded its service to video in 2013. It has 300M active monthly users and is more gender neutral compared to other social video networks. It is most popular among the 18-29 age group.

Instagram users can upload 3-15 second videos, with time-lapse being a popular technique used. Use of hashtags are also common for tagging and findability within Instagram.

  • Use cases: Visual demonstrations and education
  • Examples of companies doing Instagram well: GoPro and General Electric

FacebookWith 1.4B active monthly users, Facebook continues to be the most popular social networking site out there. Facebook users skews female and while most popular among the 25-34 age group, usage continues to increase in the 65 and older age category (with 56% of Internet users in the 65 and older category using Facebook). Facebook videos automatically play without audio on a user’s News Feed.

There has been much debate recently over which platform is better for video – Facebook or YouTube. The choice really depends upon your objectives. Recent research by Visible Measures found that Facebook provides much higher acceleration of views compared to YouTube due to the network’s massive reach, but these views diminish over time. On the other hand, YouTube was found to be the better choice for continued viewership over the long haul, likely helped along through stronger search findability.

  • Use cases: Spans the marketing funnel, but is particularly good for product launches and other time-specific announcements and events
  • Examples of companies doing Facebook well: Budweiser and Always

YouTube: With 1B+ active monthly users, YouTube impressively reaches 81% of all US internet users, including more 18-34 year olds than any cable TV network. Demographically, YouTube skews towards higher male usage, and like Facebook is most popular among the 25-34 age group.

Very recently, video thumbnail results for self-hosted videos made an exit from the Google SERP. YouTube videos are now the only video thumbnails that seem to be showing up. YouTube is definitely the go-to platform for video findability, and still remains the second most popular search engine after Google. “How to” searches on YouTube increased by 70% in 2015, with over 100 million hours watched. “Near me” searches have also doubled this year.

For search marketers, it is often easier to rank for educational searches in Google, using a YouTube video compared to a standard HTML page. Video optimizations are relatively straightforward to apply and can be further supplemented with paid promotions to help drive traffic and social engagement.

  • Use cases: Spans the entire marketing funnel from how-to videos to product tear downs and ask the experts.
  • Examples of companies doing YouTube well: There are many examples of companies doing it right on YouTube. Among the best known are Blendtek and Old Spice.

With 91% of buyers preferring visual content during the buying process (Demand Gen Report, 2015), it is clear that video is here to stay. Choice about where to host your video is an important one. The decision requires upfront clarity around:

  • What are your objectives?
  • What part of the funnel are you targeting?
  • What are your website capabilities?
  • What audience are you trying to reach and why?

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)
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