A constantly changing organic search and consumer behaviour landscape can make digital marketing as an acquisition channel success seem more evasive.
However, there are still some main tactical drivers to guide the way toward a successful strategy; think fast, mobile first, lead via digital PR, disambiguate for search engines, and connect together via social media relationship building.
- Think fast – grab attention
- Mobile first
- Lead via digital PR
- Disambiguate for search engines
- Connect together via social media relationship building
Let’s take a look at each of these elements and discuss the benefits.
Think fast – grab attention
Today’s consumer has a plethora of information to consume, whether that be in tweets, Facebook posts, push notifications, Instagram images to pore through, or any number of other distractions in various content forms.
Whilst the memory span of humans was thought to have shortened to less than that of a goldfish, based on a study carried out by Microsoft, and reported on by various news sources such as Time Magazine, The Guardian, this has been refuted several times, by other credible sources such as Google, who claim that it is not the attention span which has shortened, but the attention filter.
They claim, it’s not that humans can’t concentrate for very long, it’s merely a case that brands need to break through a very short scan which humans undertake to see whether something is interesting enough to focus upon. Humans will still give up precious time and attention to content which is compelling enough.
A kind of ‘attention filter’. Humans can concentrate for very long periods after all – otherwise we would not binge watch Netflix shows for entire weekends curled up on the sofa.
It’s just that we are becoming increasingly selective about where we will use our attention.
Human attention as a study area for marketers and analytics companies alike is undoubtedly growing in importance because of the congested battleground to catch the consumer eye (or ear).
Think with Google have launched their own research initiative into this area, calling the study of attention, ‘an industry challenge‘.
With all of this in mind, it’s safe to say that whatever tactic you are undertaking with your digital marketing campaigns, you need to have a hook which will capture the scanning eye (or ear) or the consumer, and quickly.
Think eye-catching images, compelling short statistics, short and punchy bold statements (whilst avoiding bait and switch or clickbait posts which, let’s face it, nobody wants).
Take a stock and flow approach to your content marketing by feeding out very short flow pieces via social media channels and leading the prospect to your stock asset (e.g. website) via short bursty flow tweets and posts via social media. Entice with punchlines (but avoid click-bait, which is frowned upon as an underhand tactics).
Get your content noticed
You need to get noticed in that short attention filter. Once you have gotten over that initial attention hurdle then, as long as your content is compelling enough, you will retain the attention of the visitor for the longer term.
Remember, for example, your meta-description (when not being rewritten by Google), often presents an opportunity to quickly capture the attention of the prospect in this stock and flow manner.
However, you should take particular care to ensure that your meta-descriptions actually match the content expectations of those you’re looking to entice a click-through from.
Again, disappointing your visitors because you over-promised and under-delivered on content which they click through from social posts or search engine results pages is a sure-fire way to send them running for the hills, and never to return to your blog or website.
Treat snippets in organic search results, paid search advertising or social media posts as your A-board in the SEO equivalent of the high street.
Utilise your meta-description well as a clear (not spammy) call to action and strong, but snappy, description of what delights the user can expect to find should they venture from the search engine results pages (SERPs) into your store or brochure site.
Grabbing attention fast means you must also have a fast loading webpage.
Make sure your website is fast
Slow loading websites directly impact the bottom line. There have been several studies over the past decade or so into the impact on conversion which speed has.
For example, Akamai recently found that: “A 100-millionsecond delay in website load time can hurt conversion rates by 7 percent.
Search engines are acutely aware of the impact which reduced speed has on the user experience, particularly on mobile devices.
To this end Google have introduced speed ranking factors. Initially for desktop in 2010 and then in July 2018 for mobile users.
There’s plenty you can do to speed up your website and certainly no excuse to allow this to hold you back in search, since Google, in particular have provided lots of useful guides and there are a number of speed checking and improvement tools available to both diagnose and begin to fix latency issues.
Use tools such as Pingdom, GTMetrix, Lighthouse audits, Batch Speed and Google‘s Page Speed Insights to begin identification of speed problems.
Google now even provide a feature in their Google Search Console suite which is experimental (beta) and is based around speed reporting. URL samples are flagged as either slow, moderate or fast.
Bear in mind Google Search Console reporting is usually based on samples so you won’t get every URL in the reports but you should get enough to be able to pick up some strong clues as to the types of pages or templates which are problematic and those which are fast.
Take the learnings from those which are fast to identify what makes them different from a load perspective when compared to the slow loading pages.
Regardless of whether you are focusing on SEO, PPC or social media to drive acquisition, a fast website when your visitors arrive is a no-brainer.
So grab attention with punchy meta-descriptions, ad creative, social media posts and serve the visitor well with a speed-optimised page when prospects do decide they want to learn more about your offering.
Take a mobile-first approach
As more consumers rely on their mobile handsets to access the web, mobile content is increasingly becoming an essential part of any marketing campaign. In 2017, according to Google’s Global Consumer Barometer, which monitors online user behaviour across 63 countries, for the first time, more consumers were using search on mobile devices than desktop.
Because of this Google decided to initiate a switch to mobile-first indexing. Historically mobile websites (such as m dot websites) were merely ranked based on their desktop equivalents and given a slight ranking boost for passing a mobile-friendly test. Now, this has been flipped on its head.
Instead, websites are indexed (and ranked) based on their mobile equivalent.
It’s not only essential to have content parity between both your mobile and desktop offerings (if they are separate), but to also consider the limited space (and bandwidth (see speed factors above in particular)) of the mobile user.
You should also consider the types of activities which mobile users undertake as they are likely different to those undertaken by users when accessing a desktop device.
Mobile activities tend to be much more task and sub-task focused, and the interaction between mobile user and device is typically in short, sharp bursts of activity versus the longer sessions undertaken on desktop.
Every website and business offering is different though so you should explore Google Analytics to identify which device your users are utilising most. Focus there initially from a priority perspective. There’s not a huge deal of point in optimising your website for mobile to then find that the whole desktop experience falls apart, particularly if this is where your users carry on their sub-tasks towards completion of a larger goal and transact with your brand.
Think carefully about what your user does and help them to undertake these short tasks quickly and efficiently.
Meet their information need precisely, and quickly. Does your user want to go somewhere?
Help them with interactive maps and directions?
Does your user want to learn something quickly?
Help them with a mobile-optimised video experience.
Think about Google’s ‘moments’ – key intent signals
Think about Google’s ‘moments’, which are short opportunities for well-known brands, and lesser known brands too, to help the prospect on multiple occasions as they traverse through the exploratory stages prior to engaging with a brand transactionally.
The four ‘moments’ Google have identified as key parts of the customer journey are as follows:
- I want to know moments
- I want to go moments
- I want to do moments
- I want to buy moments
Looking further into what each of these moments means for your consumers and how you can help your audience meet their informational needs provides us with the following information:
I want to know moments
In ‘I want to know moments’, the user is in the earlier stages of their journey towards a transaction, but they are still researching. They are seeking information of some kind, but have not yet made any decisions. They might well not even realise they have a need per say, and are not in purchase mode at this stage so their intent to transact is implicit rather than explicit at this stage. The types of content which meet this momentary need might well be made up of a combination such as:
- How to guides
- News content
- Explainer videos
- How to videos
- Blog content
- Question and answer pieces
- Curated directional content
- Pretty much any other kind of informational content
I want to go moments
‘I want to go moments’ usually has a local intent and it means a user is normally seeking to find a location or navigate to a destination nearby. ‘I want to go moments’ provide a strong opportunity for bricks and mortar businesses and give lesser known local businesses a much needed opportunity over the behemoth brands online (particularly those pure-play brands who operate online only). Opportunities for these moments might take the form of the following types of content:
- A carefully tended and well maintained Google My Business listing packed with posts, products and services, brimming with reviews from past customers and lots of images.
- Strong branch location pages with updates from the local team, contact details and a map, along with directions on how to reach you.
- Well connected social media assets which clearly show an engaged local community and integrated well across other channels and your website.
- Local resources which complement your business offering and which will be of interest and add value to your audience. Curate a strong geo-located and useful list and keep it well maintained.
- A strong and obvious connection with the local community. Show you are involved with company updates via your blog, social media and Google My Business.
According to WebDam, two-thirds of mobile users access social media sites using their mobile phone. Given social media is one of the leading platforms to connect with your customers, publishing content designed specifically for mobile becomes vitally important.
I want to do moments
I want to do moments are those when a user wants help with a task or a subtasks and needs guidance or some illustrations.
These kind of moments are again perfect for the following kinds of content:
- How to guides
- Video tutorials
- Explainer videos
- Code samples and repositories
- Walk through videos
I want to buy moments
These are the strong commercial intent transactional moments. The user is now ready to buy or transact in some way. Transacting could involve booking a hotel, buying a product, buying some tickets. Naturally, these moments are right down the funnel and queries which meet these moments might well include such terms as ‘shop + product’, ‘book + product’, ‘buy + product’. These are the most competitive terms in the search universe but make up much less of universal search terms than informational queries. The types of content suited to these ‘I want to buy moments’ could well be:
- Comparison content
- ‘Best of’ content
- Buyers guides
- Ecommerce landing pages
- Ecommerce category & subcategory pages
- Product pages themselves
- Hotel destination categories
- Holiday destination categories
- Think small and lean for mobile
Creating content for mobile – think small
The key to creating mobile content is to think small. Make your content bite-sized and accessible. Your content also needs to load quickly so don’t weight it down with data.
Limit the number of images to one to reduce the size, or alternatively use next-generation web images such as SVG, and don’t overload your page with video.
Don’t forget to compress images which can easily be achieved with tools such as Smush.it or Kracken.io. If your site is a WordPress application there are plugins for both of these image optimisation tools.
Always remember too that gifs can be very expensive from a page load perspective. Keep animation to a minimum too.
Watch out for fonts too. Loading excessive numbers of fonts directly from Google’s font library which are never needed puts an unnecessary burden on the page. Use only the fonts which are necessary. Copy the font CSS style and add it to your own hosted stylesheet to reduce load even further.
Think lean with your text based content too? Think about the purpose of the page and use concise brevity. Can you say the same in fewer words whilst maintaining the same semantic meaning?
Google have also told us that text hidden behind concertinas on mobile devices will still be counted in the mobile-first index (although this is still debated heavily by those in the SEO community).
Lead with digital PR
Bad SEO practices have given guest blogging a poor reputation, but the fact of the matter is that publishing guest content helps to raise brand awareness and position yourself as a leader in your industry.
Certainly you should think carefully about where you will publish your content from a guest posting perspective. Will your name being associated with a leading industry publication give the brand credibility or are you considering posting to some random blog which probably gets no traffic and is built for the purposes of SEO only? Choose wisely.
Provide content your audience wants
Internet users want information they can trust and by offering sound advice you can build an online reputation web users trust. Your content should therefore be geared to providing readers with industry insights in a way they understand.
Search engines have put an emphasis on content that is unique and offers value to the reader. Simply by writing a complicated subject in layman’s terms can be considered unique and adds value. You don’t have to come up with information nobody knows, but find methods of publishing old news in new ways.
When guest blogging is done well, you can expect to attract more organic traffic from an already established readership base. Ideally you should be contributing to a top ranking magazine, or at the very least one that has a substantial following.
However, guest blogging is not the only way to generate links to a website (and links do still matter). Think about carrying out some research or undertaking a charity initiative or creating something useful for the community within which your business or site operates, and share this news with journalists or influential bloggers. Platforms such as a Newstip, Response Source or Gorkana provide access to media databases of journalists. Build media lists so that when there is news worth sharing you can contact the necessary news-spreaders in your space.
Build relationships with social media
Despite the efforts of social media networks to cull the number of organic ads reaching your audience, Adweek report 70% of marketers will be increasing ad spend on social media marketing this year.
Hubspot also published a survey that declared 92% of online businesses say social media marketing was fundamental to an increase in organic traffic and sales. But social networks are more than a platform to promote your products and services.
It is general practice to filter content through social media sites and readers can like and share information among their friends and followers in one easy click directly from a webpage. Content sharing is a significant culture users have adopted seamlessly.
This not only means that your content has a greater chance of reaching a wider audience, but also raises brand awareness and brand trust – especially if you are publishing engaging content that provides trustworthy and valid information.
There is a rumour circling that SEO is dead. This is not true, it’s just the goalposts that have shifted. At present, content is still king, but marketers have to be more savvy in the type of content they create and for the kind of devices their audience is using. There is so much content out there already getting the cut through may be more challenging, but once you identify your audience interests and preferences this is much easier.
Digital marketing may be more difficult, but the developments are certainly more exciting!