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.
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.
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. Take a stock and flow approach to your content marketing by feeding out very short flow pieces via social media 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).
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.
Treat this 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.
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 and Google’s Page Speed Insights to begin identification of speed problems. 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.
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’, 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.
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.
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. Always remember too that gifs can be very expensive from a page load perspective. Keep animation to a minimum too.
Think lean with your text based content too? Think about the purpose of the page and use concise brevity. 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.
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 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. Digital marketing may be more difficult, but the developments are certainly more exciting!