The Future of Search Rankings: What Companies Like Google Are Going to Focus on Next

Starting in 2011, Google has made a series of regular updates to its search algorithm to determine exactly how sites appear in a results page for a particular string. Gone are the days where the site with the highest volume of relevant keywords “won.” Panda penalized spam-filled sites that offered little in the way of actual content in favor of valuable information that actually satisfied a particular search. Google’s changes have also focused on things like maintaining a proper balance between genuine content and advertising and pushing sites to offer social media integration and more. They’ve even given an edge to local businesses, leveling the playing field and essentially making sure that even small businesses can evenly compete with large, national corporations that can outspend them day in and day out.

What Does the Future Hold?

If you take a look at all of the high profile changes that Google has made to its ranking algorithm in recent years, what is the one, underlying thing that you see in common? Google has regularly focused on not just the volume of content that marketers are putting out into the world but the quality of content.

Simple: Google is focused on creating the best user experience possible. This means that you should be focused on this, too.

Google is Trying to Train You To Value UI

Google doesn’t just want to make sure that people can find the information they’re looking for – they want to make sure they have a pleasant experience while they do it. Therefore, it’s easy to see where this is probably all going: user retention. It’s easy to picture the world just a few short years from now where having high-quality content doesn’t matter as much as content that people are actively consuming. Google can easily start paying attention to site statistics like bounce rates to glean more insight into how its users behave when interacting with the content they’re being served. Did you write an objectively great blog post but, for some reason, users are still leaving your page after just ten seconds? Google could easily rank your site lower than a competitor with a higher session length as a result. Why is your bounce rate so high? You’re not sure, but you’d better find out – and fast.

Many of these changes that Google and other engines have implemented to their algorithm are designed to lean more and more on the users themselves to provide the information needed to identify high-quality content and weed out low-quality alternatives. It creates something of a symbiotic circle between search engines and internet users – the users identify the content worth experiencing, Google recognizes it, rinse, repeat. Because of this, the key to marketing in this type of world becomes clear: pay attention to what the users want and do whatever you have to do to give it to them. Google wants to give its users exactly what they want when they want it, how they want it. If you’re a marketer with any type of presence in the digital age, that should be your goal, too.

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Successful Secrets to Achieving Your Business Goals

Do you ever wonder how some people just seem to rock at getting things accomplished, while others seem to dream big but never really get anywhere? It’s not luck and it’s no accident. Successful entrepreneurs know the secret to setting goals and making their dreams come true – they know about SMART goal setting.

You may be thinking, “Well, I’m smart…why aren’t my dreams coming true with my existing goals?” The trouble is not your I.Q. The trouble is likely with your goals. Successful entrepreneurs set goals with 5 key factors. Their goals are:

Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Realistic
Timely

Let’s break down what all that means…

Specific Goals
Goals that are specific address the what, why, and how of the goal. An example might look something like this: “Increase our Facebook followers to reach more clients by implementing a Facebook advertising campaign.” Breaking that down further, the “what” of this goal is increasing your Facebook followers. The “why” is to reach more clients. The “how” is by implementing a Facebook advertising campaign.

Measurable Goals
Goals should be measurable so that you can have real evidence of whether you’ve accomplished your goal. To build on our prior goal, we could add the following: “Increase our Facebook followers by 50% to reach more clients by implementing a Facebook advertising campaign.” This way we know where we started and where we want to go, and can also gauge our progress based on interim numbers.

Achievable Goals
We’ve all made goals in our lives that have been clearly unachievable, like losing 50 pounds in 10 days. There’s just no way that’s going to happen without us hacking off a leg, right? On the other hand, we don’t want to limit ourselves. So, it’s best to find a balance as to what will stretch your company a bit while still being achievable so you don’t give up. You want to keep yourself and your employees and partners motivated.

Realistic Goals
In setting goals, we want the focus to be realistic or results-focused goals. That means focusing on the results of our efforts, not necessarily the activities we undertake to get there.

Timely Goals
Finally, you want your goal to be fulfilled in a discrete period of time. Goals without deadlines just turn into dreams if you keep pushing things off until tomorrow. So, let’s go ahead and bring this all together. Let’s say you’ve got 5,000 Facebook followers and it took you 1 year to get that many followers. Now, you want to increase that by 50%. Applying the above, our SMART Goal is now:

“Increase our Facebook followers by 50% in 6 months to reach more clients by implementing a Facebook advertising campaign.”

You’ve now put an achievable deadline for this goal of 6 months, which seems reasonable given the time it took you to get the first 5,000 followers and the fact that you’ve got some traction now to build on.

Try this technique with the rest of your goals, no matter how small they may be, and you can start tracking and achieving your business goals like a pro.

MPM as a Marketing Tool: What is it?

Simply put, marketing performance measurement and management, or MPM, is a means of monitoring and adjusting marketing campaigns on the fly. Any good marketing campaign is a fluid campaign, accommodating changes and adjustments as they become needed. Large corporations spend thousands of dollars on gaining a command of MPM, but that doesn’t mean that small businesses cannot benefit from trying to master the same tools.

MPM is a way of systematically managing and coordinating your marketing assets for the improvement of the overall strategic marketing of your products or services.

Really, MPM is more like a fine-tuning mechanism that allows you to tailor your best marketing assets to do their best work for you and informs you of those marketing channels that are not performing as you had hoped or planned.

MPM is About Timing and Comparison

Timing has to do with when you release specific marketing channels. If you released them all around the same time, you would never be able to evaluate which ones were the most productive for you. Staggering their release provides the necessary criteria for effective evaluation of each one’s individual value to your marketing scheme. That way the channels can be compared for their effectiveness. A spike in sales can result from any marketing channel, but if they are all released at the same time, you cannot easily determine which ones are successful and which ones are not.

Once you can establish which channels are the most successful, you can emphasize those channels, modifying them accordingly to increase their effectiveness.

In the digital realm, the metrics tell the story. The analytics, that is, the collection of data, permit you the luxury of creating new strategies based on the success of earlier efforts. With this information, you can not only improve existing campaigns, but you can also more aptly tailor future ad campaigns. Fully strategic thinking involves planning ahead, and the analytics from MPM give you the information to do that more effectively.

There are five pillars to MPM. Each has its own value and must be addressed. The first is alignment. Align your marketing efforts to your desired results. Target those results and adjust your campaign according to the success of initial strategies.

Second is accountability. This is simply a statement of how well any specific marketing channel delivers the desired results based on the metrics you have before you.

Third is the analytics themselves. This is the data that drives your campaign and complements and improves it with its needed modifications.

Fourth are the alliances. You form these naturally in the process of marketing, but using them is an important part of successfully employing an MPM strategy. Use your network partners, such as content providers and the agencies that locate them, as well as other assets to emphasize your successful marketing channels.

Finally, there is the assessment. This is the natural outcome of the process, the data that is compared and contrasted for their relative benefits. The strengths and weaknesses can be evaluated in real time as each campaign develops, permitting adjustments and allowing growth in the campaign, itself.

Marketing Automation: What You Need to Know

“Marketing automation” is more than just a buzzword – it is a very real practice that is empowering marketers around the world to accomplish more than ever in a shorter amount of time. At its core, marketing automation is a term used to describe a set of software, technologies, and other platforms that automate marketing on certain channels. These can include e-mail, social media, websites, and more. The idea is that by automating certain repetitive tasks that, while hugely important are also time-consuming, you unlock a host of additional benefits that can’t be ignored.

Reaching Customers on a Deeper Level

Targeted marketing has always been the bread and butter of many businesses in terms of increasing customer engagement. People don’t want to feel like they’re just one of a million different people being marketed to simultaneously – they want to feel like your business is taking time out of its busy day to speak to them directly. This helps increase the effectiveness of your marketing materials and is also a great way to take an average customer and turn them into a loyal brand advocate at the same time.

The issue here is that this historically takes a lot of time – or at least, it used to. Marketing automation is one of the best tools that you currently have to reach your unique customers in a meaningful way. Previously, you would have to manually segment customers based on things like your buyer personas. You would have to spend time creating these niche groups of customers based on their personalities, their needs, their likes and dislikes and more. While effective, this takes a great deal of time.

With marketing automation, however, you can simply create restrictions that will allow your software resources to segment these customers automatically based on whatever criteria you want. You get the exact same beneficial end result, but you only had to spend a fraction of the time in order to get there.

What Marketing Automation Is NOT

When people hear the term “automation,” they often call to mind images of technological solutions or other IT developments that are designed to completely replace the jobs of human employees. While that may be true in an environment like a factory floor, this couldn’t be farther from reality in terms of marketing.

Marketing automation is not designed to be a replacement for your marketing team or the hard work they’re doing – it’s designed to be supplemental to the existing experience. Automation isn’t an excuse to hire one less employee, but to free up that employee’s valuable time to put to better use elsewhere within your organization. Maybe Thomas shouldn’t be spending so much of his day writing and sending out new tweets or Facebook updates every time you publish a new piece of content – maybe that should happen instantly so that Thomas can work on something a bit more important to your larger business objectives.

These are just a few of the major advantages that marketing automation is bringing to the table in terms of what the industry looks like today. By automating certain basic marketing functions, it’s enabling your employees to do better work in a more fundamental way. It gives them the ability to work “smarter, not harder,” so to speak.

Frequency in Marketing: Striking a Balance Between Quantity and Quality

As marketing professionals, we hear it time and again – one of the fastest ways to turn a prospective client into someone that wants nothing to do with your business is to contact them too many times in too short of a period. People don’t like to be bombarded with marketing materials – it makes them feel overwhelmed and can be quite off-putting. Despite this, quantity is still important, as you always want to keep your brand at the forefront of their minds. Contacting too frequently can give the perception that your materials lack quality, however, which is why striking the right balance between the two is so important.

The Google of it All

Search engine giant Google has made a number of significant changes to its algorithm in recent years, starting with Panda in 2011. These updates have regularly been designed to penalize low-quality sites that spam the Internet with content, weeding them out of the top portions of search results to be replaced with sites that are actually relevant to what Google’s own users are really looking for. Despite this, Google still places a high priority on sites that update regularly. A site that posts one blog post every day is seen as more authoritative than one that only posts once a month.

So what, exactly, is this trying to tell us when it comes to quality versus quantity?

The answer is simple: while both are important, your marketing campaigns need to be crafted with an eye on relevance and value first, everything else second. Period. End of story. Google’s own representatives have said time and again that the search engine is designed in such a way that so long as you are constantly putting well-designed, high-value content out into the world, everything else will essentially take care of itself. We’re inclined to agree, but we’re willing to take it one step further – we don’t believe that this logic begins and ends with Google.

Taking This With You Into the Print World

Even though Google’s stance on quality versus quantity exists exclusively in the digital world, it’s still a great set of best practices to take with you when crafting print marketing materials, too. By taking the rules and guidelines set forth by search engines like Google and applying them to all of your marketing materials regardless of channel, you’re building a much stronger foundation by which you can put your best foot forward to both prospecting and existing customers alike.

Essentially, just because you won’t get penalized by Google for sending a customer a print flyer through the post office twice a week doesn’t mean that you should. Google’s “rules” are built on a tremendous amount of study into things like customer preferences and buying habits. The playing field may change (as your print materials don’t affect your SEO in any way), but the logic that those guidelines were founded on remains the same. Google spent a huge amount of money figuring out that Mark from Atlanta doesn’t like it when businesses send him high volumes of low-value materials twice a week, so use what Google is trying to tell you to your advantage.

Frequency in marketing is always a delicate balance to strike. Quantity is important, as making contact too infrequently can quickly cause your brand to be forgotten by even the most loyal customers. You should never place a bigger emphasis on volume than on quality, however, which is why quality should always be your number one concern. If you focus on creating the best marketing content that you can first, everything else will fall into place pretty naturally.