I think most online marketers get the fact that marketing and communications on the web is a fast changing place and that most companies are structured to move at a slower pace than the digital world is evolving.
Take for example, the notion of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It’s been around for about 15 years or so and in just the past few months Google has made the most significant changes ever. Despite the crystal clear focus towards search integration with social, many companies and digital pundits are still skeptical about the role of organic search let alone how to optimize Google+ to attract and engage customers.
Yesterday I saw a video on the Inc. Magazine website titled, “Increase Your Search Engine Page Rank”. Is that really what a business needs to succeed online? An inflated PageRank score? What about understanding how to attract more customers? What about engaging customers who are inspired to refer your brand to even more customers?
I think there’s something seriously lost in translation between real consumer behaviors and marketing efforts that succeed on the web. Companies see an article like the one above and start asking consultants for help with increasing their PageRank score which is a distraction from what’s important.
To make sense for companies in the midst of all this change and differing online marketing advice, there are two essential ideas worth considering for anyone in a position to create online content:
A different way of thinking about optimization
Rather than tactics like web page SEO, blogging or video driving an online marketing approach, what if companies instead made more of an effort to focus on customer behaviors and preferences for information discovery, user experience and engagement? In other words, what if they researched what types of media, topics and channels both customers and those who influence customers prefer? With that knowledge, develop a content mix and corresponding optimization effort.
This is content marketing 101, but so many marketers are caught up in specific tactics, they lose sight of the target audience they’re after in favor of the crack-like effect of pumping out “a viral video”, another infographic or contest to attract more fans, friends and followers.
The Discovery, User Experience and Engagement optimization approach that I talk about at length in Optimize transcends those tactics and emphasizes that a web marketing effort should be focused on the role of content and human experience as it relates to meeting both the objectives of the consumer and the brand. Once those key triggers are understood, then the editorial, keyword optimization and social networking tactics are defined.
How people find information, what formats and topics resonate, how to inspire interaction, sharing and commerce are all part of this three part optimization approach. The platforms, apps and social technology might change, but a more holistic view of optimization can guide content marketing efforts regardless of what social media, networking or search engine platform rules the day.
In this scenario, optimization is more in alignment with the actual definition of the word optimize: ” to make as perfect, effective, or functional as possible”. Then applying that approach to connecting customers with brand content and experiences in a way that motivates consumers to act: buy, refer, share. Each touchpoint in the brand and consumer experience across the customer lifecycle can be optimized for better performance, for more desirable outcomes.
Develop adaptive models for online marketing technologies
By that I mean create processes and plans for rapid detection, testing and evaluation of shiny new social or online technologies to determine their potential role in the content marketing mix. Many companies feel overwhelmed and don’t know what or when “the next Twitter” will pop. Or even if they should care. Others withdraw from testing and stick only with the few social platforms they know.
Creating an adaptive approach to incorporating new social and web applications, tools and platforms can filter down the most relevant shiny new objects and allow for more rapid incorporation with content marketing efforts. This approach means coordinating people that can fulfill these roles. For that, there will be some social business and internal collaboration tools involved. Leveraging your collective organization to monitor and filter for emerging social technologies relevant to engaging with your customer base can result in more rapid identification, best practices formulation and successful implementation.
Most companies don’t have staff or resources dedicated to testing out new social technologies, so why not tap into the collective knowledge, wisdom and reach of your employees, partners and even your customers? Without the ability to adapt, the momentum of many online marketing efforts will certainly die or at least lose out to the competition that’s paying attention.
As it is for the surfer in the image above, an adaptable approach to content and optimized online marketing is about the journey. It’s about trying to perfect your craft and continuously refine what you have to work with every day. Use the tools of the day knowing they will change. Focus more on whatever it takes to stay connected with your customers and community using the search and social channels that are most relevant.
How are you defining optimization in your organization? Do you see the value of taking a step back and viewing optimization more holistically? Does your organization have a process for monitoring, testing and adopting new technologies for marketing?
I’ll be talking about many of these key #Optimize principles at OMS and SES Accelerator coming up next week in San Diego. I hope to see you there.