Morgan Flores, Search Marketing Manager
Are we going to be okay? A common thought as we face these uncertain times and most unusual challenges. Should we double down on our marketing budget or gut it entirely? Let’s be honest, the marketing budget is typically first on the chopping block. When faced with such tumultuous times business owners and executive leadership are forced to make some very difficult decisions. Get rid of this, cut that—we don’t know what tomorrow brings and therefore we should ‘err on the side of caution.’ Not so fast, the decisions you are making, are they backed by data or are they a knee-jerk reaction to the uncertainty that awaits? If your answer is the latter, consider this; how many successful businesses operate by a system of purely gut feelings? While intuition certainly has its place, you should always have baseline data to defer to.
MARKETING IN A DOWNTURN
Adapt to survive. While wise to contain certain costs, failing to examine core customers’ changing needs can jeopardize performance over the long-term. Take a scalpel, not a cleaver or a sledgehammer to the marketing budget. Recognize the need to adjust strategies and product/service offerings in order to not only survive but thrive in times of an opaque future. While this particular health crisis may be new, this isn’t the first or last time the world will face an economic downturn or volatility in the market. One thing remains the same, customer psychology. Businesses that aim to survive a crisis will focus on customer needs and position themselves as helpers, not opportunists.
PIVOT, PIVOT, PIVOT.
Imagine you’re moving a couch up several flights of stairs. The elevator is out. Left. Left. You’re lifting the couch over your head. You’re turning, turning, turning. Then, along with a couple of your friends you pivot. Pivot. Pivot. Pivot. Pivot. Pivot. Nope, won’t fit. Things don’t always go according to plan. You may even cut the couch in half or scrap the idea entirely.
So, how should you pivot your search initiatives? Where do you begin?
TAKE A MICROSCOPE TO YOUR DATA
If you’ve been paying attention to the shift from print to digital, your website should have a Google Analytics account (at minimum). Print media is declining—that’s an indisputable fact. What is your business doing to shift to expanding consumer behaviors and what mechanisms do you have in place to track success? A perq of digital marketing is that you can effectively track conversions and engagement, it’s not some antiquated estimation built on counting new paper clippings or media impressions.
Let’s begin with the basics. The OG (original), no I don’t mean wading through server logs, I’m referring to Google Analytics. Consider viewing not just overall conversions or users, but also cost per conversion and conversion rates, broken down by campaign. If you're noticing conversion rates falling by 10% or more when looking at the same campaign performance, start digging deeper and determine if that's a campaign that should be paused or funds can be allocated in different directions. Consider the audience being targeted, the amount of users, and other on-page characteristics.
Every phone number clicked, every email address, every form filled out on your website must be tracked. Analyzing your conversion tracking, making informed decisions using data, and specifically honing in on key performance indicators will guide this decision making. Just counting the number of sessions or users year over year is not an efficient measurement of achievement nor does it allow you to strategically plan for the next few months or years. For example, it is critical that you view CAMPAIGN v CAMPAIGN, not just overall spend when analyzing paid ad success so you’re comparing the same audience performance.
Read, ‘Top 5 Takeaways on Coronavirus (COVID-19) Communications.’
EXAMINE PAID EFFORTS
If you’re running any pay-per-click (PPC) ads, now is the time to review them. Is the ad copy still relevant to your audience and sensitive to the current situation? Are you able to fulfill orders or deliver services that you’re advertising? If the answer is no, then turn off those ads immediately. Determine what products or services you can deliver. For example, if you’re a hair salon, shift to online product sales. Build your messaging around how these products solve an immediate problem. With salons shuttered across the nation, many individuals will be forced to perform their own haircuts and manicures at home.
REVISIT THE BLOG CONTENT CALENDAR
Much like with your email campaigns, evaluate the content you are pushing out on your blog. To quote one of the most influential hip-hop artists of our time, Ice Cube, ‘check yourself before you wreck yourself.’ And to quote another famous figure, the legendary investor Warren Buffet, ‘It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.’
Is your message commiserate with the current climate? The blog posts you had scheduled to promote, are they still relevant although many businesses are closed? Take this opportunity to generate new blog posts that your target audience will connect with and find valuable. A successful blog post will engage your target audience online through multiple mediums. Your blog content should function as an anchor pulling people from various channels online back to your website.
HAVE A PLAN
It is imperative that you have a two-month flexible plan for future messaging given the pandemic. While COVID-19 is a fluid situation, you should plan for this time of isolation to go through the end of May and have tertiary plans just in case stay-at-home orders extend past then (in many states this is quite possible). If you did not have a business continuity plan previous to this, consider reaching out to a local company near you for guidance.
SEARCH MARKETING, CUT OR NOT TO CUT?
There are winners and there are losers. Many of the winners will double down on search engine optimization (SEO). Thinking about creating a lead-generating download enticing visitors to give their email for a case study, white paper, ebook, template, or guide? That’s a great idea! But how are you going to drive demand? The users that were once searching for you by brand name are now occupied with other activities at the moment. Creating a profitable demand on an opt-in email list or lead-gen download is dependent on organic and paid strategies led by the needs of consumers. People still need products and services, the key is to understand how your products/services can fulfill an immediate need, articulate that need, and package it in a friction-free way for mass consumption.
As a business owner or executive leader, you are forced to get creative with tackling new obstacles and your employees look for you to lead the charge. The critical component is to know when to shift strategies and to do so with conviction. One thing to remember as you remain nimble is that SEO is a marathon and not a sprint. Stay true to strategies that are working, laying the foundation for future success, and focusing on conversions at all levels of the funnel.
You can't make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.” -- Michelle Obama
If you find yourself in need of a gut check on your current marketing strategy, please feel free to reach out to us. We’re here to help.
People are home. People have phones, tablets, smart TVs, laptops, and desktops. People are working remotely and might have a few extra minutes on their hands. They're turning to the internet - online video gaming, streaming services, social media, and browsing the web. I know in our house, Disney+ might be streaming every minute the kids are awake, so we're definitely contributing to the increased usage for streaming services. In residential areas across the country, we're seeing a surge of 20% of internet browsing activity.
If your website was redesigned in the past 4-5 years, your business is likely using responsive design technology to respond across all devices appropriately, built on a content management system that allows you to make updates as necessary. It likely has a modern design that won't offend a visitor when they land on your site and is hosted on a reliable server that can withstand a traffic surge. So, in this scenario, you're likely ready for a surge in traffic, but you should still make sure that your website and all of its functionality responds accordingly on mobile, tablet, and desktop views.
User Experience = Customer Experience
Websites, much like businesses, need to continue to innovate and expand their customer experience. In a traditionally focused in-store, retail environment, you can make face to face customer connections, develop relationships, and foster positive brand sentiment. Why can't you do that online through your website? Provide your customers with an experience that matches what they would see in-store. Allow your customers the ability to see products, purchase merchandise, connect with a staff member virtually, or request more information. For B2B companies, focus on telling your story, sharing what separates you from your competitors, and inform why someone should work with you. What's unique about your company that would make someone want to convert and work with you? This content is relevant and necessary to answer the questions of those who are already online and landing on your website.
Bells and Whistles or Necessary Functionality?
There is a lot of debate among website designers of what add-ons are too much and what is necessary for businesses to include on their website. Our take is really what does your business need in order to be successful, and before that, what is the overall purpose of the website. Your website should be the foundation of your marketing strategy and initiatives, digitally and offline.
That being said, you want your website to be the foundation of all of your marketing efforts - online and offline. The website should be configured to allow for conversions to happen (even when no one is around to answer the phones at the office).
A few opportunities to consider:
1. Develop a content strategy that provides responses to the many frequently asked questions your business receives from potential clients.
2. Consider adding a chatbot or live chat feature to your website to allow questions to be asked from those who are almost ready to convert.
3. Look into a book a consultation or calendar integration to allow for customer meetings right through the website. These strategies will help you filter out unqualified leads as well as streamline the conversion process.
However, if you're a retail storefront that is looking to increase revenue consider, taking the customer experience a step further and add an online store to your website that provides a new revenue stream opportunity. You don't have to add all of your inventory at once, perhaps it's five to ten products to test the market. When built on a scalable platform, this could easily take less than a week to implement and go live with an opportunity to convert customers after hours.
SEO v. User Experience
Myth: you have to choose one or the other.
Fact: you don't have to compromise the user experience on your website with a solid search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
The two components of your website are not mutually exclusive. Don't compromise your design, don't forget about being found through search engines. Rather, some designers do not have the SEO knowledge and know-how to successfully implement a solid SEO strategy on a beautifully designed website.
Revisit the keywords that you optimized for previously. Times have definitely changed and the keywords you are ranking for might have dropped off significantly. Develop quality content over quantity of content - focus on long-form blog posts when necessary. Or take some time to add case studies, white papers and client testimonials throughout your website.
Making sure that your website is updated with the right content, will convert with a spike in traffic, and strategically positions your company for growth should always be a priority.
Ensuring that your website is technically sound is an integral part of both SEO and user experience, marrying the two together. Your website needs to load quickly for end users on mobile devices, tablets, and computers. A timely load speed encourages users to interact with the graphics and content on the website, and ultimately impacts your search rankings. One common issue found is a lack of image optimization that slows down your website’s load speed. Check with your designer or use a plugin to address image compression and cacheability.
Not sure if your website is equipped to handle the new demand? Want a complimentary website assessment? Click here to get your FREE analysis.
Huge traffic dips, major traffic gains, certain industries aren't quite sure how to respond - is this the new normal or will these spikes level out? The search volume volatility is coupled with the fact that internet traffic is spiking nearly 50%, according to Akamai. Individuals across the globe are home, in front of their computers and mobile devices, and turning toward search engines for news, shopping, information, updates, and data.
Searchers are changing their habits, even with more time spent online. We're seeing increased demand for grocery related searches and productivity tools, whereas the travel and hospitality industries are taking a drastic hit in their search traffic and interest. Brand searches for two major hotel chains are seeing significant drop offs in the past thirty days and a more than 60% drop in search traffic since the same time last year.
Shifting Marketing Dollars
When traffic falls drastically in such a short amount of time and the demand for brand name searches is no longer there. Brands and companies need to stay relevant and in front of their target audience, even in times of uncertainty. This is where these companies can shift marketing dollars to paid remarketing campaigns to target visitors who have already visited their website, invest in strategic paid social and other push marketing efforts to remain top of mind. Additionally, content strategy needs to shift in an effort to capitalize on the change in search volume by targeting keywords that have seen an increased spike in traffic and interest. As illustrated below, "how to travel safe" surged in the same period of time. A change in content strategy to develop appropriate content would still draw searchers to the website and potentially make up for lost search volume around branded keywords.
Capitalizing on Opportunity
With the transition to work from home, businesses around the world are trying to figure out how to stay connected, see their teammates and clients, and use video to replace in person meetings. Individuals and businesses turn to search engines to determine what will be the best piece of software or equipment to implement as the transition continues with a remote workforce.
If we take a look at the major spike in Google Trends data around the search for "video conferencing" just over the past 90 days, the increase in volume is drastic. There is no way that major video conferencing providers were ready for the onslaught of searches and interest in their products and services for the new remote workforce.
That being said, these businesses are quickly trying to capitalize on the increase in interest and demand. Take a look at the number of paid search ads that appear at the top of SERP results for this specific keyword. These businesses were quick to react and shift their marketing dollars from paid search campaigns to try to convert the new surge in searchers into customers.
Missing An Opportunity
Throughout the State of New York, "Are fast food restaurants open today" skyrocketed 3950% according to Google Trends data. Yet, the content that appears on SERP results are news articles that may or may not answer the question. Local restaurants, offering carryout or delivery, and fast food chains are missing an opportunity to drive traffic from their content strategy or paid search advertising answering this question that New Yorkers are asking, which could drive business and traffic.
"How to cut men's own hair" has seen a 5x increase in search traffic with salons and barber shops closed. Salons and barber shops should be looking at relevant keywords right now to develop content that answers these questions. Position your business or brand as a thought leader by providing relevant information to searchers. Most of the major results to answer this question are videos. Your business could create a well optimized YouTube video to answer the question and demonstrate techniques. The YouTube video could lead to a "How to Cut Men's Hair" blog post with those keywords focused on in the meta title, description, H1s and content on the page. If your salon or barber shop offers an eCommerce store, you should link to the equipment and products needed or even create a bundled package of everything someone would need to cut their own hair.
Remain cognizant and aware of what consumers are searching, how you can provide them with the information (or product) they need which will pay dividends as soon as the barber shop or salon is fully operational. These investments now might not provide immediate return on investment financially, but are generating opportunities.
We need to realize that the new normal of individuals going online is likely to stay around for quite some time as we get past the initial influx of coronavirus related content and move into how consumers are changing their marketing approach to capitalize on their buyers being online right now. It's important to do the research and analyze the trends of search volume in specific categories as more people are confined to their homes, not planning vacations, not traveling and might be looking at more local information and insight as they make their buying decisions.
Think like your customers. What is it that they need or would find useful while homebound?
Ed Peabody, Content Specialist
All experienced content marketers have been there -- you spend time doing research, properly cite your sources, write your content, post it for the world to see aaaand...nothing. Crickets. Nobody notices and nobody cares. But why? Don't they know how hard you worked? Don't they appreciate your fun, yet informative, writing style?
It can be downright discouraging to see your articles or posts receive little to no attention, but don't lose hope. This, dear reader, is an opportunity to take a step back, look at the big picture, do some introspection and most importantly, reflect on today's word of the day: relevancy.
Here, we'll go over some common problems that we've seen from content marketing strategies that wind up falling flat.
YOU POST TOO LITTLE, TOO OFTEN
Post frequency matters and can vary based on the industry in which you operate, especially if your content team is small. For example, if you're a singer, comedian, or other entertainer, putting out unique content on your website and social media every other day is probably in your best interest to build a following. However, if you work for a large organization and want to foster engaging conversation or offer a unique perspective, a more long-form, informative and in-depth approach is necessary.
All-too-often we hear organizations say, "we've decided to put out one blog per week", or something along those lines. For most industries, this is inherently a bad idea. The reason? Quality trumps quantity. Especially if your objective is to rank well organically in search engines. Search engine algorithms are constantly evolving to find relevant (hey, there's that word again) content that matches specific user intent. Adhering to a rigid, frequent content schedule often sacrifices quality to meet arbitrary deadlines, when in reality, you should be spending more time doing a deep dive into whatever topic you write about. Many organizations believe that they'll lose relevance if they don't upload new content every week. But in the long-run, a weekly hastily-thrown-together, 200-word post that regurgitates widely known information will not help you as much as a monthly, well-researched deep dive with your unique twist.
Dig a little deeper into the topic, brainstorm your points, find out what's already been said and you can even throw in an infographic for some flair (infographics make great social media sharing opportunities, too!). Take your time with content pieces to ensure they are well-researched and fully informative. Otherwise, you'll be churning out bland content with no unique perspective -- regurgitated talking points that your competition has already covered and probably already ranks well in search engines.
YOU POST CONTENT IN THE WRONG PLACES
Most businesses these days have a website and social media accounts on many platforms in order to rank in search engines and engage with current and potential customers. We've all seen how content goes viral and how social media can truly lend a voice to businesses, giving them a boost in exposure. Many people may think that the more social media accounts they have, the more exposure they get. However, you don't need to be on every platform out there.
Is it truly necessary for your insurance company to have a Snapchat account? Are audiences on Instagram actually interested in seeing office pictures of your law firm? There are always exceptions to every rule, so kudos to you if your insurance company's Snapchat is truly groundbreaking and viral, but realistically, you need to sit down and ask yourself these questions:
Spending time planning and posting content to platforms that aren't optimal for your industry is, frankly, a waste of resources. Instead, concentrate on posting original content to both your website and to platforms on which you may thrive -- if you run a bakery, it would be ideal for you to post pictures of your scrumptious creations on Instagram or Snapchat. If you work for a staffing company, posting job notices on LinkedIn and Facebook is your best bet. If you work for an insurance company, creating informative and helpful long-form content pieces on your website might have the biggest impact. You get the idea.
YOU POST IN THE WRONG MEDIUM
It's not just important to think about where you express your message, but also how you express it. This will be largely dependent not only on your industry, but also the message itself. Well-optimized blog posts and articles tend to dominate much of the conversation when it comes to content creation and search engine optimization (SEO). But with the aforementioned search engine algorithm updates that more accurately target user intent, search engines are beginning to feature various forms of content on search engine results pages (SERPs). These days, you're likely to find Google Posts, Twitter feeds, timestamped videos and more when conducting day-to-day searches. So if a written content piece can be better expressed in image or video form, do it! You're more likely to gain traction through an instructional video for "how-to" or DIY content than you are with an article about it.
YOUR CONTENT IS POORLY OPTIMIZED
When we refer to content optimization, keep in mind that we are specifically referring to written content for SEO. We can't tell you the number of times that we've been hired to take on a website optimization project only to find basic, yet crucial, information missing on important web pages (services pages, cornerstone content, etc.). Even when creating web pages in easy-to-use content management systems such as WordPress or Squarespace, it's important to pay attention to the fundamental aspects of technical SEO. This means providing keyword-researched title tags, meta descriptions, headers, etc. All of these elements come together to signal to search engines what the page is about and what type of page it is.
But these elements shouldn't be filled in arbitrarily. By using SEO tools, you can see what users are searching for, how often they search it and how your competition ranks for any particular search query. This can allow you to make more informed decisions when it comes to content creation both in terms of topics to discuss and ways in which you discuss it. For instance, if you find that government agencies dominate the top search results within a given search term, you should probably shy away from writing about that topic if the objective is to rank in the top positions organically with it. Because search engines rank organic results based on authority, your article is more-than-likely not going to outrank an official government entity. Instead, find a different way to insert yourself into the conversation and be sure to bring something new to the table. If your insights are helpful and relevant to the user, your content will naturally become more authoritative, thereby giving you more exposure by ranking for more keywords and appearing higher in SERPs.
At the end of the day, the real lesson is that you need to be creative, original and strategic with the type of content you produce, the voice you give it and the places to which you upload it. By more intimately understanding your audience and what they're searching for, you can find ways in which to enter the conversation at large and, in the end, become more authoritative. But if you don't have the time, energy or experience to tackle all of this alone, RyTech is here to help. Give your brand a facelift and produce meaningful, helpful content to reach new potential customers.
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