Today finds me blogging from Australia, where I had the privilege of keynoting SMX Sydney and participating in a site clinic (wearing an SMX lab coat, which is always fun). While looking through the show’s program guide, I discovered that I was also supposed to be on a panel today! The description read something like this:
Bill Hunt and Rand Fishkin will give away their best tips for advanced marketers, and take questions from the audience. 60 minutes
For the last 6 years of my career, I’ve been pretty good at stuff like this. I usually know a few in-the-trenches tactics, tools, and workarounds that very few others have heard about, and I’ve tried experimenting with them enough to answer hard questions on the specifics. But if I’m being honest, that kind of knowledge is fading. Compared to someone like Bill Hunt, who’s still actively consulting on hyper-advanced keyword segmentation and getting Google to re-crawl huge XML sitemap files and all the rest, I’m starting to be out my depth.
And that’s probably OK. In fact, Moz’s investors, employees, shareholders, and customers would all benefit much more if I focused on more strategic demands and delegated that “in-the-trenches” stuff. But here I was, scheduled to give up a bunch of tips to marketers who probably had more recent, more relevant, more in-depth experience with a lot of this stuff than I do.
Hence, I sat down at breakfast this morning and wrote out some tips that I thought, perhaps, would resonate. Here they are:
#1 – Never forget you’re building a brand.
Online marketers sometimes forget that every interaction with their company is creating a perception. Every time your domain name shows up in search results, every time you share on social media, every word you publish on your website, every ad that shows up on the web, every conversation at a conference with someone from your company, every infographic/video/tool you make available affects that brand perception.
If 90% of these interactions are telling a cogent, cohesive, compelling story, you’re probably doing well (so long as the 10% aren’t actively countering that story). But if there’s no narrative or if different teams controlling these experiences aren’t on the same page, you’re almost certainly losing opportunity and losing
And if your brand/company/site doesn’t have an amazing story to tell? Go get one before you expose an audience to a disjointed jumble that’s hurting more than it helps.
#2 – Understand your acquisition and retention funnel in a hyper-measurable way
It’s not just about multi-channel attribution so you know what paths are leading folks to your site and to a conversion (although that stuff is really important, too). It’s about knowing what attributes and what channels predict a good customer, and which channels have an influence on those who might later be customers. At Moz, for example, social media almost never converts someone directly to a free trial of our software. But, an average visitor taking a free trial has been to our site 7 times! And, on average, 2.5 of those visits are from social channels (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc). Even more importantly, those who visit organically and are part of our community (social followers, subscribed to our blog, getting the Moz Top 10 emails, etc) tend to have a much longer customer lifetime value (CLTV) than those who come exclusively or primarily via non-organic channels.
#3 – Don’t rely exclusively on ROI you can quantify
Invest in the power of serendipity. Go to conferences and events that are hard to measure. Start engaging in social media in ways that may not result direclty in visits. My recommendation is to put ~30% of your time, money, energy, people, and effort into serendipitous opportunities that are hard (or even impossible) to measure. The ROI can, occassionally, be astounding.
#4 – Improving rankings may be less effective than improving listings.
For example, I bet that we get a smaller number of visits ranking #2 for this query than the folks ranking #3 and #4. Doh!
Titles, URLs, snippets, desriptions, and all that cool markup that Google’s added (from rel=author to Google+ data to extra links and more vertical pixel space) are biasing clicks. I’d rather have the best possible listing and rank #5 than rank #2 and have a crummy listing. Over time, that better listing will likely earn me all the signals I need to outrank other folks anyway.
#5 – Link building is a lot like dating. If you make links/sex the primary focus, it doesn’t work. Those have to be side effects of a great experience and a great match.
#6 – Crappy content often outperforms amazing content when the publisher/brand/site has a powerful community.
Community is one of the most ignored/under-appreciated channels of an inbound marketing strategy, yet it makes every other channel – social, search, email, content, viral, etc. – more effective.
#7 – The people you hire will have a huge impact on your success. Seek out those who are already doing great work in their spare/for themselves/for fun.
This applies to developers/engineers, to sales people, to content creators, and to marketers equally. People who enjoy what they do and would do it regardless of a paycheck are the ones you should be hiring and paying. They will not only outperform their “in-it-just-for-the-money” peers, they’ll also be happier and more fun to work with.
#8 – Content marketing isn’t just about attracting customers. It’s about attracting and appealing to anyone who might influence a potential customers.
That includes the usual suspects – bloggers, journalists, social media influencers, etc – and it also includes direct customer influencers like managers, CxOs, consultants, advisors, board members, family members, etc.
Don’t just create content for your current customers, or even just for your potential customers. Create content that appeals to these influencers and your content marketing efforts will be far more successful.
#9 – Build your own private network of like-minded colleagues over an email group.
Many venture capital investors have email lists of their CEOs and/or execs who bounce ideas and recommendations off one another on an almost-daily basis. This is powerful stuff. External folks have perspective, experience, and suggestions that I could never get another way.
You can do this easily. Start with the Help Me Help You Dinner. Then turn those people into an email group and a support network. You’ll be amazed.
#10 – Ask 10 colleagues to impartially grade your website’s design & UX on a scale from 0 to 10. If you have below an average of 7, invest in re-building the UX, architecture, and the design.
Where 0 = animated background gif websites of the late ’90’s and 10 = winning top-tier design awards and being featured in every design gallery on the web.
Inbound channels are all about conversion rate – converting the highest percent of visitors into people who will share, email their friends, link to your content, embed something, tell someone, sign up for your webinar/email list/free trial/whatever. When design/UX are less than ideal, your conversion rate on every one of these falls. When design/UX is exceptional, it rises disproportionately.
#11 – Build an inbound engineering/development team.
This can be one person or ten, but the focus should be all about serving marketing needs on the site – fixing SEO issues, optimizing pages for conversions, creating unique content platforms, modifying the CMS to make publishing easier, adding the ability to have guest posts, testing the social sharing buttons, integrating web analytics with the CRM so you can better track your funnel, and the hundreds of other marketing-centric requests that go to engineering teams every day.
I wrote more about this here, but it’s so important that I need to re-iterate every chance I get 🙂
I don’t know whether these tips resonated with the audience. They were probably more high-level, strategic, and outside the scope of “advanced SEO” than what they expected, but I think this is where I can add value nowadays, and, fingers-crossed, that’s good enough.