We’ve been a little on the quiet side this past year, at least online. Usually we’ll muster a blog post a month plus a smattering of social activity but aside from the random share, definitely quiet. I have a feeling we’ll change that in 2015 but it wasn’t for any particular reason. We understand the challenges of maintaining activity online as well as aligning priorities toward both client activities and internal tools. Also interesting to note that the lack of activity didn’t necessarily impact our own online performance with traffic and conversions up over the previous year. Obviously this means that we could have performed a lot better but, it also points to the importance of a good, solid foundation. I am by no means denying the benefits of content marketing or social media marketing but this may offer a little perspective.
Often when you’re on the front line, it’s tough to take a step back to see the bigger picture, but we all know we need to do it. So now we are taking that backwards step, reviewing what we’ve achieved this year, what has worked and has not worked and where we’re headed in 2015.
SEO – This is still a big part of the foundation of what we do. Organic Search performance is still a key element to all our campaigns and most often the biggest driver of visits and generally conversions. Folks in our profession have had a hard time letting go of “SEO” as we knew it but it appears to us to have evolved to either embrace more digital marketing mediums or actually narrowed its focus depending on who you talk to. There are some Search Engine benefits to a well crafted content marketing campaign but if all you do is content marketing, then your SEO will fall short. So too if you are relying solely on social activities as the main contributor for SEO performance, best of luck. It remains a somewhat confusing area and continues to be something that we struggle to convey to many clients.
It was another volatile year on Google but we found ourselves honing in on an area that continues to be valuable and important and is often overlooked. Stuff that was traditionally earmarked as Technical SEO became the core of our services and an area where we saw the greatest performance difference for many of our clients. Site speed, site architecture, indexing issues and other elements of on-site optimization became our focus in conjunction with playing a guiding role in content marketing/pr and social. This led to some great success for most of our clients this year. Again it’s about that solid foundation and we feel confident that this will continue to be our role in the coming year.
Websites – An up to date, easy to use site is still a core component for any business. We’ve continued with our WordPress love affair last year and don’t see that changing anytime soon. We’ve built plugins, including a comprehensive e-commerce offering that we continue to support and enhance. We also developed a pretty decent add-on to Gravity forms that offers up a few more insights than the default settings. All of the websites we built in 2014 were responsive because we see value in mobile for most clients.
User Behavior – While we’ve always found information and analytics on user behavior useful, it has become more of a focus given its increased role in Search performance and overall marketing value. Obviously we’ve always been interested in how the user interacts with the website but its importance has become more and more apparent with each year. Bounce rates, Time on Site might be the more traditional metrics but moving on to Live Chat has demonstrated some real performance benefits and insights. Tools like Qualaroo proved beneficial, screen recordings and split testing also proved useful. We also did some dabbling with some marketing automation which we anticipate will have an increased influence in 2015 by allowing us to really understand the customer.
Outreach – We’re big fans of enabling our clients to own their communications and have made it our role to support them wherever possible. Whether we’re talking about value from social signals for Search (which we believe does play a role) or just good old PR and customer service we will often setup online monitoring and provide the opportunities to participate. We also still see some value in Google Plus so suggest at the very least, paying attention to it regularly.
Analytics – has always been a critical piece in our service offerings. We couldn’t imagine a website under our care without at least Google Analytics with a few Goals setup and some custom dashboards. More recently though, our need for more data has really pushed us to actively embrace advanced analytics options. Between Mixpanel, Kissmetrics and more recently Woopra, we’ve not been able to settle on one over the other but we are currently favoring the latter. There’s nothing better than really understanding your customers and these tools help to do just that. In fact we love data so much, we’re in the process of building our own data monitoring tool. Keep an eye out for it in 2015.
These additional activities really drive home your digital marketing when used in conjunction with most of the others above.
Paid Advertising – This is a budget sensitive activity, and a great conversion driver for many campaigns. Performance is our overall goal, and there are campaigns where we achieve this without the addition of paid advertising. However, with something like Paid Search, it is valuable for campaigns that need a swift boost, and for testing keywords and messaging, and yes, ultimately for conversions. Through Google AdWords, Bing Ads and social advertising on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, we have the ability to get in front of large audiences and enhance a campaign’s overall reach. Our in-house tools help us to consistently monitor the success of campaigns on all platforms and perform daily optimizations to keep us at the top of our game in this constantly changing industry. These days it really is a ubiquitous offering and one we always encourage depending on your budget.
Display Advertising – Again this one depends on budget as it can get pretty pricey, but when done well, can be a boon for visibility and performance. Retargeting elements can be particularly beneficial while helping to gain insight into capturing an audience’s attention and driving conversions from key customers.
As services continue to make an attempt to embrace all elements of Digital Marketing, we are happy to narrow our focus to drive home the value and importance of creating and maintaining a solid foundation before diving into the additional activities including content marketing and social media opportunities. While we can and do provide guidance in these other areas, usually the type of client with whom we best match is able to run an internal social media campaign or setup a solid content marketing plan. After all, you know your product or service the best. And we know how to get search engines to sit up and take notice.