Digital Marketing Agency Strategy and Planning

Or, What Marketing Could be, Part 2

Recently I broke my unintentional blogging hiatus to write about what marketing could be, and things to think about if your organic search traffic from Google goes down.

I fully intend to return to technical education and blogging, but perhaps the dawn of a new decade is bringing out the introspect and retrospect in me.

Today, let’s continue the conversation about what marketing could be. I’m taking the lens of marketing from an SEO perspective, because it’s most relevant to me. But also because SEO is one of the most challenging marketing disciplines to monetize & scale within the agency and consulting realm.

Have you ever noticed there aren’t really any big, pure-play SEO firms out there? The largest search marketing agencies are just that- search. Paid media spend (thus services) still rules the marketing roost, and probably will for ages to come.

Why aren’t there big, pure-play SEO firms? SEO is tricky to practice, much less manage. Our practices try to reflect our disciplines. Paid media, for its foibles of opaque procurement and pricing, still reflects a largely ordered economy, organized by purchasing power.

SEO, on the other hand, is near-superhuman complexity at global scale- courtesy of Google’s 20+ years of work in computing, information retrieval, and now, artificial intelligence. Something not easily mirrored by ragtag gangs of consultants and agencies.

As a result, the most frequent successful outcomes in SEO are often agency acquisitions or series C/D venture funding rounds for technology platforms.

Outrageously successful outcomes are so rare in SEO, because so few can consistently master all 5 pillars of success at once:

There are 5 key behaviors that consultants and agencies (all disciplines, but most specifically SEO) must master on a consistent basis to achieve, and more importantly, maintain success.

  • Depth of product vision
    • Can you master SEO strategies and tactics to such a degree as to actually achieve results?
  • Client service proficiency
    • Can you keep the clients happy and paying?
  • Operational efficiency
    • Can you scale internally the first two items to a point beyond your own finite time?
  • Marketplace momentum
    • Can you project externally your abilities to do the first three behaviors?
  • Service capability breadth
    • Can you, with SEO as a cornerstone offering, expand from it, into other services? (Ex: analytics, conversion optimization, etc.)

I can’t even say I’m doing all five above behaviors consistently, and our current landscape is evidence that few others are doing so either.

Examining, and perhaps quantifying these pillars will be a fun exercise in the coming days.

Google Traffic Down!

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fielding and Surviving Frantic Client Requests

*Fair warning, this is a live draft / work in progress post, as of 12/7/2019! Polishing pending.*

“Our Google traffic is down!” If you’ve done any time in the SEO consulting or digital marketing business, you’ve seen this client (or manager) email at the most inconvenient of times.

From my corner of the industry, it seems like digital marketing and specifically SEO talent comes and goes in waves. For me, it feels like there have been 3 waves, or “generations” of practitioners coming online in the past 5 years.

Again, from my corner of the industry, it seems like marketing agencies are having an increasingly difficult time finding future leaders from in-industry. Thus, if you polled junior (and even perhaps mid-level) SEO practitioners, I fear many wouldn’t be properly equipped to handle the above situation.

For many junior SEO agency personnel, getting the “Google traffic down!” email is an exercise in confusion that mirrors that of the client/manager. Random tactical suggestions emerge, instead of a thorough approach to troubleshooting a potential Google search traffic drop.

Running through a short list of questions can easily cover “gotchas” and a rather large set of common problems.

  • Is the site up?
  • Can our content be found by search engines?
  • Did we set up the site (analytics) properly?
  • Is there search demand for our target terms?
  • Does the content match with the search opportunity?
  • Does the site have a good experience?
  • Is the site properly engaging visitors?
  • Is the brand delighting and retaining users?

This still leaves us with a “broken window” problem- we only wait to look at these metrics until something is wrong. What if we could automate some of this?

  • Is the site up?
    • What if we had consistent uptime monitoring?
  • Can our content be found by search engines?
    • What if we had automated downloads and data warehousing of Googlebot or other search engine log files?
    • What if we were able to submit XML sitemaps on demand with a few button clicks via the API?
    • What if we knew each day or week, the precise page speed figures via the pagespeed api
  • Did we set up the site (analytics) properly?
    • What if we set up a CURL, Beautiful Soup or other method for checking rendered page code to check for tags?
  • Is there search demand for our target terms?
    • What if we set up automated Google Search Console API calls to see daily search data? (Knowing full data may come at a delay)
  • Does the content match with the search opportunity?
  • Does the site have a good experience?
  • Is the site properly engaging visitors?
  • Is the brand delighting and retaining users?
    • What if we rigged up alerts and API data calls for the above data?

What if we were able to warehouse, aggregate and analyze all of this data, benchmarked, at scale? We’d really have something. 🙂