Search marketing is evolving faster than ever. Brands that don’t prioritize their organic presence risk getting left behind by their competition.
How can businesses like yours not only survive but thrive and grow through this period of disruption?
On May 12, I moderated a Search Engine Journal webinar presented by Seth Besmertnik, Co-founder and CEO, Conductor.
He shared an inside look into how the best companies in the world are adapting their strategies to get ahead of new developments in search marketing.
Here’s a recap of his presentation.
Seth and his team at Conductor have been in the industry since 2011.
As an organic marketing platform for enterprise brands, they work with hundreds of leading global organizations, and that allows them to get an inside look at what’s driving success and what’s not moving the needle.
One crucial challenge that businesses have right now is maintaining visibility amid all the disruptions.
As an organization, making the most of your investments in SEO is vital for staying at the forefront of ever-changing customer trends and getting found in the moments that matter.
Evolution: Then & Now
You can’t talk about evolution without throwing a small hat tip to Charles Darwin.
Darwin figured out that survival of a species wasn’t about being strong or being intelligent but it was really about your ability to change.
The short version of Darwin’s theory is adapt or die.
Unfortunately, the dinosaurs didn’t get that message so about 65 million years ago, a massive asteroid hit Earth and made a huge explosion leading to the extinction of more than half of the species that existed at that time.
As we all know, the dinosaurs had nothing to eat and they didn’t make it.
However, there was one species that actually survived.
Birds. Specifically, birds with beaks.
The trees were gone, but the seeds and nuts from those trees were all over the ground.
The birds figured out how to crack open the food with their beaks. They adapted and survived.
That’s what we want to learn from all this.
The world changes. Those who can adapt to the changes are the ones who survive.
The takeaway for marketers? Be the bird.
Once again we’re going through a major change in the world, and our ability to adapt is going to determine if we become dinosaurs or the bird.
Let’s take a moment to look at how search has evolved…
Since the beginning of time, humans have been searching for answers.
That once meant going waiting for a quarterly visit to see the village elder.
More recently, it meant going to the library, or looking something up in the encyclopedia.
If you were lucky, maybe you had a cousin who knew a lot about cars, or a neighbor who could give you tips on gardening.
For the most part, searching for answers was time-consuming, and you couldn’t always count on the information being accurate.
That was before the giant asteroid hit… This time it’s a digital asteroid.
And digital changed everything, including search.
Search engines came along starting with Lycos, Hotspot, Ask Jeeves – and then… eventually Google.
Year by year, more people discovered that the most efficient way to get good answers to a question was to simply – Google it.
As search engines got better, how people searched for answers evolved and that’s not the only thing that’s changed.
Digital has transformed every aspect of our lives.
When we are not sleeping or working, we’re doing what we want, controlling every minute of it.
We get to choose the entertainment we watch, how we connect with each other, the music we listen to, plus what, where and how we buy things.
Now more than ever, the customer is in control, and if you cannot earn their attention, you will not succeed.
Marketers have to act now. We have to adapt. It’s our only choice.
There is good news here though. Because as the buying attention door closes, a new, even better door is opening.
And that door leads to what we believe is the greatest opportunity in the history of marketing.
It comes back to search.
The Power of Search
There are 23.6 billion searches every day. Search accounts for more than half of all the traffic on the internet.
That means more than all the movies, cat videos, Fortnite battles, ecommerce transactions, and all the crazy stuff on the web.
That’s the power of search.
We don’t do anything without asking Google, YouTube, or Alexa these days, especially when it comes to buying anything for B2B or B2C purposes.
We go to these search engines, but they do not actually provide the answers, they just connect you to them…
So who is answering all of these questions?
It’s the creators, the content marketers, the nonprofits, and businesses. You should be answering questions.
You can’t buy attention, but earning it is even better.
By helping people, you grow traffic, you build trust, and you create a competitive advantage.
Marketers have to evolve and bring value to the front of the process.
You can do that because your company has great wisdom.
From the moment your organization was started by its founders, you’ve been building expertise, solving problems, finding what works, creating solutions, learning from mistakes.
That’s why your organization is in the best position to answer some of those 24 billion daily searches.
Now is the time to bring that wisdom to the surface in every aspect of your digital
From the content you create, to the words on your product pages and everything in between.
And using a platform like Conductor empowers you to transform marketing into a force for helping people by:
- Connecting your wisdom with the needs of your customers.
- Turning that into great content and digital experiences.
Creating marketing that helps people should be the North Star for every marketer and every marketing organization.
Not just because it serves a higher purpose, but because this is how you will drive sustainable results and revenue.
This is how we adapt to succeed in the new digital future.
Addressing the Shift in Search
Leading brands are already adapting to this shift and seeing great success.
Casper, a company that sells sleep products, realized more people were getting new mattresses and new pets during the pandemic – and people were googling like crazy to get help.
Casper created content addressing the new questions, and this article is now the highest-trafficked page on their website.
Disruption is happening across all verticals and business models.
A year ago, as people started realizing just how serious this pandemic was, there was a spike in queries about life insurance.
The team at Prudential saw this spike and knew that they had the kinds of answers people were searching for.
They re-optimized their content around life insurance to provide the best possible experience for people, including those who were asking questions about life insurance for the first time.
Prudential saw a 197% increase in visits YoY. Thanks to them taking action quickly, they were able to connect a lot more people with the right information, and increase the number of quotes for life insurance policies.
The process was long initially because they have strict Marketing and Legal review but since they were able to get their buy-in earlier on in the year to make changes, it was easier this time around and the quick implementation allowed them to get results.
They saw a 197% increase in visits YoY which allowed Prudential to increase the amount of quotes for life insurance policies and give users the information they needed.
There is only one algorithm that matters, as Seth likes to put it. It’s the heart, mind, and soul of the customer.
The only way to win is to know your customers and provide them with answers and do it better than anyone else.
That’s the essence of organic marketing.
Showing up #1 is much more than a new way to drive visitors.
Perception is reality.
People use your position in search to judge the quality of your products and your position in the market. Showing up on top means you’re a leader.
If you are on the second page, you simply are irrelevant – in all aspects.
Adopting an Organic Marketing Approach
Evolving your approach is necessary to thrive in today’s evolving landscape.
But how can we go about making it a reality?
Organic marketing is a different beast compared to the way most of our companies used to do things, that’s why we have to evolve as marketers.
A key difference starts with how you drive results.
In traditional marketing, it’s largely about spending money. In organic, it’s about taking action and doing the work.
Marketing used to be about running a few big campaigns every year. Organic is about thousands of micro-campaigns happening every day.
In the past, small marketing teams relied heavily on agencies to create those big campaigns.
Organic marketing requires a lot more internal human power to execute those micro-campaigns. It takes SEO, content, and web teams working in sync.
Organic marketing is about taking action, and there are lots of actions to be taken.
From making title and meta changes, creating content, and anything that touches the web and has a chance to improve your organic presence.
How to Make Organic Marketing Work
One trait that separated the best performers from everyone else was their agility.
The speed at which they can get a bunch of different stuff done, and done well.
The companies that are able to move quickly and execute with quality – are the ones with consistently high results.
But this is not easy. Organizations face a variety of obstacles on a daily basis:
- The SEO team doesn’t have access to story points on the dev team.
- The content team is only focused on brand.
- Leadership wants to see an immediate ROI.
- It takes forever to make a simple change.
The list goes on.
But marketers have to get great at this because this is where our customers are.
And if we’re not getting found, someone else will be, and they will take our market share.
The only next best step is to keep moving forward.
Organic Marketing: A Maturity Framework
Getting better is truly is an evolution. No matter where you are on this journey, there is a chance to get better and improve.
This is why Seth and his team at Conductor gathered years of research and created a framework of what great looks like.
While speed and agility are key, it’s essential to dig deeper to understand what enables the top performers to move fast and drive results.
Conductor found that there are four fundamental elements to organic marketing success:
Let’s take a quick look at each.
Organic is about people. It takes collaboration between your SEO team, content team, and web team.
Yet these teams are often not collaborating.
Successful organic marketing requires teams to be aligned around customer needs all the way down to the weekly sprint planning and content calendaring.
With people comes process. In organic marketing, success is driven by workflow and how fast and efficiently you can get stuff done.
People can be collaborating, but if they have a legal review that takes 6 weeks takes you 8 weeks to update a meta tag, your process is broken.
Uncover what actions you and your teams are doing most often and measure how long it takes.
Find bottlenecks. Find small ways to get it done faster. This will create better results.
Great teams measure their success not just in visitor gains, but in market share gains.
If you grew traffic by 50% you may be really happy, but not if your entire market grew by 300% in the same period.
Look at your total market share, set goals, watch the competition… this is the true indicator of success.
Get this into institutional reporting in the company BI system or metrics dashboard.
Tools and technology are critical.
Are you using a bunch of disparate tools that don’t talk to each other? Are there only one or two people who know how to use them?
This is extremely inefficient and doesn’t create a long-term sustainable culture for success.
The best companies are using a true platform where all the components talk to each other.
From researching a topic, to creating a brief to measuring the success – their platform supports an effective, collaborative process.
It serves as a hub for insights, action, reporting, and collaboration. Plus, it’s integrated into your analytics platform, and CMS system, and BI tools.
What’s also important is that it’s all accessible in all the places where your teams do work.
For example, when you are writing and edit content, making it easy to access the voice of the customer in 5 seconds and choose the words customers use.
Your technology helps bring the customer to every member of digital, so when they make changes, it drives better organic outcomes.
Conductor For Chrome is an example of a great tool that makes customer insights and SEO intelligence accessible to every marketer – to any and everyone in your organization.
This new browser extension is now available for free.
Bringing It All Together
We all have a choice: cling to the old way of doing things and go the way of the dinosaurs or evolve to meet the moment.
Choose to evolve. Be the bird.
[Slides] Top SEO Secrets from the Leading Organizations
Check out the SlideShare below.
All screenshots taken by author, May 2021
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3 Tips for Creating Paid Social Campaigns that Convert
Amy Bishop, owner and marketing consultant at Cultivative Marketing (and an SEJ Contributor), will explain the essential elements you need to know about building effective paid social media campaigns.