Tuesday, November 27, 2018

What Has Changed in Digital Marketing the Past 5 Years?

After several years in highly technical roles (development and analytics implementation), I've had a good solid year and half back in the world of digital marketing and at a much greater scale (hello eCommerce with 30k+ SKUs and hundreds of category pages) than when I was doing a similar role for a healthcare system.

With this new experience, it has been quite fun resurrecting my blog and analyzing everything that has happened as predicted, totally changed, or didn't even exist from my previous posts 5 years ago. Let's have a little review.

The Four Vices of Social Media 

Unfortunately, nothing has changed here just even more of it happening and even worse.

The Great Native Advertising Debate 

You guys ... I'm quite certain I invented influencer marketing AND also helped Instagram's monetization strategy (ads started rolling out in November 2013 [my post was in January 2013] ... and I'm still waiting on my checks) all in this post. Since I am basically the founder of influencer marketing, be sure to check back to my blog for a series on just that.

Something that has changed quite a bit in the aspect of "native advertising," a term not really used much anymore (got to love trendy buzzwords everyone wants to optimize on that fall out), is that much of this in the publication space is now handled through affiliate marketing partnerships. Thus, I spun up a top-of-funnel affiliate channel strategy, which has opened up these opportunities for large digital publishers, like Buzzfeed and Clique Brands.

WDF*P*IDF ... WTF?: A lesson in search engine optimization

So much has changed with search rankings, and yet nothing really has. Google is always changing (a lot more on that in the next post analysis), and SEOs  are still always chasing those changes, freaking out over every whisper of an algorithm update. I'll get to the latest updates, but first, the social ranks I touched most on back in this post in 2013. 

Right there at the top was Google+. RIP. Additionally, Google Places for Business, which I recommended keeping updated, is now just Google My Business and has a much improved interface from the old days. Social factors still matter as part of an overall content strategy. Additionally, the keyword density formula referenced in my old post title is now pretty worthless. Don't worry about hammering in certain keywords over and over just make it useful for the user (more of that below and in the next post analysis).

For updates in the world of SEO, a lot has been tied to technical factors around speed, security, mobile accessibility. Most of which came with what was coined as Mobilegeddon. Other updates that focus on the importance of content, quality, and intent that Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird pushed we've seen meet these suggested guidelines from Google:

  • E.A.T - expertise, authoritativeness, trust. 
  • Y.M.Y.L - Your Money or Your Life. 
SEMRush has a great overview of those. Now let's review what has changed with search engine results pages (SERPs) with the next post review.

Oh Search, It Is A-Changing

I'd like to apologize for a terrible title. Clearly I was at a loss on that one. But yes, Google search was changing then and has changed so much more since then. 

Thanks to digital assistants, which were only starting to launch with Siri back in 2013, voice search has seen astronomical growth, especially as Google started outpacing Amazon earlier this year. With that Google is providing even more answers with its Knowledge Graph, because with voice search there is no SERP to present a bunch of links. The best we can get from a brand perspective is sometimes Google Home will send a link to your Home app to learn more. Where I made it sound so sunny for users that search was getting smarter and more efficient, as a digital marketer, it sucks. Google chooses your site links based on user intent. Google chooses to use meta descriptions or not based on user intent. The latter can be helpful for brands too, if content on your page speaks to a term you didn't optimize for in your meta description and is also why that keyword density formula is now BS. Google finds the best pages and serves up the best content within it. 

Ranking in 1st position means very little as local guides, answer boxes, carousels and other Knowledge Graph widgets trying to steer (and understand) user intent take up most of the SERP and add more links to reduce organic CTRs. 

As I've been weeding through the top ~2500 queries by page from September of last year to this, I'm seeing broad term clicks have completely disappeared. Go ahead and Google "bathtub." On desktop, I don't see any organic links "above the fold," instead see 8 possible ad clicks from PLAs and text ads then a local map and then position 1 which is followed by a "People Also Ask" widget. Broad match terms bring in high dollar ads.

All of this has caused everyone to become a content publisher (so hey, thanks for choosing to read my content!) vying for position 0. What is position 0 exactly? Go ahead and Google "what is a slipper bathtub" (voice search makes it so much more satisfying) and revel in all the position 0 glory. When my company's content is there, which it is at the time of posting, it's always a fun party trick to wow the executives and to keep my SEO responsibilities *wink*.

The Elusive ROI of Social Media

Is it just me or did I oversimplify that? I did. But back then it seemed like everyone struggled to measure social media impact beyond engagement rates, which have just continued to plummet organically on every social platform. It doesn't have to be that hard. 

Make sure you are consistently tagging the links you post with your appropriate tracking parameters. (In an upcoming post, I'll show you how to build an Excel spreadsheet to keep a structure for all your UTM parameters). Keep your paid campaign tracking separate of your organic, but understand that Facebook's product catalog can make this tough sometimes when tagging products in organic posts on Facebook and Instagram. If you have social share icons on your site (who doesn't?), use the UTM parameters to mark those as earned social shares for even more juicy data goodness.

Nowadays, everyone is struggling to measure the impact of influencer marketing. I've learned a lot of hard lessons coming up with an influencer strategy for project-based, high dollar value product campaigns. Save yourself those heartaches. Check back for a series on some standard operating procedures to consider, vetting influencers, negotiating agreements, and how to measure success.