I just Googled “Is SEO dead?” and the top returns all unanimously agreed that no, it’s not dead. Now, keep in mind most of those listings were from SEO firms or people related to SEO firms, so they might have a vested interest in keeping the idea of SEO alive.
However, I think it’s worth noting a major shift being driven by buyer behavior and making sure you’re considering it when you design your campaigns and start planning for 2024.
A note from Yamini Rangan, CEO at HubSpot, during her talk at INBOUND 23 got me thinking about this specific question, and my own buyer behavior kept me coming back to this question about SEO going forward.
If we all think about how we buy or research products or services, it’s going to be helpful. Think back to two or three years ago. You went to Google, put in some words and got some listings.
A year ago, we started asking Google questions. We started asking our devices questions, and similar results were presented.
Today, if we are honest, we’re asking questions less and spending more time on social media, specifically Instagram and TikTok.
We’re being presented with content BEFORE we ask, and it’s so very good at knowing what we’re interested in or looking for that we end up converting on those ads or that content and landing on a website where we buy, sign up, download or browse.
So, while SEO might not be dead (and I don’t think it’s dead), it is being cannibalized by social media. It might not be long before the answer to “Is SEO dead?” is different than it is today.
What does that mean to you? Great question. It means you have to start thinking differently about how you use social media to get leads, sales opportunities and new customers.
B2B companies (which we work with) can no longer consider social media as something only B2C companies use. CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CMOs, CROs and other highly targeted people in major leadership roles are on these platforms. They are using them every day, and you can use these platforms to get your story in front of the right people at the right time.
Just the other day I was talking with a CEO of a $500 million fastener company, and he too mentioned he’s made several purchases directly from a social media platform. Your prospects are on these platforms, and the goal should be to get your company into their feeds.
Here’s what you should be doing about these changes.
Businesspeople are on LinkedIn (that’s obvious), but they are also on Facebook and Instagram. Serving targeted ads to your target audience is how good marketing gets traction and how you optimize what you spend on marketing.
These platforms are so good at defining your audience, serving up ads and optimizing your spend that it’s hard to ignore social media advertising in 2023.
If you know what to expect, then you’ll be able to leverage these platforms effectively to drive leads and grow your companies.
But a word of caution – don’t expect to advertise and get a sale. That’s early 2000s kind of thinking.
What you should expect is to advertise, grow an audience of highly targeted people who show interest, nurture that audience correctly and pull them through a buyer journey that’s filled with educational content and provides a positive experience.
It’s about building a community, creating a list of people who have expressed interest and then marketing to them one-to-one, making a case and nurturing them through their own buyer journey. Welcome to marketing in 2023.
Everyone comes to your website. It’s like your retail store with a sales rep who never sleeps. It’s how people will judge your business in 2023 and beyond. But before you get excited, consider that you have 10 seconds to get someone’s attention, get them engaged and keep them clicking.
If you don’t get their attention in the first 10 seconds, they are gone. It’s likely that some amazing prospects are coming to your site right now and hopping off because your site isn’t engaging, isn’t educational and doesn’t tell an amazing story and because your business doesn’t look remarkable.
This means you need a compelling, emotional and disruptive headline. You need simple navigation. You need video, because many people prefer to watch rather than read. You need educational content that gets people engaged with your page. And you need to actively manage their experience all the way down the homepage.
In short, your homepage has to tell a story, and it has to do it very well and quickly.
You want to get found on search, be relevant on social and deliver a remarkable website experience. But how can you do all that at scale?
People are asking Google questions. If you answer those questions with content, your content is going to rank. People are coming to your website with questions. If you have content that answers those questions, visitors will stick around and click around.
Even if you’re nurturing leads with automated email workflows, you’ll want to have content to offer them so that they work through their buyer journey with you.
That content can be used to have them signal to you where in the buyer journey they are and if that journey is active or passive.
Do this right and you’ll get high-quality leads that are already predisposed to working with your company.
Very few demand generation campaigns launch and hit home runs. Although we did have one, and if you want to learn more about the client that spent $500 and generated $1 million in revenue, check it out here.
Most campaigns require weekly or monthly optimization to make adjustments, dial in the spend, optimize the performance and improve the business outcomes.
The digital advertising landscape is dynamic, with trends, consumer behavior and market conditions changing rapidly. By optimizing weekly, our team swiftly responds to shifts in the audience’s preferences, emerging opportunities or unexpected challenges. This agility ensures that a client’s ad campaigns remain effective and efficient.
Regular data analysis enables our clients to fine-tune their audience targeting parameters. This ensures that their ads reach the most relevant and engaged users, increasing the likelihood of conversions.
Monthly optimization provides a broader perspective, allowing advertisers to reflect on their overall advertising strategy. It’s a chance to evaluate the alignment of ad campaigns with larger business goals and objectives.
We use monthly optimization to conduct in-depth A/B testing on various creative elements such as ad copy, imagery and messaging. This experimentation helps identify what resonates most with the audience and can lead to more compelling and effective ad content.
When it comes to any digital demand generation or advertising programs, testing and experiments are key. This is a real example from a client that over the first 30 days had solid results, but by running experiments we were able to improve the results dramatically during the second 30 days.
We’ve improved our lead gen ad performance from the time we started until now by 300% in clicks, 97% in CTR, 108% in impressions and 2,700% in forms completed per day – all while reducing the total spend by 20%.
This is the kind of improvement you should be looking for, especially in the beginning when we’re making a lot of assumptions without data. Data informs our decision-making going forward, and the insights we pull out of the data allows us to deliver improvements like the ones illustrated above.
This might sound self-serving, and that’s why I left it for the end. This is part art and part science. You have to understand the data and what the data is telling you so that you can respond accordingly. But you also have to understand the prospect and the messaging as well as the creative and the offer to drive demand generation campaigns that produce results.
Don’t expect your agency to hit a home run right out of the gate. While it’s possible, like in our example above, it’s more likely that it’s going to take us working on the platform for a few months to really dial it in and produce the kind of results you expect.
We’d like to get there quickly too. We’re as motivated as you are to produce results and do it quickly, but there is no shortcut.
If results are taking longer than expected, don’t quit. Lean in and work with your partners to help them understand some options to improve performance, and listen to their recommendations too.
It’s possible that the product or service might need some improvements to get the market’s attention. It should be a collaboration, not a competition.