For a great deal of my career I chased the Google Algorithm, trying to outwit tens of thousands of the most brilliant engineers in the world. In my old age, and through the wisdom of my countless failures, I started delivering real results and learned that it’s better to work with than fight against the algorithm.
I don’t know how the next industry disrupting software or technology is going to alter what we do as marketers, but with strong confidence, I have 10 things every great marketer needs to think about going into the New Year.
1. Create Better Content (and More of It) Using Neuroscience Principles
According to Wikipedia, “Neuroscience is any or all of the sciences, such as neurochemistry and experimental psychology, which deal with the structure or function of the nervous system and brain.” Neuroscience principles can be applied to the way we structure content in order to effectively capture the attention of our audience. Here are some of those principles.
My strongest subject throughout my school career was English. I excelled at it because English was my second language until the age of 6, and I was so frightened to stay behind in remedial language classes at such a young age that it drove me to excel.
A story such as this one helps you relate to me a little bit more. Good content not only tells a story that will help you relate to your audience, but it should also incorporate additional neuroscience principles.
Use Visual Metaphors
The reason visual metaphors work so well is because human beings have a highly developed sense of sight.
Anti-smoking campaigns by the Centers for Disease Control are excellent examples of visual metaphors that stick with people. Find a visual metaphor, ideally with an emotional component, that will make an impact for your clients or business.
Use Bullet Points
Research byJakob Nielsen shows that only 16% of test subjects read web copy from start to finish like you would a book, while 79% scan instead.
- Use bold as needed to emphasize your point
- Use H Tags and make them count
- Numbered lists work great as well
- Italics work, too
Demonstrate Emotion Through Contrast
Here is a content example that shows contrast:
Businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451% increase in qualified leads. (The Annuitas Group)
Here is a visual way of showing contrast in our sales and marketing materials when talking about Inbound:
HubSpot Marketing Benchmarks from 7,000 Businesses
There is so much more to neuroscience as it relates to content marketing; I suggest reading more on the subject, but the above points are the bare-bones minimum you should be incorporating.
2. Reassess PPC Platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.)
Google AdWords works. Google wouldn’t be so huge if it didn’t. It’s not a big secret but LinkedIn, Facebook and other platforms are also making business owners money. What has to change is how you market on those platforms.
For example, on my page, Facebook knows I was in the military because I have it listed as a former employer. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the other platforms allow you to choose your target market by age, occupation, marital status and much more. I was marketed to because my profile says things like Marine Corps, I “like” military related pages, and other information indicative to me being a former military member.
This is the ad I was served today because I qualify for a special kind of loan because I was in the military:
Get yourself on these different social platforms, become proficient at using them, and see what others are doing.
LinkedIn is better to target business to business while Facebook is better at targeting individual consumers (but that’s not set in stone). The strategy really depends on your business goals. Your unique business can start testing with as little as $50 budgets.
3. Google’s RankBrain (Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence)
RankBrain came out of nowhere this year but we’ve only seen the beginning. RankBrain is not a true AI (think computer as smart or smarter than a human). That only exists in science fiction for now.
RankBrain is now the third most important ranking factor and the key takeaway is to improve your content even further because this program can sort through billions of pages and find the ones most relevant for particular queries, even better than before.
Lets face it, the machine is only going to get smarter and smarter and leaps in quantum computing are going to change the game, maybe not in 2016 or 2017 but in the not-so-far future. Moore’s Law is in effect and as computing power increases, so does the fear of Skynet taking over. Luckily, Elon Musk and others just gave 1 billion of their money to ensure this technology never kills us all.
4. Beware the Continuous Penguin Update
We know the continuous Penguin 4.0 is coming around January because John Meuller of Google told us. So what does that mean? Well, for those who started acquiring better links before the last update, disavowed some of the low quality links within their profile, and overall started doing more Inbound like marketing, are going to get a boost.
For those who stuck to the status quo with outdated link building tactics, didn’t attempt to improve or raise the bar for their content creation, or at least clean up their link profiles, are going to see a dip in rankings and traffic. But it’s not just a one time dip, it will be an ongoing, month-by-month, slow death because Penguin will now run automatically versus manually.
Luckily, disavows requests can kick in much quicker now but you’re going to be playing catch up.
5. Link Building Isn't Dying, It Just Gets Harder!
I don’t know how many “Is Link Building Dead” articles I’ve seen over the last few years and to reiterate once again, no, it’s not dying, it’s just getting harder and evolving.
Let me let you in on a little secret. There are many authoritative sites out there whose webmaster or owners are taking cash in the form of PayPal for putting up mediocre English content as guest blog posts. These sites have high MozRank, Domain Authority, and rank for many good keywords according to SEMrush. The issue is that these sites get caught, especially when they get greedy, and if their editorial process is weak.
You’re going to really need to figure out what sites you’re going to approach for exposure. Sites owners understand the importance of having experts write for them and the harder it is to get on their site, the better the site usually is. It’s about quality, not quantity.
6. Reach Your Audience With Social Sharing
Social is big. Authorship is big. I am seeing (usually older) clients fail to adapt and use social media to their advantage. Here is a typical case:
Bob is a patent attorney.
Bob has no LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.
Bob just wrote an excellent eBook on how to get your patent approved. Bob posted his content on his blog. Bob put so much time and effort into this eBook but he got no leads from it.
Now, if Bob was on LinkedIn, he could have joined some technology groups (because Bob wants more technology patent business) and shared his wonderful eBook.
If Bob was on Facebook, Bob could have joined Technology groups and shared his eBook there as well.
Let’s not forget all the LinkedIn and Facebook Friends that Bob DOES NOT HAVE that could've shared the great eBook to their audiences.
Most companies are not using their existing staff’s profiles to increase their distribution potential. Some employees have issues sharing (and that’s fine, they don’t have to share on their personal Facebook) but at minimum they should be using LinkedIn.
Social sharing is never going to go away because we are a social species and maximizing these communities and relationships is critical.
7. Organize Your Email Database and Start Marketing
It seems like most businesses I talk to are not properly utilizing their customer and non-customer database that they have earned over the years. I stress to them that 59% of B2B marketers say email is the most effective channel for generating revenue. Businesses need to organize all of their contacts and segment them by customer, former customers, and people that never became customers just to start. You can then move these segmented lists to a marketing automation software like HubSpot where you can create nurture campaigns, amongst other things.
8. There Are More All-in-One Tools, But You Still Need a Critical Few
Marketing has changed so much since the days of directory submissions, using content posts on “news” sites, altering title tags, and using keywords 3 - 5 times within content per month to increase rankings. We now have marketing automation tools as a sort of virtual swiss army knife for marketers to email customers, track rankings, in-line edit landing pages, track conversions, share on social media, and so much more. Ultimately, software automation is saving marketing teams time and increasing their productivity. There are Marketo, Hubspot, Pardot and so many more automation tools; the best choice for you depends upon your business’ size and industry.
Having tried and been pitched on all kinds of tools over many years, SEMrush.com and Ahrefs.com are the only tools I use aside from software automation and project management.
SEMrush is critical to understanding keyword rankings down to the page level. The insight gained just from understanding page level rankings can be used from anything to finding low hanging fruit ranking opportunities, to helping you structure and evolve your Agile Website Design project, to providing you insight and competitor information for your Google Pay Per Click Campaigns. These are just some of the ways SEMrush can be used.
Ahrefs is another key software tool that every marketer needs to use. Ahrefs is in the business of backlinks. It's been indexing the web and analyzing links since late 2010. The consensus from the SEO community is that links is still the #1 ranking signal and Ahrefs helps you understand what your computers are doing with link building, since you obviously don’t have access to their webmaster tools.
9. Deploy Growth Driven Design Methodologies
I have a client that has redesigned his website with us three times. Two times within one year. That is not something I am proud of admitting. Websites take a lot of energy, time and money to deploy from start to finish.
It makes much more sense to redesign on an ongoing, monthly basis, as data comes in through A/B testing, heatmaps, and multivariate testing, versus redesigning every two to three years.
Growth Driven Design drives more traffic, sales and leads for business owners over time.
10. Identify Your Time-Wasting Activities and Focus on the 20% Producing 80% of Your Results
Most marketers don’t track their time but I think it’s necessary. I’ve implemented time tracking over the years to assess how my time is being used and what is taking most of my time. Recently I was working with an expert marketer whose boss kept assigning him tasks that were not critical to lead generation activities.
One of the tasks was for him to design a brochure.
The marketer knew how to create a brochure, but it was going to take a long time because he was not very proficient at using design software. Meanwhile, no content was up on the blog and it was already mid-month. The marketer had a long list of tasks that were not critical to lead generation and were keeping him from doing what he needed to do.
Auditing your time is a good way to politely and logically get your boss to either outsource some of the low impact tasks or give you more time.
I don’t predict anything game-changing next year but it's essential we continue to improve ourselves as marketers year after year. Businesses are realizing the importance of investing in quality content over quantity because the top performing sites have the best content.
Marketing automation software is used by many top sites and it's expected to grow much more as businesses realize the value. Social media, whether paid or not is creating opportunities for business owners to target their ideal buyer. Lastly, web design needs to be thought of as an ongoing monthly project versus a once every three-year task to adjust based on incoming marketing performance data. Implementing and reassessing these key points should help strengthen your marketing efforts in the New Year.
William Avila is the Chief Operating Officer at Rizen, an Inbound Marketing Agency in Miami, Florida. His expertise qualifies him to be acting Chief Marketing Officer for the companies he consults with, orchestrating marketing strategies himself.