Digital marketing is one of the hardest professional services to offer at a high-level. The idea of wound care in a technical SEO report, writing a comprehensive content strategy that ranks and converts, and developing a PPC strategy for a client in a highly competitive market can make some team members from even the most experienced digital marketing agencies a little gun shy in claiming total confidence in their skill set. But there are three surprisingly common digital marketing tasks that can cause even the best to loosen up their collars and take them from their comfort zones.
1. Outreaching for Backlinks
Any reputable SEO agency will incorporate a robust backlink campaign as a key part of their services. Gone are the days when you could place links in scores of directories, or slap links to any high domain authority sites regardless of their industry. Today, effective backlinks need to appear natural, in a diverse portfolio, on domains with relative subjects, be embedded within high-quality content, and have a healthy balance of “follow” / “nofollow” attributes. That said, collecting these is significantly harder, and some even find its initial stage to be very awkward.
In order to earn high quality links you need to engage webmasters and business owners and ask for the link. But you can’t expect to take them up to your hotel room right off the bat; you need to flatter them, wine and dine them, and then show how the exchange of free content for a backlink benefits you both. Remember, nobody likes to get pitched to. We all get junk e-mails where someone is trying to offer their services, or they want something. Since people get irritated by these “predators” they feel terribly uncomfortable outreaching because they tend to identify the task as one that inconveniences that bothers them.
The Right Way to Comfortably Source Backlinks
First, you need to change your perception; this could be a win/win for both parties. You aren’t just hitting people up out of the blue and asking for something free. You are making an introduction, gaining their trust, and offering them something of value in return for the link. Here is how you do it:
- Discreetly Kiss the Editor’s Ass – Start by writing a letter expressing how much you enjoy reading their ongoing blog. BE SPECIFIC. Explain how their content has helped you personally or professionally, site a specific article and its author, and thank them for creating such high-quality, helpful content. Then back off. Wait for their response. You should never try to get to second base unless you’ve rounded first.
- Dealing with the Response – If your initial email reads well, is authentic, and friendly then you will likely get a glowing “thank you” from the editor. Now is your chance to gently make a move. After first analyzing the types of articles on their site that get lots of social engagement, write your own piece in line with their subjects and voice. Share it with the editor and explain that you would like to submit an original, well-written article that you feel their readers would value. Add that you would like to join a community of fine writers like theirs.
- Hand Over a Second Article, Ask for the Link – If the editor publishes your first article, congratulations, you are halfway there. The next step is to write a second article, and this time include a link to your landing page. Make sure the content is not pitchy or sales-driven; it should read as a natural part of the article. Your landing page should also be free of promotional content and center around a well-written subject that is relative to your target domain. Explain to the editor that you have placed a non-promotional link in the content, and ask if he would be willing to pass it through in exchange for X number of articles.
Finding high-quality free content is not easy, and most will jump at the opportunity to get original content written at a superior level cost-free. When you negotiate just make sure not to promise a set content volume that isn’t worth your time. Also, keep in mind that in order to have a healthy backlink profile your referring domain ratio must be golden. In other words, Google will not value a site with 80% of its backlinks from the same domain over another with a more balanced profile. This means you will need to repeat the process all over again, multiple times.
2. Consumer Modelling and Social Growth Hacking
Unless you are Nike or Porsche, people are more likely to buy never-before-tried products and services based on recommendations from other consumers as opposed to buying from direct branding. That said, many businesses or their digital marketers create fake social personas modeled after various customer segments–one of many tactics used in consumer modeling and social growth hacking. Some tend to feel awkward engaging in this strategy because they deem it a “honesty gray area”–they feel they are lying about who they are. Aside from this potential ethical dilemma casting a glare of awkwardness, some feel uncomfortable simply because they have to directly engage with other people on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and when consumers or “your everyday person” assumes they are talking to another average person just like them, the potential for the consumer to share personal information (be it a photo of their kids or expressing a personal pain) increases while your comfort zone narrows.
AWKWARD! Not really; this is a productive way for understanding your consumer audiences at a personal level, and when you have detailed knowledge into basic customer profiles and their spending triggers, you will be able to launch a full scale consumer modelling strategy while simultaneously engaging in some light social growth hacking.
Getting Comfortable with Consumer Modelling
Being able to predict and forecast behavioral aspects of consumer web engagement and perspectives is vital to reaching the right customers, and more of them. This involves identifying marketing targets, and optimizing various campaigns according to predictive analysis. Response modeling techniques enable digital marketers to deepen their customer base well of knowledge and identify potential segments as being ideal matches for specific promotions and campaigns. Any business that seeks to be an industry dominator knows that every single customer has future value with an expiration date. In addition to identifying ideal segments, consumer modeling allows marketers to predict the lifetime value of customers and identify their probability for purchasing a product under a certain timeline. This entire process is in-depth, has numerous facets, and there are entire books written on how to engage such strategies. Here, we will look at one way digital marketing professionals (and businesses) can use social media to launch a basic consumer modeling maneuver.
Understanding Your Customers and Pretending to Be One
Social growth hacking has multiple benefits. While increasing your organic follower base, there is a huge opportunity to farm valuable consumer data:
- Geographic location
- Average age
- How (or why) product / service is used
- Identifying the pain that created the need for your product
- The conversion time-frame from point of pain to purchase
- Identifying other segments from consumer’s “friends” or “followers”
- Determining factors that motivate consumers to “share” your posts with their sphere of influence
Once you have collected enough data on your customers and consumer types, response modelling can go into full swing. But before you can do this, you need to get close and personal with your customers, and here is how you do it.
Finding Waldo – You know who most of your consumers are at a base level. Now you need to find them online so you can get more detailed information. Use hashtag searches to find influencers, and groups and individuals who use your product (or who match a typical user). For example, if your company makes adjustable car seats for infants and toddlers, you will want to make a list of popular online social communities and individuals revolving around the topics of parenting, moms, single dads, family travel, child safety, etc.
Create Your Personas – Your personas will be the faces your customers trust. Build an account for each consumer model. Include a believable stock photo, location, and personal info such as interests and hobbies. You can pay for followers on your social accounts to make them look more natural and there will be zero backlash in terms of brand reputation or SEO. Just make sure the profiles are in no way associated with your website.
Coming Out – Once your personas are created, begin engaging your list of influencers and social groups. Share their posts, “like” them, and leave complimentary remarks. Once you have engaged sufficiently to the point people know who you are, start publicly asking them direct questions (and be complimentary).
Going in for the Kill – After you have flattered them with high-praise and questions “for experts”, share a blog with non-promotional info mentioning your products and services that is relevant to the advice they gave you. Say their words of wisdom made a significant improvement surrounding your initial problem, and ask that they share your story with others.
Getting Data – Now that your consumer groups have read your article, ask them direct questions that lead to data acquisition: Would you ever try this? Why or why not? How would you use it? I tried this and that for the following reasons, what other ways could I have used it? What would you use instead, and why? You get the idea.
Pretending to be Julie Harris 28 proud mother of two from Dayton, Ohio in order to source honest, factual data is no act of dishonesty. Brands use both real and non-existent personas to form stronger relationships with customers all the time, and you better believe consumer data sourcing and modeling is a large part of their aim. Cheetos has Chester Cheetah, Progressive has the obnoxious Flo, and Quaker Oats used Wilford Brimley. Do not apologize or feel guilty for being Julie Harris.
3. Explaining SEO to Prehistoric Business Heads
Most people in digital marketing have experienced the uncomfortable pang of trying to explain SEO to a guy who likely still uses a typewriter. Then there are people who think they know what it is, but they are pretty clueless. Even CEOs and CMOs don’t fully know what it is; as search engine optimization is not taught in most business degree programs. On the surface, the goals seem easy enough: explain what it is, who needs it, and show its value. The problem and resulting discomfort isn’t so much in explaining SEO in of itself, but more so in identifying how the potential client thinks and comprehends new information. If you are “up here” and he is “down there” during your presentation, you won’t see eye-to eye, and an uncomfortable awkwardness will stem from mutual frustration. To determine the best communication methods to convey the meaning and value of SEO, try these.
How the Client Educates His Customers
If it look like a duck, and walks like a duck…right? In all likelihood the way your client educates his customers is a direct reflection of how he best absorbs and understands new information. Examine his website and marketing materials. Does he rely heavily on visual content like info graphics or slideshows? Or does he have tons of text resembling a technical pamphlet? Is his content conversational, or direct and straightforwardly factual? Prior to your meeting do some research to get a good idea, and begin your presentation by utilizing his own communication style.
Don’t be a Salesman
You aren’t trying to sell a timeshare or a 1992 Buick LeSabre ; you are attempting to sign a client up for SEO services. Keep in mind that your client is already going to be on guard because he doesn’t know what SEO is, yet he knows his competitors use it. Engage in a non-pushy, relaxed manner. Knock him off his guard by explaining that you are simply going to show him what SEO is and how it works, and if he feels it can bring value to his business, an additional conversation can take place.
Numbers Don’t Lie
If your client is serious about growing his business, he will know the power of truth in raw data. Show him the numbers and research studies from reputable sources regarding everything from industry ROI averages on SEO, to the percentage of consumers that rely on mobile search to find products and services. Just be careful not to overwhelm him; after each data reveal ask the client a close-ended question to get that “yes”. This will break up each piece of data to comprehend, the dialogue will keep him engaged and therefore less on edge, and just verbally saying “yes” will psychologically prepare him to give SEO a shot.
Look, Google is not an Easy Lady
Google isn’t trying to seduce web pages; on the contrary content marketing strategies using SEO best practices are trying to seduce Google’s search bots and the captious algorithm ranking factors that feed them. Seducing Google requires real skill and tact. When trying to explain to a client why SEO requires working with digital marketing agencies, you may get the the classic rebuttals, “I can write content myself and use obvious keywords”, or “my nephew is in college; he can write it”. Part of showing the value in SEO agency services is to gently unveil the deep complexities that live in common tasks. Some key points to make include:
- In order for keywords to be effective they need to be tracked, fluctuating rankings will dictate needed changes to the site, and then the page needs to be re-submitted to Google’s index.
- Keywords also need to be embedded in carefully crafted content optimized for mobile voice search and desktop while keeping true to your brand’s voice. The content must also resonate with Google bots and your consumer audience.
- An internal link and navigation strategy must exist for both a better user experience and optimization.
- Explain what meta tags, H titles, and schema is.
- Four words: off site link building.
- Oh, then there is the monthly tech audit that often reveals the need for disavowing bad links, dealing with duplicate content, and dishing out 301s, cannonicals, and resolving 404s.
Your client, and his nephew, will not be able to take this on, nor would they want to. Explain that this is precisely why companies work with digital marketing agencies; SEO is an art and a science that involves a whole mess of tasks going on at once. Google is a classy lady, and its going to take suave and skill to win her over, not your garden variety content, and certainly not your nephew.
Come on Guy, Relax
Like most other services, digital marketing can present awkward moments whether in the context of a client meeting, working with affiliates, or engaging advanced tactics. At the end of the day, you are dealing with people be it remotely, or face-to-face; people can be won over no matter how awkward a situation may be. You are in the business of marketing, advertising and branding. If you can’t find a way to market an awkward scenario into an advantageous opportunity, you may want to seek more advanced help from a top SEO agency staffed by veteran marketing leaders who regard these obstacles as a cakewalk.