To paraphrase the immortal movie icon, Ferris Bueller, “The Internet moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
That seems to be the case with many digital marketing practices, particularly in the realm of advertising versus marketing. Oddly enough, it wasn’t too long ago that I was preaching the reverse; advertising and marketing were completely different disciplines that should be handled separately for best results. Things have changed. In 2014, the holistic digital marketing approach seems to be the best way to go (by far) and integrating advertising into the mix will allow the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts.
Here’s what I mean:
Search marketing and advertising
For years, SEO was completely independent from PPC and other forms of paid search advertising. My former company didn’t even offer PPC because of the differences and we were able to demonstrate that those PPC companies that were offering SEO as an add-on were really just padding their bottom line with low-cost efforts and ambiguous results. That was 2010-2012 with 2013 showing the first real signs of dual specialization rather than singular specialization as the right way to go.
Notice something in that last statement – “dual specialization”. There’s a huge difference between having a company that offers PPC solutions and also has an SEO service and a company that truly integrates the two to allow one to guide the efforts of the other. An easy way to see this in action is in selective bidding. For example, allowing the organic rankings influence the bidding levels from a paid perspective can assist in maximizing ROI. If the organic rank for an important keyword is low, then the PPC can be bumped up until the organic rankings take over. If the results are strong enough for both paid and organic and the conversion rates (both click-thru rates as well as conversion rates on the site itself) are high, then it might make sense to own top spots organically as well as through paid.
They can work together to go after different search types as well. For example, a paid ad might be titled “2014 Ford Fusion Lease Specials” while the corresponding organically-ranked page might be titled, “2014 Ford Fusion Best Prices in Chicago”.
While it’s hard to find specialists that operate properly in both realms, the better tradeoff is to shoot for a search engine optimization service that offers search advertising rather than a PPC company that offers SEO. The gap between good and bad optimization is much larger than the gap between good and bad PPC.
Social marketing and advertising
The good ol’ days of “free social media love” are behind us. Sure, you can still have a strong Twitter presence without paid ads and Google+ hasn’t exactly pushed out their paid platform in full force, but Facebook marketing without Facebook advertising is pretty much worthless. This has been the case for over a year but companies are only now starting to realize it.
It’s okay. Compared to other forms of advertising, social media advertising is much cheaper and has the greatest level of targeting known to humankind. There’s a caveat, and it’s the reason that marketing and advertising not only have to go hand-in-hand, they must be handled professionally. This is the hardest part; I’ve heard bad practices being preached by many, even people at the social media sites themselves who for some reason aren’t quite understanding how to maximize performance on their own platforms.
It’s not like search. If you mess up on search advertising, you’re okay. If you mess up on SEO, you can recover. With social media, if you mess up on either the marketing aspect or the advertising aspect, the repercussions can be long-lasting and devastating. There’s a reason that we do not offer one without the other – you have to advertise if you want us to manage your accounts and you have to let us manage your accounts if you want us to help with advertising. That’s not to say that we don’t partner with our clients, but the possibilities for poor performance based upon a single misstep are too high to leave to chance.
Website marketing and banner advertising
There has always been a relationship between banner advertising and website marketing in the form of landing pages. The best practice has always been to build a killer landing page and then send traffic to that page with killer banner ads. Things are different now thanks to two major changes in the last couple of years: speed of the internet and access via mobile devices.
Landing pages are no longer the end result. It’s funny because they were named properly all this time but didn’t really represent what their name implied until recently. Before, landing pages were often the key lead generators. Today, they’re literally landing pages – pages upon which visitors land when they click on the ad. More than ever, people are not acting upon the first page they hit. It’s for this reason that the relationship between paid ads and website marketing, UI, and flow work properly to generate the leads and sales.
A perfect example of this is in inventory ads. There are some innovative techniques to draw people from websites across the internet directly to inventory pages, but once you have them there, it’s important that your website is able to handle the various types of visitors. Assuming that they’re targeted visits, giving them quick and easy access to additional inventory as well as other shopping tools is imperative. While the technology improves to drive the traffic, the marketing on the websites themselves must keep pace.
This is NOT an endorsement for mega-vendors and marketing firms that offer 55 different services. My experience with the companies that can do everything is that they do nothing really, really well. Nimble, aggressive, results-driven companies are still the best when it comes to digital advertising and marketing in 2014. However, the super-tight niche companies must learn to embrace both sides of the ball if they’re going to keep up with the trends.