Episode Overview: Content driven CMOs are most successful when they take long-view SEO strategic approaches to content marketing. Join host Ben as he continues CMO week with Searchmetrics’ Chief Marketing Officer Doug Bell discussing the realities of SEO success for CMOs, how marketers use SEO to turn their content into predictable revenue generators and much more.
- The essential realities of SEO are that SEO is key to exceptional marketing strategies, it’s a long-term investment and great content is a number one priority.
- CMOs are already equipped with essential SEO knowledge because they understand the buyer journey and how to meet consumer needs at each step of the way. The only difficult aspect remaining is understanding the role content and content assets play in executing solid SEO strategies.
- Examining existing content is a great way to analyze commonalities in the buyer’s journey to better inform content ideation.
GUESTS & RESOURCES
Ben: Welcome to SEO for CMOs week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro and this week we’re going to publish an episode every day covering what the head of your marketing department needs to know about SEO.
Ben: Joining us for SEO for CMOs week is Doug Bell, who’s the chief marketing officer at Searchmetrics, which is an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions. And today we’re going to continue our discussion by discussing the realities of SEO success for CMOs. Okay. Here’s the second installment of SEO for CMOs week with Doug bell, CMO of Searchmetrics.
Ben: Doug, welcome back to SEO for CMOs week on the Voices of Search podcast.
Doug: Hi, Ben.
Ben: Great to have you back on the show. Thank you for making this happen. We’re excited to have you on the show. Finally, yesterday, in your first episode on the Voices of Search podcast, we discussed a little bit about what some of the myths are for CMOs when it comes to SEO that they think it’s a black box. They don’t quite understand how to take a content marketing strategy and turn it into predictable and measurable ROI. Now, some people are doing this really well and some of them aren’t, so we’re going to spend the next two days, the next two episodes of this podcast talking about who’s doing it well and what they’re doing and who’s getting themselves into some hot water when it comes to their SEO practices. Let’s start off with the positive. What are the realities of SEO success for CMOs? How are people actually turning their content into revenue in a predictable way?
Doug: So, the reality’s been, one, that SEO is foundational to good marketing. We talked about this in the last episode quite a bit. The other is that it’s a long-term investment. And as I like to say don’t try and day trade your way to SEO results. And then finally content is not necessarily king, it’s king, queen, jester, prince and the entire congregation, if you will, sorry to mix metaphors, those the realities. And I think that you’ve led this off by saying who’s winning and who’s losing. And I think ultimately the CMOs that are winning in this game understand that SEO’s foundational, it’s a long-term investment. And that really comes down to great content strategies with SEO tactics and great site performance wrapped around it.
Ben: I liked that you started off by building in metaphors that were around a royal family and stock trading. I’m going to go a different direction. I’m going to go with building house or you could say building a car, whichever one you want. But the idea is that you have to build a sense of foundation. And when we’re saying, “Here’s how to make SEO predictable’” what we really mean is content, right? What we really mean is content marketing to be a predictable asset. And that can play in multiple different ways. And before you start with anything, before you worry about page speed, before you worry about distribution or repurposing your content, you actually have to have something to say. Talk to me about some of the ways that CMOs are guiding their teams to understand what content they should be producing.
Doug: Well, so they have that working knowledge, Ben. And yesterday we talked about performance marketing and in many ways what performance marketing demands is that you recognize where you prospects are in the funnel. And obviously every company’s funnel is different. It’s really no different except that the fundamentals of SEO, as you’ve nailed it, are really about having content that meets those very same needs from a performance marketing funnel standpoint yet with content. So, that can be short or long form content. Can be video contact, can be blog content, does it matter? And so in many ways the CMOs have that kind of head start even if they don’t understand SEO, they understand the buyer’s journey, they understand the fundamentals of meeting buyer’s needs within that journey. Now it’s just simply a content play. And I put simply in air quotes, Ben, because we know it’s a tougher reality then performance marketing.
Ben: So, you have to understand what assets you have or what to develop and to me that is Marketing 101, understand who your customers are. One of the things that we’ve talked to about the SEO community at large on this podcast is working with your cross-functional partners to understand what your customers are interested in. What are some of the problems that your customer service team has happening, building out a content strategy that is not just about what does Google want to see, but what are my customers asking about being the fundamental piece.
Doug: That’s correct.
Ben: Once you have your content strategy built in and you’ve built in the resources to create a content archive and the assets you need, talk to me about the way that SEOs are successfully taking their content archive, whether it’d be videos, content on their website, imagery, and actually turning that into something that resonates with Google. What are the pillars that CMOs need to understand?
Doug: Right. Ben, that’s a really good question. I like this idea of using existing content as a way of understanding where you need to go from a buyer journey standpoint. But the best way I can describe just to say that irrespective of your company, its business model, there are commonalities in the buyer’s journey. There’s this informational stage and at the bottom is this buying stage. And you probably have a hell of a lot of content that meets various stages in the journey and it’s not unlike performance marketing. The idea is to publish and continuously test and optimize that content. Really there’s no secret there that you haven’t already learned from performance marketing.
Ben: So, I think the interesting thing about this that you brought up is that there are multiple stages in the buyer’s journey where SEO can be valuable. As you think about lead generation, as you think about nurturing, and as you think about getting somebody across the finish line, how should CMOs think about creating various types of content? And can you use content marketing and search engine optimization to actually make an impact across the entire marketing funnel?
Doug: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve worked for companies that actually did quite a bit to crosspollinate SEO and paid search landing pages, but I think the best way to describe it is to think in terms of investment. And as you get closer to the bottom of the funnel, you should be less dogmatic and much more flexible. In other words, you’re constantly testing that portion of the funnel. And this is where things like LPO, landing page optimization, or to look at the funnel a bit more realistically, CRO, or conversion rate optimization, becomes very, very important.
Doug: And then as you move to the top of the funnel, I would begin thinking more long term. And this is where you hear things like evergreen content and this isn’t in that informational or discovery stage. And I would be investing very heavily in terms of research and in terms of the quality content at the top of the funnel.
Doug: And then as I got down, I would be investing less and less time and experimenting more and more towards the bottom. And that’s the simplest way I can describe how you can take content and think about it from an SEO standpoint. And again, a lot of these lessons are probably already been learned by your team, the CMOs team, from performance marketing. You should know your buyer’s journey already. They should easily be mapped and that’s just a matter of where are you investing and why and the reason that you would invest so much time in to say evergreen content at the top of the funnel is once Google gets its hands on that content and indexes it, assuming it’s good content, it tends to stay at the top of the SERPs for longer, whereas the bottom of the funnel it’s much more competitive and I would invest less time and think of it more as a foot race at the bottom.
Ben: I think there’s also something that CMOs need to consider about developing a content marketing strategy where you have a content marketing asset and you’re going to publish it on your website. You don’t just have to sit there and let Google be the one that dictates whether customers come to you. There are various other channels of marketing that you can use to syndicate your content as well. Talk to me about some of the ways that content marketing and SEO work in conjunction with some of the other channels that CMOs are already applying.
Doug: I think that’s an advanced degree maybe we don’t want to give the CMOs at this point. I think it’s a really excellent point and, Ben, ultimately what you’re talking about is SEO does not exist in a silo and their content, promotional tactics, especially social media, paid social media that can help bring people to your content and have Google regarded better than people who aren’t promoting the content. I think that’s super important. I think it’s a very important tactic, but I would have … Again, that COO who is beginning this journey, that’s really who we’re trying to speak to. I would say, wait for the advanced degree on that. What you’re looking at is does my content marketing strategy meet the buyer’s journey full stop.
Ben: I think that one of the things to understand that is if you are working on performance marketing efforts, consumers at large are being overwhelmed with different types of advertising constantly and I think that one of the best practices that I’ve seen working with Searchmetrics, consulting clients, even people that are sponsors of some of the podcasts that I produce is that being able to build in marketing channels that are not seen as advertising is very important and very effective. And content marketing, including SEO, is not seen as an advertisement to your consumers even if you’re able to be strategic and targeted it to different parts of your funnel.
Ben: Doug, that brings us to a very important part of the conversation. If you’re able to target every part of your funnel with SEO and content marketing and you’re able to use it to replace, enhance or improve some of your existing marketing channels, what should CMOs expect in terms of how long it takes to get a content marketing and SEO engine up and running?
Doug: Yeah, that’s a really good question, Ben. And I always suggest start small and build from there. I know that sounds so simple, and so logical, but quite often what happens is that we boil oceans as CMOs, right? So I would look at a particular persona, a particular industry, a particular portion of your website and begin there and build.
Doug: And so, if you view it in this reduced scope, then you’re looking really at anywhere between three to six months. And that’s again why you would suggest a smaller scope. You’re going to build your practices there. You’re going to understand what works and what doesn’t and go from there. But I would say overall do not count on SEO to replace performance marketing. Count on it, to supplement it. And I’m looking, I’m typically talking about an 18-month time window, which to CMOs who’s half-life is 18 months can seem like an enormous amount of time. But the thing I always say is don’t think about it as SEO. Think about it as good marketing, right? You’re constantly investing in good marketing.
Doug: We talked yesterday, Ben, about how there’s a lot of benefit to just great content marketing in terms of brand and brand perception. So, the short answer is the smaller the project, the shorter the time window. Anywhere between three to six months for smaller projects. But if you’re looking to add a new channel, you’re 18 months out.
Ben: Take this with a grain of salt because I’m just a talking head podcast host. But I’ve been doing this for a little while and I’ve been a marketer for 15 years. Where CMOs get into trouble more often than not, and when they hire guys like me as marketing consultants, is when they’ve dedicated too much time to developing performance marketing capabilities and they get to that point where they have hit diminishing returns and they don’t know how to continue to grow their marketing channels. And they’re already dead in the water.
Ben: And this is where CMOs get in trouble is that if you’re not developing your content marketing assets, if you’re not diversifying your portfolio to use a stock metaphor and if you’re not starting that from day one while you’re cultivating your performance marketing channels and even if you’re investing all of your budget there, if you’re not building out content, you don’t have the ability to then optimize the content. You need to throw a content marketing strategy early before it’s too late.
Doug: I agree. And Ben typically that’s one of the first three things for me when I’m starting with a company. I’m looking at funnel efficiency, number one. I’m looking at what’s my content strategy number two. And then I’m looking to optimize my mix. And I have to say that’s something I’ve done again and again. You can’t see me folks, but I have far more gray hair than Ben and would double the amount of time I’ve had any marketing and just would say that that playbook typically speaks to one efficiency.
Doug: How am I maximizing my funnel out of the gate? How do I find low hanging fruit and then I’m getting the long-term stuff first. And you’re spot on, Ben. It’s not an SEO strategy, it’s a content strategy. SEO is just simply the tactical wrapper you put around it.
Ben: And we’re going to go deeper into this conversation as we discuss more of the pitfalls. Any last words on what content marketing driven CMOs are doing to be successful?
Doug: I think they had the long view, Ben, and I would tell you that they’re the folks that at that proverbial cocktail party will go on and on about the buyer journey with passion. Those are the folks that tend to be the most successful and frankly those are the folks that tend to be doing the best job at blending brand content, SEO and performance marketing strategies.
Ben: Okay. That wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Doug Bell, CMO of Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue the conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Doug, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes.
Ben: You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is @marketadvocate, or you could visit his company’s website, which is searchmetrics.com. Just one more link in our show notes to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to voicesofsearch.com. We have summaries of all of our episodes, the contact information for our guests. You can send us your topic suggestions, SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the voices of search podcast. Of course you can always reach out on social media.
Ben: Our handle is voicesofsearch on Twitter and my personal handle is benjshap. And if you haven’t subscribed yet and you want to daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed in addition to part three of our conversation, when Doug Bell, CMO of Searchmetrics, and I discuss the pitfalls of SEO for CMOs. We’re going to publish an episode every day during the work week, so hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed soon.
Ben: All right. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.