Digital Marketers Falling Blindly in Love With Data and Technology
In the Oscar-winning movie "Her," a man falls in love with his operating system but realizes in the end that machines can't actually replace people. The same lesson applies in the world of digital marketing, where brands have fallen head over heels for technology and algorithms.
Maybe not to the extent we see in the film, but the vast majority of brands have voluntarily turned over their online campaigns to machines. In many cases, once marketers set up automated systems to measure and optimize the success of their online campaigns, they let the data dictate everything from that point forward. While data should guide the decision-making process, it can also too easily cause us to leave out one key component: human intelligence.
By omitting human expertise from the digital marketing equation, brands end up with campaigns that get better within artificial parameters but never reach their theoretical peak. For example, data can tell us that one ad outperforms another, but the information can't suggest a third ad that blows the first two out of the water. That's because machines can't ask the all-important question of "why."
By understanding not just what people are doing but why they're doing it, marketers can find the lucrative intersection of technology and human marketing expertise. At my online marketing agency, we call this approach "intuitive search intelligence." The concept calls for the qualitative application of quantitative results. In other words, it requires people to ask probing questions of data and then apply insights between channels.
Don't believe the lie that robots run better marketing campaigns than people. Here are four steps to setting up a digital marketing campaign rooted in intuitive search intelligence:
1. Cast a wide net in paid search. The first step is to identify a broad set of pay-per-click keywords relevant to your business. Using Google AdWords and Google Keyword Planner, it's important to launch a large-scale campaign and prune the data as it comes in. Once the ads are activated, pay attention to the results to discover keyword groups with high and low search volume, clickthrough rates and conversions. In addition to optimizing paid search ads, this step also sets the stage for a better search engine optimization strategy.
2. Apply PPC lessons to organic search. Even though paid search acts differently than organic search, the performance of the keywords will be relatively similar in both channels. With top-performing keywords in hand, it's time to apply the lessons learned in PPC to SEO by creating content such as website copy, blog posts and landing pages using those search terms. By incorporating top-performing paid search keywords into your copy, you'll see a boost in organic search rankings. This cross-channel communication is a critical part of intuitive search intelligence.
3. Communicate SEO lessons back to paid search. As your organic search results improve, you should re-evaluate your paid search strategy and make changes such as tailoring your advertising landing pages to your strongest keywords or changing ad text to complement organic listings. As the PPC campaign improves, you can then alter your SEO terms and continue to incorporate results from one channel into the other. The feedback loop never ends!
4. Expand into more channels. Now that you've mastered PPC and SEO, it's time to apply the same principles to new marketing channels, including email, social media and display. Just as the best tool at your disposal for setting up your SEO efforts was real data from AdWords, your best tool for diving into untested marketing waters is your data from AdWords and SEO. The same lessons can inform your landing pages, tone of messaging, aesthetics and budget. And of course, you can apply whatever results you find in these channels back to your paid and organic search strategies.
It's important to remember that data has its place in digital marketing. It's a powerful tool that becomes even more powerful when marketers ask the tough questions and discover why campaigns work. With man and machine working together, good campaigns turn into great ones.
Michael Mothner is the founder and CEO of Wpromote, an online marketing firm that runs SEO, PPC and social media campaigns for companies worldwide. He's also the author of the new book, "Experts & Engines: ROI Focused Online Marketing Through Intuitive Search Intelligence."