Digital Marketing Trends and What Needs To Go Away

There’s some new innovations of digital marketing that everyone should be implementing and some others that just need to go away forever. I’m not a big fan of repetition but even today I still see marketing agencies making these same digital marketing mistakes. This should help marketing, business, and web professionals update to the current world without looking like a jerk in a technical world.

Responsive Design
Years ago I told clients they needed a responsive design site because considering sales what business professional these days isn’t equipped with a web ready smart phone to look for your product service offerings? Your website is an extension of yourself and if not easily read that potential buyer or existing customer is going elsewhere. Basic searches are conducted in under 8 seconds. Recently we saw mobilegeddon from Google a search algorithm update that buries non-responsive sites. This basically means that those horrible sites that you go to on your cell phone that take you to the wrong content and aren’t sized appropriately to your screen size are getting buried in favour of better responsive design sites with great content. Studies have shown people are willing to pay more for sites with a better user experience UX. That said, insure your site is mobile friendly and on a good responsive design site that easily gets to content without effort especially from search result pages.

Keyword Density
In SEO we have another word for Keyword Density and call it, “Keyword stuffing,” which is against Google’s terms of service. This could force your site to get buried because of it. If your marketing agency is still talking about keyword density they’ve probably been educating themselves through old SEO (Search Engine Optimization) articles. Search artificial intelligence is really strong now and you don’t have to do much for Google to figure out what a page is about anymore. It used to be that a user pretty much had to be as obvious as possible but there’s now over a trillion known sites through Google and they’ve become really good at telling what a site is about. You certainly don’t need to be stuffing it with a ratio of the same word over and over again. It’s more important to build great on-topic content.  Seriously, this needs to go away. If you’re an SEO and still talking about keyword density please stop! I heard a Calgary digital marketing agency say this today and my jaw literally dropped.

Meta-Keywords Tag
About a decade ago people were stuffing keywords into meta-keywords tags to tell Google what a page was all about and could rank on search engine result pages (SERPS) as a result. However, this has been gone now from search for almost 10 years now and yet I still hear some business professionals and the odd hobbyist web designer sometimes mentioning this. It’s openly acknowledged by Google and Bing that this is no longer in practice or recognized because it was abused so bad. Some conspiracy theorists are still using them and trying to appease some dinosaur search engine nobody uses anymore if you care about maybe 1 in millions of users. Reality is this tag is dead and you’re wasting your time. You will not rank for anything with it and it’s not worth the investment of energy into. Put your time into great content with naturally the targeted content on page.

Create Strong Calls To Action
Lets face position 1 or 5 you want every visitor to count especially if you’re paying for paid ads. If you have gone to all the trouble of writing great content and educating people on your site make sure there’s somewhere they can go with that. No page should have content without some intent or KPI (Key Performance Indicator) that pushes the user towards the goal known in marketing as the call to action. This can be a, “Buy Now,” “Read More,” or “Subscribe,” like button. These call-to-actions CTA’s should be quite dominant and stand out from everything else around it. The colour should not blend in and standing back from the page you should have your eye drawn to it.

Strong UX (User eXperience)
We are an instant gratification society and as such we like to get to the point often fast. While studies have shown the verbiage long-winded converts well giving the client immediate opportunities to get to the end result ie “Buy It Now,”  is always preferred to reduce bounce rates (people leaving) and increase conversions which can literally make or break business. Studies have shown consumers are more willing to pay more for a great user experience (UX) then be focused on price alone. Good service doesn’t end in person.

Put Your Best Food Forward
The searcher has an intent and if your content is well focused it should yield strong results. As an extension of your sales team your site should represent you and give the client what they’re looking for. If it’s clean, navigable, quick loading, on-topic, worth sharing and has strong calls to action then you should get great results. That said, people hate scrolling and you want to keep some of your best content up front and on top above the viewable fold. Those endless parallax sites that people scroll over image background over image background look really cool but they make it often hard to read or to get to the point. Digital marketing is an art & science which requires balance between function and form. Your call to action should be almost immediately visible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been so annoyed when I see something implied to be free turns into a paid upsell product. If you’re going to try to sell me something be up front about it and show me immediately where I can go to get what I want. If I have done my research don’t make me work! Your website should be a great user experience so they come back again to do more and share it with their friends.

Page Sized Banners
Remember when we had all those flash sites? Ya, they’re almost all gone now and were buried by sites that focused on the customer’s needs. They were slow, sluggish and offered typically no real user value other than wow factor. Today we see page sized banners rotating across the screen and I’m wondering wow factor aside what their end goal is.  Each one of those banners better be market directed design focused on the call to actions and taking me to a page of relevant content or I am gone. More so, are those giant images slowing my page load time causing users to leave and the search rankings to suffer as a result? I’ve been seeing giant page sized images making users have to scroll to get to content, the content is marketing speak instead of getting to the point of what the customer is looking for and overall it’s a miserable experience. If you’re going to use rich media make sure it’s market focused. You should not have content on page that’s not relevant to your product service offering or distracts from your main focus. Market directed media should be the name of the game. That overly jovial guy in a polo, ya he better be looking at your call-to-action button. Viewers eyes look to where the eyes of the person go typically. Using giant page sized images with flash elements is like putting spinners and a $5,000 stereo in a $2000 car. While it looks cool it’s absolutely stupid. The most beautiful site in the world looks great on page two below professionally built sites.

Open Graph and Schema
This code helps Google better understand what your site is about and often provide preview information in search information in search results that makes your site stand out. With a trillion known sites you need to be doing whatever you can to do that.  This can help you not only stand out but in some instances rank better. This is however typically more of a display quality which makes a better UX (User eXperience) for visitors. If you’re really good they’ll call you before even visiting your site. It’s the basics that can make you stand out but you won’t get that from a $3 site that’s for sure. No Donald Trump not even you can.

Tables in HTML
One of the fastest ways to distinguish a pro developer from someone that hasn’t kept up their knowledge is to ask them some basic questions. Some designers still use Tables in their code and that hasn’t been predominantly used for like a decade. People should be using HTML5, CSS3 and more current technology with Dividers etc to create tabular divider type pages. If that all just sounded like a foreign language to you don’t worry. Just ask if they use tables in their HTML and if they say yes thank them for their time and find a new designer. Ask them what kind of design they do for sites and you should hear, “Responsive Design,” in there somewhere. If you ask a person if they do responsive design they might say yes but someone that’s on their game should be forward about this. No site should be built in this age without responsive design elements. The above puts you in good standing to getting a decent designer but certainly doesn’t guarantee it.

Content is King
I’m often asked what would make a site stand out on search engines. The commonality in our industry is to say that, “Content is King.” While content is the defining factor in a sales lead conversions it’s certainly not created equal. Appealing to the Google algorithm of posting frequently to nail the recency signal is OK but creating something worth sharing is so much better. It gives users not only a reason to come back but something to talk about giving your site some value. Not all content is created equal. Like not even close. The number one design firm in Canada was posting over 10x the amount of content we were and we still crushed them bad. The reason was we used search engine optimization techniques and worded things in a manner that appealed to what searchers intent was looking for. Being on-top on each page with a strong game plan will definitely help you out a ton. Those cool click-bait headlines get people to click but they’re not the best for being found.

Most people feel that they’re being redundant but I’ve learned that you as an expert have a lot to offer. While what you’re saying is well known in your industry the things you say will likely be profound to the client or searcher. The law of reciprocity shows people are more than likely to buy from those that helped them and even more so maintaining existing relationships by facilitating their needs with educational materials. Every effort should be made to create unique content that’s relevant to your local audience and the more accurate the better.  Demonstrate the value in why your product service offering is unique and try to hone in on what people’s needs are. If you’ve been in business for any amount of time just ask yourself what are some of the questions people commonly ask. If you’re part of associations and the like list that above the viewable page fold so people immediately recognize you as credible by association.  I would advise businesses to employ an SEO copywriter not to be mixed up with a newspaper journalist an SEO and social media strategist for mentoring your team how to do things properly. What business is successful without great advisors?

Measure Your Results
I’m increasingly impressed yet disgusted by firms that still get away without producing sites that have marketing science to measure results. If you don’t know who, why, where how, and what your users want or are doing it is like standing there ignoring a customer in a store. The customer is going to go somewhere else to find what they need. By listening and measuring with analytics we know where to devote our ad spend and grow client businesses. Google Analytics, Web Console and Local Places is FREE! There is simply no excuse for not monitoring your business especially if you’re paying for ads. An increased benefit of the on-page Google Analytics code is can measure for bounce rates from user’s that might have double clicked your ad reducing your ad spend. Right there you’ve immediately reduced your cost of advertising and can see where your visitors are coming from. By using analytics I’ve been able to eliminate, optimize, determine visitor need and forecast for seasonality of business for  site owners. These reports are fortunately quite comprehensive and should be viewed regularly. You don’t need to be a big company to listen to your customers.

Speed Up Your Site
There’s increasing evidence that not only do searchers leave slow loading sites but Google itself considers page speed as one of many signals on how to place a site for queries people commonly use to find your product service offering. If your site is like the Titanic turning to load then you had better do something about it. Page Speed Optimization tweaks are readily available and there’s a million articles about it. Don’t make your customer work. A good designer knows how to do this and when you go to their examples you’ll immediately notice the difference with their sites over others. Again, if it doesn’t have a purpose on the page get rid of it!  Buyers form their opinion of your site in the first 4 seconds find their search result inside eight and go two pages deep. If they don’t get a good experience in that time then they’re so gone.

Automate Your Site
Most security updates no longer require a technician to sit in front of a computer and update them. In fact, this is a horrible expense and waste of company time. It’s far more intelligent to have automated updates because they do it the instant a security exploit comes out protecting your site from potential vulnerabilities. Here in Calgary and Edmonton Alberta the number of sites that are wide open because a lack of simple choices to automate leaves a majority of businesses wide open. Not only is your website security at risk but your email as well. Want to quickly become the biproduct of a spam list of nearly every provider then don’t do your updates! Automating your plugins allows you to benefit from bug fixes, new features, and a better overall user experience for visitors. You can also easily put your email online now so you don’t need to be sitting at a desktop. Seriously, that bloated program to use to load email is a dinosaur. There’s really no need to have a program to use email. I am reachable anywhere in the world there’s internet including mobile phone real-time and the files are all updated everywhere without requiring me to do things several times.

Cheap Web Hosting
Seriously, stop cheaping out on this. You would never stuff 2300 of your customers in a kiosk and say find your way to the front so why would you cheap out on web hosting? I’m not kidding either. It’s not uncommon for web hosts on shared hosting to put 2300 customers on a server together. That means for any effected site that outage is going to shut down you and everyone else on that server. If someone else is abusing the server then you’re also effected. How much will it cost you if you lose your email for a day or your site down? I’m willing to bet it’s a whole heck of a lot more than $3.  The entire user experience depends on a great web host. Slow loading pages and outages are often not apparent to the client but to a good host they sure are. That said, invest in a great web host like Liquid Web which offers, “Heroic Support.” They really live up to their promise and I’ve now been using them happily for a few years now.

Hiring a Generalist to do SEO
As a digital strategist known for building businesses into assets by building lead generating websites and SEO I can do a few things. A professional will always employ others to do things they’re either not good at, fast at or passionate about. It’s increasingly frustrating to hear that some amateur web design hobbyist is calling themselves an SEO charging prime rates for things that will yield little to no results. I get that to this design professional the difference between getting the sale and not is saying that they offer SEO services. Being able to stuff a few keywords on a page doesn’t make a person an SEO professional. These days it’s extremely technical and you can’t just stuff a few pages of loaded content online and link from completely irrelevant content expecting to be found first. It’s simply just not going to happen. There’s over 200 search signals updated over 500 times a year real-time without warning and unless you’re obsessing over the SEO industry you’re probably going to miss it. Most of the top tier influential SEO tactics are highly proprietary and not openly posted as closely guarded secrets. Fundamentals like ad copy being on topic is one thing but that doesn’t make a search engine optimization professional. We’ve got tons of external off-page influencers, links, citations, relevant content and a plethora of other variables to be considered.

That guy billing flat rate SEO for $500 a month is taking you for a ride. I don’t even want to know the kind of spammy sites they’re sending you to sub $1000 really. If you got results from it great but I’m willing to bet for a majority of you the result you are seeing with your site ranking first is a result of, “Personalized Search,” which means the pages you previously or frequently visit will appear first. What others will see with likely be entirely different. Ranking for your brand is one thing but what about the thousands of other visitors who don’t know anything about your company and are actively looking for your product service offering? The lowest a person should ever expect to see from even a beginner SEO is about $1000 and from any professional typically $2500-5000 a month for any proper city is common. If you are a prepackaged SEO set from one of millions expect to sit in the same page as the rest on page two where business goes to die. SEO is a ton of work and requires continuous ongoing attention. It’s like building yourself up at the gym and it doesn’t happen overnight. To gain Google’s recognition as an authority relevant site you need to have all the boxes checked off.

Social Media
This like many other buzzwords was thrown a lot and gave business owners a lot of false expectations about what it would do for them. Reality check, if you’re not actively producing content or engaging your audience maybe outside of reserving a page don’t bother with it. Social media without engaging and interacting with your potential visitors or existing customers is like ignoring people talking to you. It’s not only rude but incredibly bad business. However, doing social media optimization properly can leverage a businesses’s presence into the stratosphere connecting you with the power’s that be in your industry and naturally your target audience. Social media should be considered part of your regular content strategy as you aren’t going to get tons of traffic without outreach on popular platforms to draw people in.  I’ve watched brand new doctors get featured in international magazines as a result of blogging combined with social media. It’s extremely powerful.

Growth Hacker
This is just another prepackaged euphemism for the digital professional. You might call me a growth hacker but it’s just ultimately a buzzword for digital strategist to excite a new audience. People used Web 2.0 and The Cloud to excite people just the same for technologies that have been around for forever. However, it’s business as usual and the strategies are much the same.

Inbound Marketing

A group of noted professionals called digital marketing online coined the term inbound marketing as other negative associations were being linked to words like internet marketing. Reality, digital marketing is a profound amount of outreach on the web much like networking. There’s no magic wand like these alleged gurus would have you believe. We have to build links, content, and do a ton of outreach to generate traffic all while being extremely calculated. That professional you think so highly of is either full of BS or working their butt off behind the scenes. Those folks driving new exotics and the like each week. Ya, ask them how many years they worked and starved to get to where they are. Digital marketing is a ton of work and you really have to earn your place like all networking circles. The better your relationships are and the longer you’re in it the more your knowledge grows as does your bottom line.  When someone says inbound marketing I cringe. To me it’s misleading and something you might expect from a call centre.

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