C3, Conductor’s annual conference for marketing and SEO professionals, was held virtually for the first time in May. Marketers and SEOs around the world explored how we can work together to adapt to this unprecedented time.
Conductor CEO Seth Besmertnik emceed the virtual event that brought together marketing leaders from across industries and sectors. Their stories are a snapshot of the incredible resourcefulness we have mustered to overcome the present adversity. Here’s a snapshot of the lessons learned during the virtual event and some of the stories we shared.
Why SEO Is the Marketing Solution for the COVID-19 Era
Conductor recently surveyed a large group of executives and digital marketing leaders, finding:
- Budgets are getting slashed. Events are getting cut. Accounts-based marketing is getting cut. Meanwhile, the goals are staying the same. You have to do more with less.
- Media is getting scaled back– TV, radio, offline, even display and digital marketing investments.
- We asked where, if anywhere, companies are investing more, and found (much to our liking) that SEO is getting more investment. Over 60% of companies said they’re investing more in SEO, which makes sense. It’s the highest ROI in marketing.
SEO is efficient: it continues to give even when you are only spending minimally to maintain it. SEO also makes sense as a content strategy because people have been spending less on advertising year-over-year for more than a decade.
Netflix and Spotify recently announced a record number of subscribers. Think about what that means for marketing: You simply can’t buy those people’s attention anymore. On the other hand, those subscribers are also asking for help more than ever before. They’re asking Alexa. They’re searching on Google. They’re searching on YouTube. If you’re buying anything — B2B, B2C — you’re looking for answers online and using content you find there to make your purchase decisions.
You Already Have Great Content
A common misconception is that when you go to Google you’re getting content from Google, but this is not true. Google helps you find the content, they connect you to the content. But they don’t produce it. Who does provide the content? Non-profits, corporations, businesses, experts, content marketers, SEOs, digital marketers, and creators.
That makes sense when you think about where all the real wisdom in the world is. It’s in those creators and organizations who know their business. Marketing needs to surface and promote that information. We shouldn’t be going to the outside to get expertise, we should be going inside. When you bring great knowledge, you get rewarded — by Google with good ranking, good traffic, and getting sales from those customers.
The only algorithm that matters is the heart, the mind, and the soul of the customer. If you focus on your customers’ needs, you’re going to win. It used to be that if you showed up in Google you had a high ranking, so you’d get traffic, visitors, and sales.
Today, ranking in Google is a predictor of what your market position will be in the future. Because that’s how consumers buy. They’re not going into stores or calling reps. They are making judgments about companies based on who is showing up at the top of Google’s search engine results page. A great ranking means your company is the leader.
We all want to be leaders, and this is the currency for how customers are making decisions today. SEO is simple. The customers’ keywords are their needs. The rankings are your content. If you really know what people want and what they’re searching for, and you’ve got the content, then you’re going to be the one who provides the answers, builds their trust, and you will end up being their provider.
Stories From Across the Industry
Conductor works with a wide cross-section of businesses across industries and sectors. We talked to marketers in operations as diverse as security and hospitals to understand how topic-specific content can follow strategies from a general playbook.
Stanley Security is the world’s second-largest electronic security company with over 5,000 employees worldwide across 200 offices.
Their marketing team, including Laura Rose, Marketing Director, Emily Malott, Content Marketing Specialist, and Joseph Parker, Digital Marketing Manager told us that as soon as COVID happened, they realized it was important to step back and take a look at what their customers needed at that moment.
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Susan Watanabe and her team knew Johns Hopkins had the information people desperately needed as the crisis unfolded. She told C3,
“Johns Hopkins has expertise in infection prevention, and when we saw internal emails saying that the coronavirus crisis in China was becoming a big deal, we realized we had to start creating content because this is coming to the United States and the rest of the world.”
Another member of the team, Therese Lockemy, pointed out that creating informational content helped reduce the numbers of queries they received through email and over the telephone.
ThermoWorks has decades of experience in the temperature measurement and instrumentation industries. Their VP of Marketing, Tim Robinson, told C3 that SEO is critical to everything they do — and he learned exactly how important it is as C3! Robinson told us, “it starts from a basic philosophical approach.”
“Around mid-March and taking off in the second week in April, we saw a surge in organic traffic both to the blog and to the site — over 150% what we were seeing last year. Sourdough was performing really well. Grilling content was performing really well. We created a couple of series that we thought would appeal to that customer intent. When you see a 40% increase in organic traffic year-over-year, that gets everybody’s attention. That makes it easy to make a business case for the processes that got you to that point.”
The Bottom Line
A responsive content strategy is key to maintaining and improving your market position. So why aren’t more companies adopting an SEO-first strategy?
It’s hard for a few reasons. One is that you can’t see the customers who are missing us, who are searching for our companies and not finding us. A Superbowl commercial is literally in your face as you watch the game, but people’s Google searches are strictly between themselves and Google.
The second thing is the investment horizon. We’ve become very focused on the short term. Businesses, especially publicly traded ones, operate quarter to quarter, and they have to give results to investors after a few months.
But in business, there’s no end date. We’re going to keep going, and the work we do today will benefit us tomorrow. But we have to make the investments today to get the benefits of tomorrow.
When we talk about marketing, we often refer to it as “spend.” You buy a click or an impression, and when you’re done spending money, you stop seeing the boost to sales from advertising. With advertisements, you make a buy and you get a return right then at time-period-one. But in the next time period and all following time periods, whether that’s next week or next month or next quarter, your return is zero.
But when you talk about SEO, you talk about “investing.” When you make an investment in something, it continues to give you something back, even after you’re done with your spend. With content, you might not get as much ROI in the initial time period, but over the year the ROI builds and builds and builds. If you reinvest in your content from the yield it produces, you create a content moat that will benefit you far into the future. But we have to make the investments today to get the benefits of tomorrow.