Digital Essays 2014: Connected digital marketing the only way to reach connected consumers

Amit Vyas

Website developers, content marketers and search engine optimisers now have no choice but to work closely together, writes Amit Vyas.

Marketing is getting complex; it used to be so much simpler – above the line, below the line, through the line, online, offline. Then, the big debates were around how and who should integrate and align the components to optimise the benefits.

According to Teradata Corporation, in a 2013 survey, on average, marketers in Europe constantly manage more than seven different channels and more than one quarter (26 per cent) of marketers are coordinating customer experience across 10 different channels. The same Teradata survey noted that of the top 10 channels that European marketers are investing in, the top seven are digital.

2014 promised to be the year of online marketing convergence as many consumers move online and stay online, all or most of the time. Gartner Inc agreed; according to its survey of US marketing executives, digital marketing budgets were set to rise by 10 per cent in 2014, following a similarly strong double-digit percentage increase in 2013.

It stated that on average, companies from eight different industries spent 10.7 per cent of their annual 2013 revenue on overall marketing activities, with digital marketing spending averaging 3.1 per cent of revenue.

Gartner believes that digital marketing is taking an increasing share of the marketing budget; 11 per cent of respondents said hey spent more than half of their marketing budgets on digital activities in 2013 compared with only 3 per cent in 2012. Digital marketing represented an average of 28.5 per cent of the total marketing budget in 2013, as compared with 25.5 per cent in 2012.

Here, online marketing digital marketing and social media are rapidly moving to the mainstream as companies recognise the potential rewards of being there – and the risk of not.

More digital buzz means more digital marketing budget, so it’s happy days for the digital agencies. But there’s a catch.

As digital marketing specialists compete for their slice of the online pie, everyone is building their own virtual silos leaving clients to figure out what the pie should actually look like – or even whether it should be a pie.

Your client’s web designer is probably not connected to your SEO and social media teams; your SEO agency is probably not connected to your SE marketing, social media and email marketing teams.

This fragmentation is confusing clients, whilst delivering sub-optimal results. There may be some crossover between specialists but not much in our experience. Clients are being left to figure it out for themselves, whilst the digital marketing community is busy building barriers to entry; clients don’t like complexity and so when digital marketing looks too difficult to set up, manage and measure, clients just won’t do it.

If you are a client coming into digital online marketing for the first time (welcome, where have you been?) amid all this complexity, where do you start? The smart place to start is where your customers start to look for you. So, logically, the search begins with ‘search’.

Search is the point of entry into the online world; it’s where your users and customers look for you on Google or Bing and especially when they want something – and generally, they want it instantly.

Search is the customers’ roadmap and like any map, you need to be clearly and immediately visible when and where it counts the most. But this is not as straightforward as it used to be.

When Google launched a brand new algorithm called Hummingbird, it quickly affected the SEO rankings of more than 15 per cent of the world’s websites. The change also hit the SEO industry, by highlighting and rewarding good content and social media connections.

Hummingbird was a clear game-changer for the SEO industry; the first Google algorithm rewrite since 2001 changed the rules of the SEO market, which Forrester research estimates will be worth $1.6bn globally by 2016.

Add website optimisation to this mix – because it now plays a more important role than ever in terms of SEO – and the quality of the website build and content becomes another major ranking factor in SEO, resulting in another heave within the industry towards convergence.

Website developers, content marketers and search engine optimisers now have no choice but to work closely together to produce the optimum online marketing results for a client.

Rather than be pushed by online platforms or pulled by clients, the better solution is for the industry to take the initiative and converge services into a single integrated digital marketing offer.

Then, all a client has to do is to get the agency to ensure website build and quality, the overall quality of content on the web relating to the business – including social media visibility and engagement – which in turn impacts search.

Back to old-fashioned simplicity but for the connected age.

(Amit Vyas is CEO of Nexa, Dubai. @Dubai_CEOs @DigitalNexa)