2014 Digital Marketing Strategy > The In House View

Irrefutably 2013 has been a year of tumultuous change in digital. Huge gains by social networks and significant structural changes by Google alongside the rise of the digital influencer channel have forced change on all of us.

Such a shift puts serious pressure on those in house strategists to work out how best to allocate resource of course as we enter that critical 2014 planning period for marketing purse string holders.

To understand just how those pennies will be spent next year we reached out to as selection of key in-house figures as possible to bring you the quantitative and qualitative view of what 2014 will look like from a strategic perspective.

Contributing to this we have:

Danny Denhard, Head of SEO, vouchercodes.co.uk

Cyrus Shepard, Moz

Nick Eubanks, VP of Digital Strategy, WL Snook Associates

Kieran Flanagan, Hubspot

James Crothall, Hargreaves Lansdown

Gregor Lawson, CMO, Morphsuits

Vish Burgul, Digital Marketing Manager, Mecca Bingo

Harris Schachter, Sr SEO Product Manager, Capital One

 

1. What do you see as being your top three strategic focuses in digital marketing throughout 2014? How will that differ from what you did in 2013?

Kieran Flanagan, Hubspot:

The top 3 focuses for me in digital in 2014 will be around audience acquisition in target countries, improving velocity through our funnel and increasing the distribution channels available to us in international.

This will be near identical to our goals in 2013.

Cyrus Shepard, Moz

1. Focus on high quality content

2. Community building

3. Distribution through partnerships

For Moz, our top strategic focus hasn’t changed that much over the years, especially in regards to content and community. What continues to shift for us is the growing importance of amplifying our message through different channels, in particular through strategic partnerships.

Our Business Development team, led by Andrew Dumont, has been doing terrific work in this area. For the industry as a whole, we’re seeing an increasing shift towards both mobile and local strategies, as well as brand storytelling.

Danny Denhard, Voucher Codes

  • Data analysis / data marketing – using the right data for the right audience and empowering decisions.
  • No more mass marketing for smaller businesses – targeting the right demographics
  • More creative agile marketing
  • Targeting the right pages

Nick Eubanks, WL Snook

We are making significant adjustments to our eCommerce platform to support a much wider range of keywords, as we have begun to segregate our funnel more formally and align content closer to our target keywords based on conversion funnel stage.

Gregor Lawson, Morphsuits

Online brand awareness, Website Conversion, Mobile Revolution. The focus on mobile has gone up a notch.

2. Can you place in order of importance the following digital marketing tactics…

> SEO

> Paid Search

> Social

> Paid Social

> Email marketing

> Content Marketing

> Content Strategy

> Influencer marketing

> Display Advertising

Kieran Flanagan, Hubspot:

1.Content Strategy
2. Content Marketing
3. Email Marketing
4. Social
5. Paid Social
6. Influencer marketing

Cyrus Shepard, Moz

I can try to rank them in order of relative importance for Moz, but every company is going to be different based on their unique goals and strengths, as well as audience. For Moz, the order might be:

1. Content Marketing
2. Influencer marketing
3. Content Strategy
4.  Social
5.  Email Marketing
6.  Paid Search
7.  Paid Social
8. Display Advertising

Danny Denhard, Voucher Codes

1.SEO
2.Email marketing
3.Paid Search
4.Social
5.Content Marketing
6.Content Strategy
7.Influencer marketing
8.Display Advertising
9.Paid Social

Harris Schachter, Capital One

1. Content Strategy
2. SEO
3. Content Marketing
4. Social
5. Paid Search
6. Paid Social
7. Email marketing
8. Influencer marketing
9. Display Advertising

James Crothall, Hargreaves Lansdown

1. Content Strategy
2. Content Marketing
3. SEO
4. Paid Search
5. Influencer marketing
6. Email marketing
7. Social
8. Display Advertising
9. Paid Social

 Nick Eubanks, WL Snook

– Paid Search
– Content Strategy
– Email marketing
– SEO
– Content Marketing
– Social
– Paid Social
– Influencer Marketing
– Display

Due to the specific behavioral and demographic profiles of our legacy customer base, paid search continues to be a top priority for us. Beyond paid media channels, we have taken a top-level look at crafting a content strategy that will support the different experiences and customer profiles across our paid and earned marketing channels. Email continues to represent a very large opportunity, followed closely by our ability to acquire new organic eyeballs throughout all stages of the buying cycle; mostly due to the nature of the buying behavior for our product group; longer purchasing cycles with specific requirements.

Gregor Lawson, Morphsuits

1 SEO
2. Paid Search
3. Social
4. Paid Social
5 Content Strategy
6. Content Marketing
7. Influencer marketing
8. Email marketing
9. Display Advertising

3. Will digital marketing take more or less of your overall marketing budget in 2014?

Kieran Flanagan, Hubspot:

The same.

Cyrus Shepard, Moz

Some folks think that we’re a 100% digital marketing company, but that’s not strictly true. We do have a number of offline marketing initiatives as well – especially around conferences and events, but overall these make up a minority of our budget.

Overall I would expect our share digital marketing spend to remain consistent with years past.

Danny Denhard, Voucher Codes

It very much depends on each business and their KPI’s.

For many I think there will be clear investments back into traditional offline marketing and “more traditional online marketing” namely email and further investments into social media.

Marketing today is more than hitting eyeballs and attempting to influence purchasing and looking at metrics.

There is definitely going to be investment in tracking and attribution of sales.

Investment in social will include, organic, earned and paid social, investments in social campaigns will be essential for brands.

Harris Schachter, Capital One.

More. The analytics (and accountability) are more robust for digital marketing than traditional marketing. Therefore, business cases are more compelling and valid.

This accountability makes it much more appealing for executives because they can be confident in the numbers and their analysts.

Decision makers are also more comfortable because digital marketing is the opportunity to fail faster, learn lessons, and modify campaigns on the fly before millions have been spent allowing for real-time optimization.

When it comes to the share of the overall marketing budget, there is always the background noise of the competitive market, and the knowledge that if you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind. New opportunities come about almost every day in new channels, strategies, devices and technology, and it’s better to be first than last.

We pride ourselves in testing new things and being first to market, part of the reason we run Capital One Labs.

“Digital marketing is the opportunity to fail faster, learn lessons, and modify on the fly before millions have been spent.”

Nick Eubanks, WL Snook

Digital marketing will continue to see a bigger piece of the overall marketing spend in 2014, as it continues to represent our marketing channel with the highest ROI.

 

4. How do you see your internal resource evolving and reorganizing in 2014 to reflect external digital changes?

Kieran Flanagan, Hubspot

My current team is pretty well aligned around our key goals for 2014. In terms of resources, we would hire good people to help us reach our 2014 goals, in particular marketers who are highly skilled in content and funnel optimization.

Cyrus Shepard, Moz

Although the percentage of our overall budget in digital marketing is expected to remain the same, we actually expect to invest more across all channels. In the past year we’ve expanded our content team, our social team, business development (which works with digital partners) and paid acquisition channels.

Danny Denhard, Voucher Codes

The key for us is always improving our communications and integrated teams, short but often meetings and communications to keep the integrated teams up to date and empowered.

If you are not teaching and ensuring employee growth you will struggle to see the brand growth.

 Nick Eubanks, WL Snook

We are placing a much larger focus on creating resource materials to support existing customers and power users, where as in 2013 our content focus was more top of funnel vs. retention marketing. We are also looking to bring in more analysts, as we spent a lot of time and energy in 2013 setting the hooks and collecting data, now we need help managing and making sense of all of it.

Gregor Lawson, Morphsuits

We need a guru who can bring in the latest know-how and expertise to business.

 

5. What is your greatest concern about search marketing in 2014?

Kieran Flanagan, Hubspot:

I am not concerned about search marketing in 2014, although I am fortunate to be working for a brand that is pretty insulated from the constant changes to Google’s algorithm.

It’s pretty obvious that a large majority of the SEO industry is refocusing their efforts around tactics like content marketing, social media marketing, and paid social, CRO. With Google now pulling all keyword data, it’s been a tough year for SEO.

If you asked my personal opinion, I think some SEO agencies will adapt and continue to do great work, but there are going to be a lot of other SEO’s who will find it hard to keep their head above water.

You just need to look at the best content coming from the SEO industry, it’s rarely on the topic of “SEO” anymore. The world of SEO has changed. It now just feels a lot like marketing.

Cyrus Shepard, Moz.

Google continues to hide more data from marketers, including essential keyword referral data. Google is also introducing more and more of it’s own properties in it’s search results, potentially resulting in fewer opportunities for a small number of marketers. Overall, however, search marketing continues to grow at an astounding rate, so I’m still bullish here.

The other concern is the amount of noise generated in search marketing, but this is a problem as old as the industry itself. The bar you need to reach to deserve attention keeps rising year after year. Lessor marketers turning yesterday’s tactics into spam, while smart marketers inventing tomorrow’s tactics.

Danny Denhard, Voucher Codes

Personally speaking I believe it is search engines. The move to answer engines will impact a number of business more than currently expect and it will put the emphasis on human decisions. People will need to step up and make the data work harder.

Harris Schachter, Capital One

My greatest concern with search marketing in 2014 is the continual disparity between paid and organic search. It seems the benefits, resources, and available data continue to grow for paid search, and shrink for organic search.

An organic search practitioner can’t get a word across to a Google employee unless it is through a reconsideration request, whereas a paid search strategist can get an Adwords couch if they asked for one (although not at my company, this is a real example).

This is a very interesting partnership, as SEOs are not viewed as “customers” but the content they create as strategists is the very basis of Google’s most popular product; search.

I don’t think SEO is under any threat, but the constant change in measurement methodologies can be distracting.

 Nick Eubanks, WL Snook

The evaporation of organic listing space. 2013 saw a large decrease in available organic screen real estate across a number of major eCommerce verticals and SERP’s, with the continuing development of the knowledge graph and new user interface elements, we are fast approaching a world where 80% of prime screen space will be comprised of paid media.

 

6. How do you see social adding more value for your business in 2014?

Kieran Flanagan, Hubspot:

It will continue to be a core piece of our inbound strategy as it has been for some time.

Cyrus Shepard, Moz.

Social provides so many benefits for us, I can’t imagine life without it. In particular, social channels provide:

  • Distribution and amplification of our existing content channels
  • Customer Service
  • Branding through voice
  • Feedback
  • General Goodwill

Danny Denhard, Voucher Codes

Social is very important to our business, we are lucky to have such a large engaged community across multiple networks, we have a great team who understand our community, this is only going to increase and improve, especially with recent innovations and changes from the social networks.

Social will help with all disciplines in my honest opinion, it can add additional insight, add value to organic, email and marketing campaigns.

Nick Eubanks, WL Snook

We hope to leverage our relationships with industry professionals and research groups to drive more conversation around regulatory change and help support initiatives to improves safety for bicycles and pedestrians. We plan to do this through community engagement and more direct to consumer conversations.

 

7. What big changes, if any, will you be bringing to your digital content strategy in 2014?

Kieran Flanagan, Hubspot:

I don’t feel we will be making any major changes. HubSpot have been doing content since 2006. We always strive to improve on what we do, but our strategy is pretty good.

Cyrus Shepard, Moz

We sell a digital product. While not a big change, I suspect we’ll soon see a shift where the line between digital content and digital product becomes blurred.

Danny Denhard, Voucher Codes

I think 2014 is about concentrating efforts and increasing very specific tactics, here are a few to mention:

1. Content and data driven marketing and PR

2. On and offline brand marketing

3. Super demographic targeted campaigns

4. Bigger and better analysis

Harris Schachter, Capital One

In many ways, social media for large companies is only in its infancy. I think we’ll see some of the lessons we’ve learned start to make their way into practice.

For example more thought-out long term strategies instead of one-off campaigns, and more cohesive activity with other digital channels. In many ways social media was primarily a brand play, but once an integrated attribution model is adopted, the true ROI for social will be demonstrated.

 Nick Eubank, WL Snook

As mentioned in my explanation for #2, we are developing a lot more content to support query-spread across our conversion funnel, using new behavioral data we are building out pages and producing media to support buying behavior throughout the purchasing cycle.

Gregor Lawson, Morphsuits

I struggle with the word ‘content’. It’s talked about like it’s the holy grail to all your digital hopes and dreams. It’s basically stuff you show people. I am going to continue to show stuff to people. I’m going to put effort into it my stuff being cool, particularly around Halloween, so that people hopefully decide to buy a Morphsuit. I also hope to send more frequent customer emails.

 

8. If you have any accountability over traffic metrics what is your view and that of your business around the 100% encryption of keyword data from Google?

Kieran Flanagan, Hubspot:

The loss of keyword data is a huge pain for everyone. I’ve seen a number of SEO consultants say the loss of keyword data isn’t a big deal and won’t affect them. I find that odd. One of the biggest advantages SEO had was how measurable the impact was. Between ranking improvements and traffic increases on specific keywords, it was always easy to prove the value of SEO. The lack of keyword data and constant flux of keywords positions now make it impossible to quantify the value SEO delivers.

This doesn’t have a huge impact on the way I measure as I really look at metrics across the full funnel, looking at a range of both top of funnel and mid of funnel metrics. Keyword data isn’t a massive loss to me as it’s not a metric I looked at a lot, but then again, I am not an SEO. I prefer looking at custom reports for content to split it out my acquisition, engagement and conversion. However, I know our SEO team found the removal of keyword data a real pain.

Cyrus Shepard, Moz

I don’t like it, but I accept it. Google’s reasons for withholding this data are thin – especially when they stand to profit from it, and I found it a valuable resource when optimizing websites for both search and user experience. That said, I like the idea of modeling pages around question instead of keywords, but keywords still offer an important starting point. Regardless, we’ll move on and continue to innovate around this challenge.

 Danny Denhard, Voucher Codes

Data encryption is something we all have to deal with and address, the reliance on one set of data will always hurt some businesses, we are lucky we have a good team here and we work closely with our BI team. We use multiple data sources to understand how keywords and landing pages are performing. Its important to remember you still have keyword data and you can use this as a basis of your analysis. Let’s see how it plays out in the near future.

Harris Schachter, Capital One

I’ve removed myself from keyword-reliant measurement practices for quite some time now; the writing had been on the wall since 2011.

Instead, I rely on page-centric traffic and on-site visit quality metrics. Keyword data is a nice-to-have, but not crucial.

If I have it- great, if not, I’m not worried. That said, I’ve been doing some experimentation to get some of this data back, as has my enterprise SEO management software company.

I am very happy with the resources I have, as they’re always surprising me with innovative and interesting technology. The potential to recover the keyword data is one example of how these technology companies are staying on their toes, and continue to develop valuable products for in-house strategists. I’m fairly confident that keyword data is something these companies can and will solve for, even if they are estimations.

James Crothall, Hargreaves Lansdown

Whilst there are obvious disadvantages to this lack of keyword data, I think the https:// change from Google is simply another step towards ensuring web content is of the highest possible standard. How so?

I believe the key metric has shifted from number of visits from specific organic keywords, to number of visits to specific pages from organic search. Therefore, producing excellent content needs to be top of the list for Content Marketers and SEOs in 2014 and the update to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines this year, highlighting the need for “high-quality sites that users will want to use and share” confirmed this.

Delighting your visitors through informative, engaging content should be the number one focus and this will naturally derive further benefits: natural links/mentions, social shares and QS increases in PPC to name a few.

Nick Eubanks, WL Snook

I’m still unsure on how exactly I feel. I mean, Google is full of shit in terms of their ‘privacy explanation ‘ but it’s not worth getting upset about it, at the end of the day Google Analytics is their world and we just live in it. We are testing a number of approaches utilizing co-occurence data from SERP’s with both paid and organic listing in attempts to get better visibility into where organic visits that are driving conversions are coming from, but we have also bit the bullet and are now spending more money on AdWords… which was Google’s play all along. So the score remains; Google 1, SEO’s 0.

What have we learned?

It is always useful to see how industry opinion translates into specific company strategy as it is in the allocation of real budgets that you see the ‘truth’. Often industry experts will talk about one thing but then behave in entirely another. What we have see above, however, is that in planning for next year almost every marketer is putting content at the heart of their plan and in doing so cementing its place as a marketing tactic with real return on investment.

What is also interesting is how adaptable the industry is in adjusting to change and forming new strategies based on the current environment.

Social, content and the growing opportunity around digital PR and paid content distribution are certainly our key areas of focus for 2014 and it seems as though those in positions of power in house are following suit.

What do you think? Do you work in house and have a point of view? If so please drop a note below and get involved. We’d love to add your comments to the piece…

 

  • simonpenson

    So what is your view on 2014? For me these are the key points of focus:

    > Making social work from an ROI perspective, but measured not just on pounds and pence back but across more metrics.
    > Putting digital PR at the centre of the content distribution plan and getting close to major influencers.
    > Nailing paid content distribution as part of the overall content plan.
    What are your thoughts?