Rethinking the human element in your marketing program

Attention marketers: You're now part of the resistance. Machines and humans have already gone head to head in ping pong, in Jeopardy, and also in marketing. In fact, algorithms are monopolizing the search marketing process, and it's time to fight back.

In the beginning, marketers assumed that machines were their friends. They selected a few keywords, hit the optimize button, and walked away as PPC campaigns seemed to manage themselves. A self-managing account, however, is a myth. The account required human input to put it in motion. Why would marketers believe that once they've provided input, their job is done?

Implementing what we call "intuitive search intelligence" -- campaigns in which engines and experts coexist and share insights as if they were partners -- can redefine how your customers find and perceive your business online. Here's how you can embrace human-led campaigns supplemented by technology:

Ask the all-important question: Why?

Asking why separates a good campaign from a great one -- whether technology is involved or not. Without human expertise, campaigns can be stuck in an endless loop in which the same mistakes are repeated and suboptimal tactics influence new ones.

Humans are instrumental throughout the process because only humans can ask why. An algorithm knows that a given campaign works, but it doesn't know why a word or phrase resonates with a human audience. Further, only a human can implement positive changes based on intelligently questioning success or failure. For example, an algorithm might think that "handyman Chicago" is an OK search term when customers are actually searching for "Chicagoland roofing contractors." An algorithm can optimize within its channel, but it can't translate the improved keyword into other channels.

Knock down walls between silos

Within too many companies, or even the marketing department itself, teams lack solid communication. For example, the SEO team and PPC team won't share strategies even though their jobs are made to influence one another. Keyword research, onsite content, website architecture, title tags and meta descriptions, image alt tags, and more are all integral to success in SEO. Much of this same research into ideal keywords is completed on the PPC side. So why not share insights?

Although the paid search channel will perform differently than the SEO channel, in most cases the relative performance of keywords will be similar. If "Denver athletic shoe store" has a high conversion rate in paid search, it is likely to have a higher than average conversion rate in SEO as well, even if the rates are not identical.

More importantly, by tearing down silos, online marketers will advance overall business goals instead of focusing on isolated metrics. The metrics they're tracking will be the metrics that matter -- those that have an effect on the entire company rather than just the marketing team.

Share insights across channels

The benefits of defining your business through keywords don't end with online display advertising. Open communication improves the overall marketing strategy. Brands should be managing their SEO, SEM, display, email, and social media campaigns holistically, sharing insights from one channel with the others. SEO and PPC are a natural, but insights from these two disciplines can benefit social strategy, email marketing, and display advertising. Insights aren't confined to a single channel, as the effect of incremental improvements is magnified over several channels.

For example, the PPC team might find that the term "luxury cars Los Feliz" performs better than "car dealers Los Angeles." That knowledge can be used to influence SEO strategy, social, and content marketing. By knowing how consumers define and categorize a business, marketers can shape how their company is perceived across channels.

Humans have to level with their fellow humans and realize that at the end of the day, they're not talking to a machine; they're talking to people. Machines are a means -- not an end -- to a successful marketing program.

Michael Mothner is the founder and CEO of Wpromote
 
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