Understand and embrace the importance of content strategy as a foundational element of your SEO and online marketing campaign. Furthermore, know and understand the difference between high-quality and low-quality content. Too many business owners publish just about anything because they think they need to publish tons of content to perform well in search results. But the only kind of content that will help you is high-quality content. I outlined what high-quality content is in my article at Forbes, The 12 Essential Elements of High-Quality Content.
A good friend of mine Bofu (Rob Adler) once said to me "Only trust the data that you see yourself, that you caused yourself, otherwise it's hearsay." Those words have been stuck in my head ever since. I'm not totally against SEO Bloggers, but I am against SEO talks with no data - so when you hear or see something - even from an "influential individual", don't take it at face value. Test it yourself, and gain your own data, and then draw your own conclusion. Otherwise you'll be running around trying to install SSL on a blog cause some SEO gurus stated even though they showed no data. That's the philosophy I rank by.
I think the most important advice for digital marketers is to focus on problem solving content.
Too many focus on discounts, offers, flashy content or trying to capture our attention. They should instead focus on the pain points and address them - that will turn me into a brand ambassador, not just another customer.
I think it's all about honesty. We've gone a long way from selling door-to-door fountain-of-youth elixirs or cancer sticks in magazines. We're searching for a connection, something tangible. I see it on TV with ads of real looking people, not supernatural models, with the constant need for valuable content, and the ever growing craving for not made-out-of-plastic products & businesses. So the same goes for digital marketing, in my opinion: Tell it like it is, offer real value and be personal. SEO is not dead, it's just evolving. It's not about manipulating and forcing bots and spiders to do your will, it's about doing more and being better at it; Giving clients something worth coming back for, be it a website or a store. Build an honest site, offer an honest product, and you're on the right road.
Take everything you read with a grain of salt and test, test, test! Quick shout-out to Robert Adler, who drilled this mentality into me.
The digital marketing vertical has an overwhelmingly large social and blogging scene and there are lots of great people out there who now make a living by providing information about or helping others with operating in this vertical and its respective niches.
There's also a whole load of misinformation out there. My favorite example this week has to be this article from VentureBeat.
Those ubiquitous sales statistics that we've all seen at least once before? Turns out those are crap. Not even inaccurate - just completely made up.
Exactly what is it about Johnny-Blogger that makes you trust them so much? Is it the way he writes to you? The sweet emails he sends? You're reading a marketing blog - you just got marketed to.
Never forget that there are plenty of bloggers who make a large chunk of their income from their blog and this introduces an entirely new dimension to their motivations and decision-making. If you need an example of what it looks like when a blogger eschews actually helping their audience for the sake of maximizing blog revenue you can check out what Matthew Woodward's blog has become over the past few months.
Take the time to test and verify the different strategies and techniques you read about. Not only will this save you a whole lot of time and pain down the road but you actually may learn a lot just by walking through another person's processes, including the ones that don't work.
My advice for online marketers moving forward would be transparency. There are way too many snake oil salesman giving all of us that actually know what they're doing a bad name. I know I have lost deals because of transparency, but I have also lost headaches that would have ensued had I over-promised simply for the sale. Know your field, give reasonable expectations to your clients, and don't oversell your abilities. Stay In Your Lane.
Just like 2014, I think content is still going to be big in 2015 and beyond. The only difference is that you need to start crafting content that is reaching the right customer. This means that content not only needs to be accessible and easy to read on any platform (make your site responsive, if it isn't already), but heavily personalized/niche content will make your ideas stand out.
For example, if you're a sock company, don't just put up a blog post about the types of socks you offer. Do a long post on the history of the argyle pattern or how dress socks were invented. You can also create content crafted around your target audience's interests. So, if they are buying designer socks from you, chances are they are going to find content about seasonal clothing trends or inspiration posts for "the perfect groomsmen suit" interesting.
My advice for digital marketers - diversify your marketing portfolio. We're seeing a trend in which the various Internet marketing channels are transitioning into combined, more integrated disciplines such as "content marketing" and "inbound marketing". Relying on a single platform is risky and proper integration yields better results. The online space is ever-evolving and marketers can really capitalize on the novelty of this. Making sure that you are marketing from all different angles and all different avenues is your best bet. I also think that overtime, the lines between b2c and b2b marketing will become more blurred as a result.
I am a firm believer in telling a story through online branding. For example, an industrial tool company seems pretty flat at first glance but what if those were the tools that you used to build your home? Or worked on a backyard project with your dad when you where a kid? Tapping into human emotion is crucial to marketing a service or product online. It's also vital to talk about subjects that create a conversation that evokes experience, commonality, or awareness. Blending video and social media is a real platform for any socially driven concept. At the end of the day this is a business, but with the appropriate branding you can create a lasting impression, viral campaign, or create the vehicle to sell you product. A great concept in conjunction with aggressive online marketing is a sure-fire way to create a resounding presence and awareness in your market space.
Start marketing your content marketing: the most successful content will be paired with promotion.
The good news is that more organizations are investing in content as a marketing channel than ever before. But with more content comes more noise. The standout organizations will look beyond the "if I build it, they will come" trap that relies on serendipitous discovery. SEO will only take content so far. Consider a multi-channel strategy that includes influencer outreach, paid advertising, and repurposed content for targeted distribution platforms.
When I was asked to participate in this expert roundup, I immediately thought of another one in which I participated recently. We were asked to share our "three top tools for increasing blog traffic." Everyone shared various apps or services. Except for Rand Fishkin of Moz. Here was his answer:
I immediately knew Rand was right. All the tools in the world won't help us succeed if we fail at the human dimension.
So when asked for the most important advice I have for online marketers moving forward, my response now is that you can do nothing more important than work on your own head and heart.
Cultivate a humility that enables you to always learn from others, especially your critics. Place a desire to serve your customer, prospects, and even people who will never be either, above all other priorities. Be realistic about what you are able to do today, and set your eyes on the next step to knowing and doing more.
Now more than ever, online marketing will be won by those who win the hearts and minds of their audience by fighting the good fight for their own hearts and minds.