The spectrum of digital marketing is vast and wide. Growing digitalisation across the board has driven the creativity of brands and consumers to new heights and fundamentally changed the premise of marketing. Where brand communications were once a one-way street, reminiscent the hypodermic needle model of information dissemination, the reality today is very different.
With an expansive array of channels available to the buying public, brands have been taking their communications online, and with good reason. When we talk digital marketing, we’re exclusively talking about the internet, a communication development on par with the first printed press, or the first televisions. Just think – when were you last without web connectivity for more than a couple of hours? From the phones we don’t leave home without, to the digital assistants such as Alexa and Google Home that keep track of our lives, consumers have never had such constant exposure to brand communications.
It’s precisely because of this that digital marketing has experienced such rapid growth over recent years. During its early days almost 30 years ago, digital marketing was largely thought of as a series of niche channels. Fast forward to today, and it has become one of the prime drivers for business.
One of the main reasons that it serves such a diverse array of purposes to business. Looking to sell products? E-commerce is now one of the most popular ways to purchase, so much so that it’s partly blamed for the decline of the modern high street. Aiming for brand exposure? Social Media Marketing turns the traditional method of building brand equity on its head, instead letting the customer find the brand that suits them. Is your objective to build or protect your brand reputation? Once a mainstay of printed publications, the art of Public Relations is now almost exclusively dedicated to online channels, because that’s where customers are. The impact of digital marketing cannot be overstated, simply because it is without precedent.
Digital platforms for B2B
In comparison to B2C commerce, B2B has been slower to adapt – but is making great headway. Part of the reason that B2B has historically been slower to adopt digital marketing into long-term business strategy is the perceived difference in buying habits between shoppers online, browsing websites in a personal capacity, and purchasing departments and decision-makers within companies. B2B has clung to more traditional modes of marketing for a long time and there is certainly still a place for offline promotion – indeed the growing ubiquity of digital marketing has forced the hand of some contrarian businesses, who actively stick to ‘old-school’ offline channels to stand out – but the B2B landscape is very different today, the key decision-makers are increasingly of the generation that have grown up digitally native, and accept online marketing as a credible source of information, in much the same way that previous generations of decision-makers valued word of mouth recommendations of niche industry publications. Those same shoppers browsing online are the same people taking up executive positions within companies.
To thrive in today’s competitive trade market, B2B or otherwise, a robust digital marketing plan must be built into the core of the business strategy – it is simply too important to ignore. One facet of digital marketing that B2B businesses are still catching up on is SEO.
What is SEO? Why is it important?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, considers the very start of the purchase decision – finding information. Online, this is through search engines – and almost exclusively Google. The goal of SEO is to increase the rank of a website, moving it further to the front of the SERP, or Search Engine Results Page. To see the potential behind SEO investment, Google alone receives 63,000 queries per second, equating to 5.6 billion searches globally per day. Research from search media intelligence agency Joal House shows that search engines account for 93% of all website visits, and businesses that show up on the first page of results receive 92% of consumer traffic. With digital marketing mediums showing no sign of slowing down, the business opportunities behind SEO are clear.
It speaks to one of the core principals of the modern marketing process – go where the customers are. Digital space is prime real estate for businesses because users are there electively and the dialogue can be opened very easily. As yesterdays casual web users become today’s procurement specialists, B2B is finding that digital marketing is awash with important opportunity.
Over a number of years as digital platforms have developed through infancy to maturity, marketing professionals have seen PR and SEO as two marketing disciplines with limited crossover. That, however, is no longer the case, and PR can help support SEO performance. The reason is a seismic shift in the way search engines make decisions.
Content is king
From the dawn of SEO as a digital marketing practice, there have been two central ways to affect performance. The first is back-office or meta-data. This is a series of keywords built into the framework of the website, not generally visible to the end user. This approach was originally the most important, with the website telling the search engine what it is about and who it is for. The second main type of SEO is content crawl. With this approach, search engines run an automated scan of the content that’s on a website and decides for itself what the website is about and who it’s for.
Several major algorithm updates to Google over recent years, such as Penguin and Panda have rendered meta-data all but obsolete in terms of affecting SERP rankings, which means that on-site content, such as web copy, blogs, news and social media content more important than ever. When PR content is optimised and uploaded, it is actively contributing to the SEO performance of that website.
The next major algorithm update will be Florida2. To avoid businesses gaming the system, as with all major updates to search functions, Google has been employing non-disclosure agreements to protect the inner workings. However, many SEO professionals believe that the update will change the discourse and how Google reacts to queries.
Currently, when an individual makes a search query, the software takes the phrase verbatim and finds websites that match this content or variations of it. Currently, Google asks ‘What are these websites saying?’ and finding results that match. Following Florida2, it is believed that Google will instead ask ‘What is the user asking?’ and refers back to the website records it holds in order to find the answer. In essence, Google will decide what the question is, not what the answer is. For brands, this means that onsite content plays an extremely important role in order to be that correct answer. Once Florida2 is rolled out, the verbatim text of a website will determine its relevancy, and online PR plays an important role in that.
It’s because of the development in search engine behaviour that content marketing has been thrust into the spotlight. Outstanding written content engages, inspires and informs, but in today’s digital space it can also guide behaviours and decision-making.
The field of public relations has always played a key role in developing brand equity, which in turn has additional knock-on benefits to a business. PR can be harmonious with SEO, and for B2B businesses that want to build and protect a reputation both in the real-world and digital space, it’s never been more accessible.
For more information, please contact PHD Marketing Ltd on [email protected]