plane triangle formation in the sky showing good use of strategy and planning

SEO and PPC Together: Its the right thing to do.

Advertising for search traffic WHILE investing in longer term strategies is intelligent budgetary spend.

Being a dedicated agency, we often have the opportunity to work with many different agencies throughout our client partnerships. Sometimes we will build a client’s website but someone else does the design. Sometimes we’re working with clients on design and brand tenets for their marketing departments to roll out.  Those type of situations work very well because the functional behavior of the end product doesn’t depend upon only the design work or roll out. In fact, in these situations, each agency can challenge the other to ultimately produce a better result.

One scenario, however, where a multiple agency solution may not produce the best result is when PPC and SEO efforts are split. Though it may seem that the two efforts break apart nicely, the fact is, they are really inseparable aspects of search marketing. I have sat through all day seminars and given relentless trainings on why PPC and SEO should be managed together, but for this post, I’d like to keep it simple.

When your SEO and PPC efforts are handled by different agencies, you can easily end up paying for terms that already rank well organically – which ends up being wasted spend. You pay more because those agencies are not communicating robustly. Further, PPC can be used to quickly test the effectiveness of specific keywords. If a particular keyword happens to be attracting a lot of clicks, that could be a great candidate for some SEO work. If two agencies are working on either, you may never surface those opportunities. After all, who wants to pay for clicks that could be obtained for (relatively) free?

Strategically aligning your PPC and SEO efforts allows you to convert paid clicks to free ones! Ideally, we not only want to use PPC to surface SEO opportunities but maximize opportunity while we make a concerted effort to rank organically for the identified terms. The end goal: stop paying for those clicks. It saves money and ultimately produces a better, longer-term result. PPC and SEO are the yin and yang of search marketing. Together they make a perfect circle.

organizing content with a pad of paper and pen on top of a keyboard

Organizing Web Content

Here at Paramount: we’ve built a lot of websites for almost every kind of company. Without fail, organizing web content is the most challenging part of the process for even our most organized and dedicated clients. With often varying pages of content and more and more elements that are easily forgotten – almost inevitably – there is either too much content or not nearly enough! We’ve created this guide to give you some tips on organizing your website content into a meaningful and productive process. But sorry, you still have to write the content yourself.

Locate Your Assets

The first step in organizing your content is to make sure you take an inventory of everything that is both existing contributions to the new site & those needing to be sourced.

For Example

  • Your Current Website: It can be your best friend. Sometimes all you need to develop NEW content is to refresh what’s already there.
  • Your Search Engine Metrics: At Paramount, before we redesign a client’s website, we have our software “crawl” your site like a search engine would and return a list of all pages, what they stand out for (good or bad) as well as specific on-page SEO Elements. Your current digital footprint shows you where your new content can, or should be the most impactful.
  • Marketing Assets: Look through any and every piece of marketing you’ve ever put out. What messages were most successful and how were they presented? What messaging is your personal or marketing team’s favorite? What presents itself as tired or non-experiential? Combine elements that align with your online and company goals, and ensure those that don’t aren’t anywhere near your content.
  • Images: To show up well on today’s MANY different devices, digital images need to large, high resolution files. Look through old marketing, ask employees, and if you just know finding images is going to be a struggle, there are many places online – paid and free – to find high quality imaging for almost any industry.
  • Inspiration: When starting a new project of any kind, inspiration is truly an asset. In content creation – inspiration is crucial. Look at your competition, go back and read other websites or Facebook pages you’ve connected with or web offers that made you want to buy.

If you’re a new company, with little in terms of marketing materials, or branding statements – don’t be ashamed in looking to your competition, or even other companies you respect for inspiration. You’ll often find you have more at your disposal than you think.

Lay It Out

In whatever way makes the most sense to you, outline your pages into a list. Don’t worry about categorizing yet, just list every Page. If you can only think of subjects right now, that’s fine. Actual titles will come to you. Once you get this list – get that many blank pieces of paper and write your page titles or subject on the top. Use these individual pages for brief descriptions. Organize each page consistently. Think: Title? Check. Image(s)? Check. Copy? Check.

If you’re writing All New Content….

The Power of a Pad & Pencil  (yes, pencil):

Even though we’re a digital agency, you’ll find many of us prefer toting around our pads and pens over a laptop or tablet. Though this may seem counter intuitive to an efficient content writing process – there is something about handwriting that slows our minds down enough to actually think. We don’t get as ahead of ourselves and have more time to stay with our current thought. When you make a mistake (which is reason to use a pencil), use the time it takes you to erase it, to think about what you’re going to write in its place. Slowing your writing process down to a handwriting speed will craft you richer, more relevant content – as well as speed up the creative process in the long run.

If you’re NOT writing all new content….

The Power of your Customers and Colleagues:

Make a notecard for every page you listed. With all of your (even handwritten) cards, go to your colleagues and ask them to organize each card into groups and make notes about what pages are typically grouped together. You’ll quickly start to see that 1) most people group things in similar piles and 2) a few cards always switch between groups, depending on who is grouping them. Once a person has made their groups, have them name each group something they think fits. Maybe after you doctor up the pages a bit, try this with your customers too.

What you’re doing here is trying to understand how different people think of your content. Obviously colleagues may be more biased with how things should be organized based on department, etc. But why did they group “about us” with “history”? If there are cards that people struggle to group together, you may want to consider removing those pages from the site completely. Alternatively, you might want to take the content on those pages and combine it with another page.

If you don’t have the type of customers or colleagues to do this with you, take a look at your current website’s visitor flow. It will show you amazing things about how people get to your site, and where they travel within it once they’re there. You’ll quickly see eliminable pages in addition to content you may not want to change a bit.

Sort it out

After you have your groups named and you know the pages inside each group, you just have to put together the content doc. We just use a spreadsheet to document it all, which allows us to add some on-page elements to each page. It’s a nice way to keep everyone on the same page. When you get to this stage, let us know.

In Summary

Planning your site architecture can be a challenging task – especially when you’re converting legacy content! But, if you begin by taking an inventory and then enlisting the help of your colleagues and customers, you can pretty quickly decide what content should stay and where it should live inside the site.

man on a journey walking in the mountains overlooking a sunset

The User Journey: This Way for Adventure

Welcome to adventure and the world of marketing.

Maybe my son has been watching it too much lately, but as I write this, I can help but think about Sesame Street. So in true analogous fashion: “The word on the street is Monomyth.” Today we’ll be looking at your company’s user journey using the monomyth model.

The term monomyth – coined by the late and world reknowned mythol­o­gist Joseph Camp­bell – is a word used to describe the tendency for literary epics to have congruent story arcs. For our purposes, think of it as the uncommon hero’s common jour­ney. It’s a spe­cific nar­ra­tive pat­tern found time after time in the sto­ries of cul­tures span­ning every con­ti­nent and cen­turies. Think Odysseus, Gilgamesh, Hercules.

They all go through similar yearning, reluctance, acceptance, embarkation, evaluation, and often repetition.

Mar­keters can use the mon­o­myth nar­ra­tive for every­thing from craft­ing brand mes­sag­ing to design­ing user flows, traffic patterns and lead generation.

“The User with a Thousand Faces”

The hero’s jour­ney struc­ture is so famil­iar most of us don’t even notice it. Spiderman, Luke Sky­walker, Nemo, and Kat­niss all under­take the hero’s jour­ney; and so can your audi­ence. In the words of Camp­bell himself:

hero ven­tures forth from the world of com­mon day into a region of super­nat­ural won­der: fab­u­lous forces are there encoun­tered and a deci­sive vic­tory is won: the hero comes back from this mys­te­ri­ous adven­ture with the power to bestow boons on his fel­low man.

Camp­bell calls this uni­ver­sal story “the hero with a thou­sand faces.” When faced with the chal­lenge of cre­at­ing com­pelling cus­tomer expe­ri­ences, remem­ber that your users have a thou­sand faces too. The hero’s jour­ney isn’t about tak­ing a one-size-fits-all approach to con­ver­sion paths; it’s about tak­ing a deeply res­o­nant nar­ra­tive and uniquely apply­ing it to each user segment.

Have your User’s Choose Their Own Journey.

Neil Patrick Harris, of “Doogie Howser, MD” lore (and many acclaimed roles since) has recently published an autobiography in which his readers can choose their own path through the story of his life. In this interactive age full of mobile apps, video games, and subscriptions to streaming movies, what a genius way to encourage engagement with something as mundane as a plain ol’ book.  The subtle irony is that almost all of the prepublication marketing was done by offering advertisements online. It fed fans multiple interactive ad experiences and trailers. Through this variety of enticement, a broader audience was able to be reach, assuredly impacting book sales (even if it is the digital kind).

Opti­miz­ing mul­ti­ple, unique user flows is an exer­cise in big pic­ture think­ing. You’ll drill down into the end­less details of test­ing land­ing page graph­ics, reg­is­tra­tion form word­ing, email tim­ing, and call-to-action place­ment later. First you need to put your­self in your users’ shoes and map out the unique journeys to be found within your marketing.

The goal of con­ver­sion opti­miza­tion is to move vis­i­tors from their first point of con­tact (might be an email link or land­ing page) to pur­chase, sub­scrip­tion, or mem­ber­ship. To trans­late this into the lan­guage of the hero’s jour­ney, we want to move them from their first “call to adven­ture” to a tri­umphant return.

How can you put vis­i­tors in charge of their jour­neys (i.e., their paths through your site) so they become deeply invested in your company story?

Three Stages of the User’s Journey

The stages of the hero’s jour­ney as outlined by Joseph Campbell have strik­ing par­al­lels to the con­ver­sion cycle. I will intro­duce the three stages today.

“Call to Adventure”

In the hero’s journey, the main character is living a seemingly ordinary life when suddenly an event happens to the hero, or he or she receives new information that changes everything.  This infor­ma­tion is a calling our hero to set out into the unknown in search of some­thing more. (Think Luke Skywalker when he comes back to his Aunt and Uncle’s farm to find it destroyed, and his family murdered.)

As dig­i­tal mar­keters, it is our goal to issue a call to action that would change how your cus­tomers see your brand.

Here’s a tangible example: For Mother’s Day, RedEn­ve­lope cre­ated a #What­MomWants cam­paign and part­nered with blog­gers to write spon­sored posts fea­tur­ing $500 gift card give­aways. Blog read­ers were asked to leave com­ments, fol­low RedEn­ve­lope on social media accounts, tweet with the hash­tag, and visit the company’s web­site. This call to action offered strong incen­tive for a sim­ple first step from vis­i­tors, and acti­vated a whole net­work of pop­u­lar lifestyle blog­gers to rep the brand. Fol­low­ers of Whoorl trust her take on every­thing from beauty to par­ent­ing, and the #What­MomWants cam­paign got the blog­ger to help shape how peo­ple see RedEnvelope.

When vis­i­tors encounter your brand for the first time, your con­tent should attempt to cast their lives and needs in a new light, com­ing almost like a rev­e­la­tion, and not merely infor­ma­tion. The user may refuse your call at first, but if you can strike them with a bit of insight, or intro­duce them to a new solu­tion, your mes­sage will stick with them.

“Ini­ti­a­tion”

After the hero accepts the call to adventure, they are commonly challenged by a journey of trials. These tests often initiate the hero, and annoint him/her, through new experiences, in a new version of their identity.

This may seem counter intuitive for my analogy, because no marketer has aspirations of challenging their customers. In fact, it is sort of our job description to minimize the challenges of connecting with our brands. Nevertheless, in this case, we as marketers are not actually installing those challenges because all visitors already bring their own with them on their journey. Cautious users may need you to help them overcome a per­ceived risk in the con­ver­sion process. Oth­er users may have long­stand­ing rela­tion­ships with your competitors and may need to be persuaded away. Still oth­ers may even debat­e the value of your prod­uct or ser­vice with themselves or with another decision maker in the household or company.

An AWESOME Example: XAPP Media developed an inno­v­a­tive way to help dig­i­tal radio lis­ten­ers over­come the con­ver­sion fric­tion in audio ads. Typically, when you hear a radio ad, you have to stop what you’re doing and get to a store or com­puter to take a next step. With Web radio, you may even see a pop-up link to click on the radio station’s site. But the challenge is: most peo­ple are lis­ten­ing through head­phones con­nected to their smart­phones, which are likely in their pock­ets. Solution? XAPP cre­ated “voice clicks.” When an ad plays, the lis­tener can say a prompted phrase and be imme­di­ately con­nected to a down­load, coupon, call, or purchase—hands free.

Use various chal­lenges as an oppor­tu­nity for ini­ti­a­tion. If you suc­cess­fully assist your cus­tomer on this journey, you will win their loyalty. This means you need to anticipate user challenges, and step in when they need you most.

“Tri­umphant Return”

After dis­cov­er­ing a greater knowl­edge and the success and joy that comes with that discovery, the hero often returns from the jour­ney to the place of origin. By returning, entirely changed, back to their ordinary life, they can share the lessons and rewards with oth­ers. Basic point here: Give your cus­tomers an expe­ri­ence so awesome, they’ll want to share it with their friends.

The tri­umphant return is an impor­tant part of EVERY user’s jour­ney. Online, your users should ALWAYS have an opportunity to review their experience, send you feedback, share a promotion with connections, post to social platforms, and more. In this phase, users become your nenw-world word-of-mouth; effectively ini­ti­at­ing new customers into jour­neys of their own.

Sharing Epic Jour­neys Lead to Truly Fruitful Bonds

When strategizing and mapping possible user jour­neys, try each jour­ney your­self. Start with where exposure to your brand starts, and attempt to experience those first doubts or chal­lenges through the eyes of your user. End with the reward. Users’ expe­ri­ences should cul­mi­nate in some­thing meaningful and worth sharing with their friends. Take vis­i­tors on an adven­ture narrative, from start to fin­ish, and you’ll certainly forge a deep bond with them.

In the following few posts I’ll explore the smaller (though just as impor­tant) details that hap­pen within each stage of the user’s journey.