Online marketing needs convergence push

Search is the point of entry into the online world, it’s where your users and customers look for you

01 Gulf News

It wasn’t so long ago that online marketers used to argue that offline and online activities needed to be aligned and integrated — while this is still true, some companies forget that the wide array of online activities also need to be fully aligned.

According to Teradata Corporation in a 2013 survey, on average marketers in Europe constantly manage more than seven different channels and more than one quarter (26 per cent) of marketers are co-ordinating customer experience across 10 different channels.

This year promises to be one for online marketing convergence as consumers move online and stay online, all the time. In response, online marketing, digital marketing and social media in the region are rapidly moving to the mainstream as more organisations of every shape and size finally recognise the value of the platforms and the risk of not being there.

The same Teradata survey noted that of the top 10 channels that European marketers are investing in, the top seven are digital. More digital buzz means more marketing budget in sectors from retail to hospitality. But there’s a catch.

Everyone is building their own virtual silos as digital marketing specialists compete for their slice of the online pie, leaving clients to figure out what the pie should actually look like.

So, your web designer is not connected to your SEO and social media teams; your SEO agency is not connected to your SE marketing, social media and email marketing teams.

Fragmentation

This fragmentation within the online marketing sector is holding back the development of the industry and confusing clients, whilst delivering sub-optimal results. There may be some crossover between specialists but not much in our experience.

Clients are being left to struggle with managing their growing roster of online agencies, while the digital marketing community is actually busy building barriers to entry; clients don’t like complexity and so digital marketing becomes an issue — if it looks too difficult to set it up, manage it and measure it, clients just won’t do it. And who can blame them?

If you are a client coming into digital online marketing for the first time, where do you start, given that there is no easy, obvious point of entry? The smart place to look first is where your customers start to look for you.

So, logically, the search begins with ‘search’.

Search is the point of entry into the online world; it’s where your users and customers look for you on Google or Bing and especially when they want something — and generally, they want it instantly.

Search is the customers’ roadmap and like any map, you need to be clearly and immediately visible when it counts the most. But this is not as straightforward as it used to be.

Recent changes by companies such as Google, who use social media platforms to determine how visible companies are online, mean that this silo approach to online marketing is no longer sustainable; success in search is now to some extent a function of success in social media, which is helping to drive convergence in long term online marketing methodology.

Google recently launched a brand new algorithm called Hummingbird, which is already affecting the search engine optimisation (SEO) rankings of more than 15 per cent of the world’s websites. The change is also hitting the SEO industry, which aims to push its clients to the top of Google online searches by the 540 million monthly users of Google platforms, and highlights and rewards good content and social media connections.

This is the first Google algorithm re-write since 2001 and changes the rules of the SEO platform market, which Forrester Research estimates to be worth $1.6 billion globally by 2016. Google’s announcement of Hummingbird was a clear game-changer for the SEO industry.

Add website optimisation to this mix — because it now plays a more important role than ever in terms of SEO — and the quality of the website build and content becomes another major ranking factor in SEO, resulting in another heave within the industry towards convergence.

Website developers, content marketers and search engine optimisers now have no choice but to work closely together to produce the optimum online marketing results for a business.

This may not be an easy set of relationships for a client to manage.

The better solution is for the industry to take the initiative and converge services into a single integrated online marketing offer, with genuine expertise across all the digital marketing areas, ensuring that online activities are fully aligned and working towards a strategic goal for the client.

Then, all a client has to do is to get the agency to ensure website build and quality, the overall quality of content on the web relating to the business — including social media visibility and engagement — which in turn impacts search.

If the digital marketing process starts with search, it ends there too — as it impacts a business’ revenue from qualified lead generation.

— The writer is CEO of Dubai-based Nexa, a digital marketing agency.

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