6 Huge Marketing Pivots You Might Have To Make In The Next 12 Months
Columnist Neil Patel explains what steps you should be taking over the next year to adapt to a quickly evolving marketing landscape.
At the beginning of each new year, you see a bunch of articles on marketing “trends” for the upcoming year — things that are supposedly changing that you have to know about.
The time to adapt is now — at the very time you recognize the changes. I’ve written this article because change is going on right now, and you need to know about it.
The first step is awareness. The second step is action. During the course of the next year, you should give serious attention to making the following marketing shifts. Doing so could save your business from decline or boost you to a new level of power and success.
1. Fire Your SEO Agency
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not dead, despite what some pundits may proclaim. SEO is changing.
It is critical that every marketer be aware of what the SEO changes are and how they affect the marketing landscape. Unfortunately, some marketers conflate change with death, and they tell the world about it. And there are many SEO practitioners who insist on doing things the old way, even though the old way is extremely risky.
This is why you might need to fire your SEO agency — if they’re doing things the old way.
Here are the telltale signs that your SEO agency might be hurting rather than helping your business (I’ve explained these points in depth in an article on Search Engine Land.).
• Your SEO agency is doing things on your behalf, but they don’t explain what it is or how they’re doing it. When an SEO agency is transparent about their process and practices, they earn your trust. When they refuse to disclose their techniques and practices, they are suspect.
• Your link profile begins to gain more harmful backlinks. You should be monitoring your link profile. If you notice an increase in the number of low-quality links, you have every right to question your SEO agency about it.
• The SEO agency doesn’t inform you about algorithm changes. The agency must stay up-to-date on Google’s algorithm changes. If your SEO agency doesn’t take the effort to tell you about Penguin, Panda, Pigeon, or Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm, then they’re not serving you as they should be.
• They don’t give you data. SEO is all about the data. You should expect your agency to provide an accurate way for you to measure your SERP rankings, traffic, and other SEO KPIs.
• They don’t provide strategy. Some SEO agencies and individuals simply work through a prefabricated task list of things to do on your website. This may look and feel like SEO, but it’s not the most effective way of doing things.
Why not? Because SEO is a strategy, not a list of techniques. Optimization starts with uncovering the problems and then developing solutions. Anything short of this is a waste of time and money.
• They do just one thing. “SEO” has become a blanket term for “digital marketing.” An “SEO agency” may concentrate on creating content. Or they may employ a team of SEO-savvy developers who can remediate technical elements of your site’s SEO.
There are many facets of SEO, and the company that does all of them well is rare. Seek out agencies that can provide a breadth of SEO strategy for you, not merely work on a single, isolated component of SEO.
Here’s the bottom line: SEO is changing. You’ve got to change with it. Don’t rely on outdated tricks or old-school techniques to gain traction in the SERPs. If you’re going to “do SEO,” do it right.
Keep up with current standards, and make sure your service providers do the same.
2. Quit Link Building
I could have bundled this point with the previous one, but I want to make it a bigger deal. It deserves its own section.
“Link building” is one of those polarizing terms. When you hear it, you might recoil with horror or salivate with eagerness, depending on your experience.
To some, link building is a black-hat technique that will get your site penalized. To others, link building is nothing more than the tame and reputable practice of content marketing.
I want to warn against the link building of yesteryear. Often, such link building included indiscriminately submitting your site to directories or duplicating articles on content farms with links back to your site. These methods had their heyday, but now, they will earn you penalties, not higher ranking.
3. Ignore The Best Practices
What’s the worst thing that could happen with your online presence? A PR disaster? A social media fiasco? A site penalty? A traffic decline?
There are plenty of scary things that could jeapordize your digital efforts, but here’s one of the worst things that you could do: Blindly follow someone else’s “best practices.”
Business professionals glibly spew out “best practices,” assuming and believing that these practices will grow a business. But who decided which practices are best? Who says that they will work for your business? What benchmarks are there for success? How do you prove “bestness?”
“Best practices” may ignore the most fundamental rule of marketing: Know your customer. Someone’s arbitrary best practice might actually be the worst practice for your particular website, industry, niche and audience.
The fact is, there are no such things as universal best practices. There are only best practices for your website.
Where do these “best practices” come from?
- Articles on popular websites. Don’t believe or act on everything you read.
- List-based advice that tells you about what you must do — e.g., “15 Things Guaranteed To Boost Conversions.”
- Carte blanche recommendations drawn from some other industry or niche.
I encourage you to read widely and test eagerly. Don’t blindly follow best practices simply because they are labeled as such.
Stop trying all the best practices. What works for one business might not work for yours. Feel free to ignore the best practices and act based on your own data.
4. Do Conversion Optimization
If you’re unaware of conversion rate optimization (CRO), or if you haven’t yet used conversion optimization on your website, now is the time to start.
Most marketers have been slaving away on search optimization, thinking that more traffic will bring more revenue. Conversion optimization says, “Let’s take that traffic that you already have and make more conversions.”
Search traffic doesn’t create customers. Conversion optimization promises to turn traffic into conversions.
How does it work? It all comes down to testing. Testing compares two versions of a website, then implements the one that has higher conversions. By testing consistently, intentionally and carefully, CROs gradually lift a website’s conversion rate higher.
Why is conversion rate optimization growing right now? Because the cost of marketing is rising.
Most marketing methods are labor-intensive. Just think about how much time and effort it takes to write an article or develop an infographic. Conversion rate optimization isn’t cheap, of course, but it generally produces a higher ROI than other marketing methods.
5. Build Your Personal Brand
In the minds of some people, personal branding is nothing more than “thought leadership,” warmed up in the microwave and served under a different name.
Thought leadership is not personal branding. True, you may develop some level of thought leadership (whatever that is) from your personal branding efforts. But they aren’t the same thing.
Personal branding is foundational. It is the basis of your digital identity. Personal branding involves developing your online persona. When you do so thoroughly and effectively, it catapults you from workforce anonymity to niche-based popularity.
No longer are you simply a contributor or a worker — a producer without a voice. Instead, you become a person with a platform. You’re able to leverage the force of your brand to attract business, form relationships, strengthen a business brand, shape the industry, and make stuff happen.
Over the past decade, I’ve been blown away by the sheer power that personal branding can bring. My own personal brand, even though it’s relatively small compared with some others, has funneled millions of dollars into my various businesses.
Businesses ebb and flow, launch and fail, build and rebuild. But you — you’re the one who controls what you do, how do you it, and what happens. If you have a strong personal brand, you will be successful for the long term.
6. Pretend Google Doesn’t Exist
Eventually, we’re going to reach a point where search is driven less by the engines (I’m looking at you, Google.) and more by social interaction.
Wait a second. Maybe we’re already seeing the decline. The mighty Google itself shows signs of a gradual long-term decline:
It’s not as if Google is losing market share to a competitor. All the major search engines are slipping.
What’s the story behind the data? It’s a trend, and it suggests a pivot you should make. The trend is that search engines are declining. The pivot you should make is to explore alternative marketing channels.
Pretending Google doesn’t exist is hard. Google is gargantuan. However, there are other methods of marketing that sidestep its enormity. Find those methods — the ones that work for your niche and your audience — and you’ll find yourself on top by the time we reach the tipping point.
The best marketers are the ones who can pivot, switch tactics, change methods, and adapt to an undulating landscape.
How does someone do this? It comes down to education. If you can educate yourself about how and where the industry is changing, then you will be able to make the personal and professional changes that will earn success.
The question is not whether or not marketing is changing. It is. That’s a fact. The question is, What is changing? More importantly, the question you ought to be asking is, How can I adapt to the changes?
What do think? What’s changing in marketing, and what are you doing to adapt?