I have been to Milan last week to speak at an international conference for the first time. This is a huge achievement for myself and my career. I was very excited to attend this event and felt very lucky to be given this opportunity by Chairman Sante J. Achille. I have met conference veterans such as Jean-Francois Verville and Chiara Terribili, helping me along the way. I have also felt thrilled to meet some of the most inspiring personalities I have learnt so much from, like Simo Ahava, Rand Fishkin and Oli Gardner.
The problems with digital marketing
There is only one king in digital...it's not just the user, it's not just the content, to refer to the mantra of "Content is King" by Bill Gatesian. That would be great, to have an Internet that thinks about the user, which should associated to a person. That would be a great step forward in our field.
It would be great to see the digital marketing job as trying to impress users and giving them experiences, rather than simply content or hacks. Maybe I am being too romantic. Build a nice product, they say, and people will come! Unfortunately, I know only too well that it doesn't work like this. You need marketing, hacks, technology, ads to drive people to the website and you need to do this with tight budget constraints. In other words, you need to work with Google to squeeze as much as possible out of the search engine in order to send you free traffic.
1- Google is still dominating the field
So who is the King of Digital?
It's Google. This is the sad truth. Okay, this might not be totally a bad news, but still...
The giant search engine is dominating the field as never before and those who say "SEO is dead" obviously don't know what they are talking about.
Honestly, this is my biggest problem with digital marketing. I have NEVER been an SEO consultant, I have never tried to impress anyone, my co-workers or my clients to optimise for SEO. I have never tried to write about it to enter the big circle of those writing about SEO just because it's a cool topic. I have tried to avoid it as much as I can, but SEO came to me from all different directions and I couldn't avoid it. This is due to the fact that business owners and website owners think that the only way to bring people to their websites for free is to squeeze Big G. How can we try to persuade them otherwise?
My presentation at SMXL Milan was about improving the user experience on the home page of a website. During that project I was the analytics guy, not the SEO guy. My job was to make it easier to surf the website for people, not for search engines. But I have stumbled upon SEO because I have noticed that Google rewarded us with more traffic, 50% more traffic to the home page. So I have asked myself: How on earth is this possible?
The answer is on the presentation so go and read it please, as I don't want to give you any spoiler alert.
2- Confusion with definitions
The definition of digital marketing incorporates all channels: SEO, affiliates, email, PPC, display, media buys, social media. Instead, the industry introduced more meat on the barbecue: I have started to hear about Growth Hacking being a channel....that's madness!
Also anything that has a word "optimisation" in it, is for me manipulation. So for me these would be the right terms:
Search Engine Optimisation should become "Obeying to Google (and Bing) rules".
Conversion Optimisation should become "User Experience Improvement".
Landing Page Optimisation might be instead "Facilitating Conversions".
PPC Optimisation should be "How to spend less and get more from PPC".
Growth Hacking, what does this even mean?
Okay, jokes aside, maybe one day someone will change the names and make things more clear to everyone. And I will be thankful to whoever will be.
3- Users are not at the centre of attention
Okay, I can hear some of you saying: "what? We are nothing without the users". But I hope I have got your attention with my super amazing click-bait title.
This is exactly the problem with the traditional approach on digital marketing, we focus too much on the website, on the search engines, on the technology, on the latest hack and we don't focus on the humans. But the web has been built for the humans by the humans and this mission hasn't changed yet.
So please don't try to change it in favour of this or that tool or technology. As Steve Jobs said in a famous speech in 1997, when he took back control of Apple: "Don't start building a product from the technology, start building it from the user and then find the right technology to give the best experience".
The same should be applied to anything we do online, we should work for humans and, believe it or not, this is what Google has been telling you all along. And this is why my case study at SMXL was about User Experience primarily and why Google rewarded us with more traffic. I have neve said during that project "I can't wait to send more traffic to the website".
I have always said to myself "I can't wait to give our users a better experience on the website".
And got 50% more organic traffic.
4- SEO Analytics is still very difficult
Calculating dwell time, pogo sticking, user (not session) time on page, user (not sessions) bounce rates and engagement are metrics that we need in SEO to measure performance but they are difficult to measure.
So we make investments on digital marketing and SEO without being able to measure it properly. I don't even see many efforts from marketers, consultants and agencies trying to find a better way to measure their efforts. Maybe it's because if they measure better they become accountable for their efforts? Not always our campaigns are successful, but if the client is happy with whatever measure we use to give them results, than who cares?
WRONG! IT'S A TERRIBLE WAY TO WORK!
I hope marketers and agencies become more precise in reporting anything related to SEO to their clients and bosses. This will only makes us better marketers in the long run, as we always strive to become better at what we do.
5- There is a huge lack of knowledge in data analytics
Say that you want to measure dwell time and calculate how long people spend on your website after coming from Google. I have noticed lots of marketers don't know yet that concepts like Dwell Time even exist, let alone that can be calculated. And where do you learn all this stuff? Which books do you need to buy? Which blogs do you need to read? How do you even know you can do something in the first place?
This is one of the reasons my blog exists, to make this information available to as many people as possible.
Now down to the opportunities
1- Marketers like to share their knowledge, and impress
It has been absolutely one the most interactive experiences to attend a conference. The amount of learning you can grasp from 2 days conference is equivalent to reading blogs, listening to podcasts and reading books for 1 month. The difference is that conferences discuss the latest and the greatest of each topics, which means you don't have to waste time looking for the answers online, you have got the experts telling you what to do, how to do it and how to master it.
Some of the most inspiring personalities are also very nice and approachable guys and girls. You can literally grab them and speak to them anytime after their speech.
2- You don't need a formal qualification at all costs
Virtually anybody can become a brilliant and successful marketer. As long as you build your own portfolio and you show your skills, the future is bright. There are many opportunities to share your knowledge in digital marketing both online and at conferences and the job market is literally booming.
I have received my Master Degree in Digital Marketing from Portsmouth University in 2011 and I have to say that only 10% of what I have learnt is actually used in my daily work. 90% of what I do I have learnt it working for companies, clients, getting qualified and attending conferences. The MA was a great way to be introduced into the job market, but I have graduated mostly to increase my self confidence and add a good qualification on my CV.
What I have noticed is that it's far more difficult and impactful for your career to publish for, say, SEMRush than to get a MA in digital marketing.
Websites like SEMRush, Smart Insights, CrazyEgg, Megalytic, MarketingProfs, HubSpot, that have millions of views monthly, are open to guest posts. It's really difficult to get selected as they receive tens of submissions and pitches every day.
3- The job market is booming
As I said before, the market is booming. Considering a career in digital marketing can become very rewarding both money-wise and from project perspectives.
The graduate salary in the UK is £18,000, which can grow by 10% each year. The most experienced SEO consultants and digital marketers can earn up to £100,000 per year. If you work for yourself you can charge £45/hour and with lots of experience reach £90/hour.
In 2017 the growth of e-commerce was $2.3 trillion in the US alone and this is expected to double by 2021.Half of the world population is on social media, 3.5 billion searches on Google per day. This is what happens on the web every 60 seconds:
I might be pessimistic by nature but I see more problems than opportunities. Or maybe it's because I am a hard worker I tend to focus on big problems that have difficult solutions. Whichever the case, digital marketing is an ever changing field and it will, in my humble opinion, continue to be so. The focus is shifting from traffic grow to traffic analysis and conversion optimisation. As more and more website invest into growing their traffic, it becomes more important to get the most of your current traffic and increase conversions.