SEM and Design: Why the disconnect?

Far too often, we come across brands that consider design and Search Engine Marketing two separate projects, and the resulting pages fail to contribute to the end goal: achieving leads. The three primary reasons a designer neglects to consider SEM and SEO prior to designing an entire website, a single page, or collateral material for a site are: Resources, Process, and Values.

SEM and Design

1. Failure to Acquire Resources

This is a difficult issue to address because typically, search engine marketing and search engine optimization are believed to be additional components to a website or acceptable tactics for consideration after the website is finished. In reality, search engine strategy should be considered in the very beginning, with data (the voice of the customer) driving initial decisions and strategy. If thought about and handled in the correct way, the direction and certainty from keyword research provides a specific, linear path to visual success in a page’s design. Strategy and need should become dramatically less ambiguous, thus reducing the need for revisions based on visual messaging.

2. Preferred Design Process is Flawed

Regardless of the craft or expertise, injecting a new element to a seasoned professional’s process can be difficult, especially when that craft requires a creative and emotional connection to produce success. The larger the corporation the designer supports, the more levels of approval, therefore increasing the difficulty or likelihood of implementing data like keyword research. Designers and writers alike are communicators of ideas. These professionals of messaging have struggled with search since its inception of mainstream marketing. I’ve often heard that these communicators battle with the idea of a machine or data telling them what to say or how to design, but the irony is that it’s the targeted customers asking the questions. It is the customers who drive that data, the very people to whom we are supposed to be marketing, messaging, and ultimately helping.

3. Perception of Design’s Value is Skewed

The value of design is often dependent upon the specific brand and the artist. It’s a way to tap into the emotional elements of what the brand stands for and how the brain wishes to connect with this consumer. While some may argue that data creates interruption or unnecessary barriers of communication, these strategic initiatives cannot be ignored because they represent the voice of the customer. Search marketing and search engines have evolved drastically; there’s no longer a need, nor should there be a practice or recommendation, to oversaturate a page with unnecessary vernacular exclusively using data based on voice of the customer. In the same way every brand has style guides specifying which fonts or colors to use, customer-produced data from the search engines can also be guidelines, acting as a litmus for consideration when developing websites for developing content when designing landing pages and designing messaging.

How to fix it

There are a few possible remedies to three interrupters of incorporating search marketing into the world of design. Step 1: Provide the necessary information with the project assignment. Keyword research and visitor data isn’t an afterthought. It should be baked into the visual concepts, then tested through behavior online. Step 2: Develop a process to incorporate Search data into the design. This action is as simple as validating data and desired outcomes during the rounds of revision to ensure that all the essential communication points and consumer needs are being met. Step 3: Create search marketing guidelines. These guidelines can be incorporated into the value of the brand thought leader, educator, or advocate. There’s a way to align how people search and what they are searching for into the basic guidelines of how you communicate with people online.

Meet Michael Zandstra

This week, we welcomed Michael Zandstra to the team as Senior Product Engineer. His experience in application programming and network architecture will help us continue to lead clients to success online. Read on to learn more about Michael’s background and interests.

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Tell us about yourself.

After flirting with both biochemical engineering and marketing, I settled on a career in IT, with a specific interest in application and server architecture. I worked for several large companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Charter before transitioning to a engineering role with Derek’s team. I also pursue entrepreneurial ventures on my own time.

What’s your favorite web site?

The Website Is Down (http://www.thewebsiteisdown.com/), the most perfect encapsulation of a day in the life. If you haven’t seen the video, definitely watch it.

Also Hacker News (http://news.ycombinator.com/). Nested between all the javascript frameworks there is a lot of interesting stuff.

On a given weekend, you will probably be:

I’ll probably be working on some home improvement projects, working on cars, skydiving (usually ~5 jumps a weekend), fighting (mixed martial arts, for fun & exercise), playing music, volleyball, biking… Anything that looks interesting really.

What draws you to this industry?

The culture. Creative types are a lot more fun to be around, and I enjoy the agency-client dynamic as well.

Mac or PC?

Linux (w/ Windoze as a last resort)

What is the last book you read?

The Master Switch – Tim Wu

If you could have a beverage with anyone in the world, who would it be?

Alive–Elon Musk

Dead–Alexander the Great

Say we assign you Office DJ duty. What 3 artists would you be sure to play?

I enjoy music from all kinds of artists and genres. A few that I keep coming back to are:

Infected Mushroom

Girl Talk

A mix of my favorite cello pieces

Find Michael on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Meet Michael Zandstra

This week, we welcomed Michael Zandstra to the team as Senior Product Engineer. His experience in application programming and network architecture will help us continue to lead clients to success online. Read on to learn more about Michael’s background and interests.

Tell us about yourself.

After flirting with both biochemical engineering and marketing, I settled on a career in IT, with a specific interest in application and server architecture. I worked for several large companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Charter before transitioning to a engineering role with Derek’s team. I also pursue entrepreneurial ventures on my own time.

Whatas your favorite web site?

The Website Is Down (http://www.thewebsiteisdown.com/), the most perfect encapsulation of a day in the life. If you haven’t seen the video, definitely watch it.
Also Hacker News (http://news.ycombinator.com/). Nested between all the javascript frameworks there is a lot of interesting stuff.

On a given weekend, you will probably be:

I’ll probably be working on some home improvement projects, working on cars, skydiving (usually ~5 jumps a weekend), fighting (mixed martial arts, for fun & exercise), playing music, volleyball, biking… Anything that looks interesting really. 

What draws you to this industry?

The culture. Creative types are a lot more fun to be around, and I enjoy the agency-client dynamic as well.

Mac or PC?

Linux (w/ Windoze as a last resort)

What is the last book you read?

The Master Switch – Tim Wu

If you could have a beverage with anyone in the world, who would it be?

Alive–Elon Musk
Dead–Alexander the Great

Say we assign you Office DJ duty. What 3 artists would you be sure to play?

I enjoy music from all kinds of artists and genres. A few that I keep coming back to are:
A mix of my favorite cello pieces

Find Michael on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Evolve Digital Labs Sets New Record for Clients Monthly Leads

Last month, we set a new record for the number of leads delivered through paid search for one of our clients, a national telecom provider. Paid search is a marketing channel that requires careful attention. Unlike traditional advertising mediums, which generally rely on impressions to validate the cost, paid search is able to monitor success based on a variety of key performance indicators (KPIs). With that said, it is impossible for accounts to perform at their full potential without receiving timely adjustments based on the KPI data.

As Director of Paid Search, many of my responsibilities are dedicated to ensuring success throughout the duration of paid search campaigns. I also strive to perpetually increase success as budgets increase, which is why many of the data is compared to the client’s performance from the previous year.

Data-based adjustments:

Messaging continues to evolve as content specificity improves, allowing for more targeted ad messaging to the search query and visitors’ desired results.

Market aggressiveness, both in positioning and budget allocation, is based upon DMA performance and opportunity. Opportunity is based upon number of possible customers, serviceability within each location, and competition. Performance is based upon historical lead generation/customer acquisition vs. investment, i.e., Cost-Per-Acquisition.

Landing pages optimizations, which I speak to a bit below, was focused on segmenting services into individual pages, which highlight primary features while maintaining messaging on savings when bundling services. Additionally, we tested and optimized lead generation form placement, positioning and prominence of contact numbers, image sizing/placement, and language.

Account optimization:

Account optimization is a perpetual exercise. For this client, we constantly searched for additional positive terms. When targeted directly, they increased display rate while reducing the average cost per click (CPC). Negative keyword expansion affords the same benefit, increasing quality score and traffic quality, while preventing waste on unqualified queries.

Content and landing page optimization, which is also ongoing, allows for more targeted messaging to visitors’ specific needs. Creation of product-specific landing pages answers unmet needs, while increasing quality score and conversion rate.

Taking advantage of peak season:

The client has two peak seasons annually. The first is January-May, second being August-September. Using media investment in the most effective way is paramount; decreasing investment during non-peak months allows for increased investment during peak months. Learn more about this method, budget flighting, in our earlier post.

Breaking Down Lead Performance

Because paid search is driven by data, it can be easy to get lost in the numbers. Looking at the big picture is critical. For example, a campaign may deliver more leads than the previous month, but how does that affect the cost per lead? If a campaign’s spend is through the roof, it may not contribute to a higher ROI in the long run.

We monitored the campaign metrics to ensure the success was balanced across the board. This included:

  • Total spend
  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Click through rate (CTR)
  • Spend
  • Cost per lead
  • Leads from calls
  • Web leads

Results Show the Pay-off

Because paid search success builds day over day, we tracked our client’s daily progress to make necessary changes and ensure satisfactory campaign performance. By the end of the month, we were elated to see that despite the number of impressions (people who were exposed to the ad) was down, our client’s total number of leads was up 7.5% from the previous month, and it had increased 72% from April of the previous year. Finally, while the traffic to the website increased, the average cost per click actually decreased. This means Evolve Digital Labs was able to spend less money turning visitors into leads.

The results from last month were impressive as well, when we compared them to the previous year. Our client experienced a 56.8% surge in leads, in addition to a 23.9% reduction in the cost of each lead. Not only did we work hard to deliver more leads to the client, we also were able to decrease the costs involved.

Conclusion

It is exciting to see the volume and quality of leads Evolve Digital Labs can deliver to a client year over year. As mentioned, success in paid search is largely reliant on careful adjustments to campaigns as KPIs are processed. Driving valuable customers to highly optimized pages is a feat in itself, but Evolve Digital Labs’ mission is to do so at the lowest cost possible. Contact us in the form below or give us a call to find out how your organization can tap into this profitable marketing channel.

Introducing Our Summer 2014 Interns

We are privileged to welcome two brilliant interns, Samantha Givens and Lukas Rees, to Evolve Digital Labs for the summer. Working closely with our Director of Business Solutions, Samantha and Lukas will be involved in many aspects of the success we deliver for clients. It is our hope that when they depart in August, they will have acquired valuable new skills and experiences, from navigating analytics to identifying opportunities for growth on a business’s website. Per usual, we interviewed the newcomers.

Meet Samantha Givens:

I am currently a rising Senior at Washington University in St. Louis studying Chemical Engineering and minoring in Writing. In the past few years, I have had internships in medicine and media which have afforded me a lot of insight into different fields. This summer I will be working as a Business Solutions Intern at Evolve, and I am absolutely elated.

What’s your favorite web site?

My favorite website would have to be BuzzFeed. It’s always fun to sit down and relax with your laptop and take pointless quizzes to round out your day. Also, a lot of the content is downright hilarious so I get a few extra laughs out and up my endorphins on the daily.

On a given weekend, you’ll probably be:

Watching Netflix in my PJs until about noon each day. I also enjoy hanging out with friends, trying out new restaurants, playing board games, and going on road trips to concerts or amusement parks during the weekends.

What draws you to this industry?

I’m really interested in learning more about business as I am an Engineering student. I feel like the business world has a lot to offer me, and I want to explore it.

Mac or PC?

A PC, most definitely a PC.

What’s the last book you read?

I recently read a Captain Underpants book to my little brother if that counts. However, for my own reading pleasure, I read Caught by Harlen Coben. He is one of my absolute favorite mystery/suspense authors.

If you could have a beverage with anyone in the world, who would it be?

Iron Man – no one said the person had to be real – I love Marvel comics, and Iron Man is my favorite superhero. It’d be awesome to just sit down and chill with the genius and hilarity that is Tony Stark.

Let’s say we assign you Office DJ duty. What 3 artists would you be sure to play?

I am a total sucker for country music so I would definitely have to play some Pistol Annies. Their music is so sassy and fun to listen to.

Though I do like country, I also love most other types of music as well, except metal. So the last two artists that I would choose would be Justin Nozuka, a super blues-y singer, and I love Muse, so I would throw some of that in two.

Is there anything you want us to know about you?

I detest peanut butter, love wearing my cowboy boots, and love to laugh.

 

Meet Lukas Rees:

I’m currently between my junior and senior year at Washington University in St. Louis studying Systems Engineering and Math. I’ve never been much of a true engineer, but I love working with analytics to drive strategic decision-making, which is definitely part of what drew me into the Business Solutions Intern role at Evolve. Very excited to join the team this summer!

What’s your favorite web site?

If that’s determined by time spent on the site I’d have to say Reddit or nytimes.com.

On a given weekend, you’ll probably be:

Biking and brunching are the two big necessities for me.

What draws you to this industry?

I love the newness and the uncertainty that comes with working in a rapidly changing industry like internet marketing. It’s also a ton of fun to see online activity through a very different lens than what I’m used to.

Mac or PC?

Mac.

What’s the last book you read?

In the middle of 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.

If you could have a beverage with anyone in the world, who would it be?

Trent Reznor.

Let’s say we assign you Office DJ duty. What 3 artists would you be sure to play?

El Ten Eleven, Smith Westerns, Disclosure

Is there anything you want us to know about you?

Coffee is the way to my heart.

Meet Aaron Stevens

This week, we are proud to introduce Aaron Stevens as our new Senior Digital Strategist. His experience in conversion optimization and search marketing will help us continue to lead clients to success online. We are elated to have Aaron on board; the team is sure to benefit from his unique know-how. Read on to learn more about Aaron’s background and interests.

Tell us about yourself.

I went to University of Missouri – Columbia and received a BA in computer science.  Cut my teeth at Monster Commerce/Network Solutions learning the basics of ecommerce conversion optimization and SEO helping hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses with their online marketing efforts. In 2010 I decided to take a chance at a small digital agency, aThe Loud Few,a eventually purchased by Moosylvania, a larger advertising/promotions agency located in St. Louis. There I was lucky enough to get some great experience contributing to digital strategies and heading search marketing and analytics for some amazing brands like Enterprise CarShare, Balance Bar, Cutter, Sapporo, Cohiba and Bacardi.

Most recently I led the marketing team at CrowdSource, a workforce as a service startup in Illinois, where we rebuilt a brand, created some great sales collateral and launched some awesome websites like transcribe.com and content.crowdsource.com.

On a given weekend, you will probably be:

Most likely attempting some DIY project, brewing beer or just spending time with family and friends.

What draws you to this industry?

I’ve always been very technology-oriented. I am nerd when it comes to having to know how things work, and I love solving problems. One of the most gratifying moments was on a Purina project where we had a campaign, “The Great Pet Debate,” where we influenced the nation to “vote cats” or “vote dogs” during the 2012 presidential election. Our team was able to watch how our fairly minor updates to the voting experience doubled conversion rates and ultimately helped us achieve our goals.

Mac or PC?

Mac – PC until a few years ago.

What is the last book you read?

I read the first few pages of the first Game of Thrones book…then I concluded I like the show better. I think Prey by Michael Crichton was the last one I finished.

If you could have a beverage with anyone in the world, who would it be?

Neil Degrasse Tyson or Richard Dawkins

Say we assign you Office DJ duty. What 3 artists would you be sure to play?

Well this week it might be The Bright Light Social Hour, Gary Clark Jr. and the Allman Brothers.

Is there anything else you want us to know about you?

Love to cook and BBQ, watch movies, obsess about cars and hoard tools.

 

Find Aaron on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Is Your Hospital Website Patient Centric?

Learn how some of America’s top hospitals fall short in delivering on patients’ online expectations and how it affects your hospital’s ROI. Download the full report – Aligning Patient Needs with Online Capabilities – today.

What we found…

  • 49% of the top hospitals lack a mobile-friendly website
  • Only 1 out of 5 offers online pre-registration for appointments
  • 67% fail to offer online rehab and aftercare information

Read the full report to evaluate what is preventing your own hospital’s marketing efforts from achieving a greater return on investment from your website.

Click to view our report.

 

Why I no longer run a search marketing agency

If it were exclusively up to me, I would still be the President of Evolve Digital Labs, a premier search marketing agency. The one I started and helped build. From one person to fourteen amazing people.

But we do not always get to choose what happens personally or professionally. So true to our name, change is expected and inevitable.

Today, I lead an organization focused on online growth and digital innovation.

If the accepted science is correct, and we do completely shed ourselves inside and out every seven years, then the change is appropriate. I am no longer interested in decoding an algorithm. I know that success is not found in search engine rankings alone. Keywords have never been as simple as a data point. It is not enough to focus on lead generation. Instead, I want to lead this generation of change. As blue collars dissipate and the starkness of white collars unforthcoming, a new assembly line and asset management is needed. I have been challenged and changed by those with whom I share an illustrious responsibility and connection.

Now, the focus is on the consumers of the world and their needs. Empowering the customer through data and search is the beginning.

Yes, search. Search is a consumer centric channel. The consumer vehicle four out of five online sessions include. Search is more than Google and Google is more than search. Google is an innovation platform. They redefined how we hear the voice of the customer. The outcome is their focus. The value comes to the consumer and the business through behavior, not descriptions. We do not only understand it, we embrace and promote it.

We will continue to help companies be found. We will continue to connect our clients with the right customer and the customer with the power to get the job done. We do not relinquish our rights nor refute the need to improve a brand’s digital assets. Yes we mine keywords, we use the data of the consumer online provide by search & social giants. The change is how we evaluate the market and select the customer and the confidence in what is necessary to invest.

  • There is a need to deliver a marketplace assessment a online. 
  • There is a need to build a strategic framework for profitable and scalable growth. 
  • There is a need to improve and innovate the results of a consumers experience online. 

Evolve Digital Labs is proving the value of a new model for growth online. I stand proudly on the backs of the brilliant and dedicated people who built a new meaning to our name. It is through our superior people and process that we have leveraged technology to provide services that far exceed those of a search marketing company.

I am one of the lucky ones. I wake up feeling privileged and I fall asleep from mental exhaustion, because every day I am challenged by the people around me and the problems we are paid to solve. The work, to me, is necessary. It fills my heart and keeps it beating while my children attend school and my wife improves the world one trialed family and adolescent at a time. The connection I feel to my professional responsibilities, my staff, clients and partners amazes me.

To all involved, thank you and welcome.

Ben Cook Joins Team Evolve

We are pleased to tell you about the newest addition to our growing team. Ben Cook is our new Director of Organic Channels, and his role here will involve working heavily in the Strategy and Growth stages for clients.

Tell us a little about your background.

I started in Internet Marketing almost a decade ago (wow that makes me feel old). I quickly realized that this career path offered me a lot more opportunities than the history degree I was pursuing and ended up dropping out. I started out in-house with smaller companies, moved over to Network Solutions where I was the SEO manager and then formed my own boutique agency Direct Match Media. After 3 years of running that, Derek talked me into joining the team.

What’s your favorite web site?

Twitter is pretty great but that seems like a cop-out answer. My favorite single site would probably have to be ThingsMyGirlfriendAndIHaveArguedAbout.com although itas no longer updated and is now simply mil-millington.com. XKCD.com is pretty great too.

On a given weekend, you’ll probably be:

Watching the Cardinals or Blues, BBQing, and generally spending time with my wife.

What draws you to this industry?

Marketing as a whole is kind of like mind-control which seems cool. Internet marketing, specifically SEO, is an ever changing puzzle which really appeals to me. I also like that the web gives anyone and everyone a platform.

Mac or PC?

Definitely Mac.

What’s the last book you read?

For fun: The Man Who Smiled by Henning Mankell
For work: Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

If you could have a beverage with anyone in the world, who would it be?

Past: My Grandpa Cook
Present: The President

Let’s say we assign you Office DJ duty (and that day will come). What 3 artists would you be sure to play?

- The Postal Service
– Really been a big fan of Imagine Dragons lately
– And then I’d probably go with something a bit older like Jethro Tull
– Oh, totally forgot They Might Be Giants! Iad probably play them too (that’s 4 but rules are made to be broken).

Is there anything you want us to know about you?

Nothing that I can think of off the top of my head. I’m a pretty wide open book and tell it like it is (or at least how I see it).

With the addition of Ben to the team, we are excited to continue refining the way we strategize and deliver success for our clients. Ben’s extraordinary knowledge and experience in organic growth will positively impact our clients and personal brand. Find Ben on LinkedIn and Twitter.

He will be speaking about Content Distribution next week at PubCon New Orleans, so make sure to tune into the #PubCon hashtag on Tuesday afternoon to follow the presentation.

Not Provided Podcast: The Future of SEO as a Revenue Opportunity

This week, Derek was excited to join the guys on the Not Provided Podcast, a podcast covering social media, SEO, and all things digital marketing. We met Damon Gochneaur, one of the hosts, at State of Search 2013.

The topic of the podcast, The Future of SEO as a Revenue Opportunity, expanded on our presentation at State of Search and focused on several things including the evolution of SEO as an industry.

The podcast covers:

  • What to expect after clients rank #1 for their search terms a where does the relationship go from there? Learn why SEO as an industry must evolve and how Evolve Digital Labs transitioned to become a partner to our clients a focusing on business objectives such as outcomes and growth, rather than rankings.
  • How to create a common language between online marketing and business operations, and how to apply the tactics of SEO for business growth.
  • Why Evolve focuses on health care as an industry, and the specific challenges and opportunities that come with health care marketing.

Check out the podcast to learn all these things and more a and a special thanks to Not Provided for inviting us to join the show this week.

Follow Not Provided on Twitter for updates on future shows.