As part of our series connecting with leading brands and marketers ahead of Share 14, I caught up with Dave Lloyd, senior manager of global search marketing at Adobe Systems. Dave leads a team dedicated to organic and website search strategies, and he's got nearly 15 years in the digital and search marketing space. In this interview, Dave talks about the customer optimization strategy, the difference between demand generation and lead generation, and why search is content -- but content is not always search.
The SEO Landscape
Andy Betts (AB): How have you seen the SEO landscape change over the last year?
Dave Lloyd (DL): This is my 14th year in the industry, and the pace of change has never been greater. The search marketing industry continues to evolve. Let’s face it: SEO performance relies on a business solid foundation and adapting regularly to changes in the industry.
When the algorithms change to improve the overall user experience, top marketers must respond by aligning strategically and operationally to their company’s overall goals. And as always, continue learning and preparing for the next change, because change is the only constant.
That’s where we are with search engine optimization today. Things are in transition because customer behavior is moving more to mobile, social, and search activity. Where the customer goes, we go. SEO in many circles is almost a misnomer now.
While we will always optimize for search engines, I tend to think we optimize digital assets according to best practices for both humans and algorithms. We optimize for the customer experience because the search engine is now only a means to the end, a conversion. SEO must first optimize to your future customer where they increasingly spend their time on mobile, in social media, and in search engines. SEO must continue integrating with the broader marketing world, including many of the elements shown in the graphic below.
The old SEO days of running as fast as you can to keep up with search engines, algorithm changes, and dedicated link building strategies are no longer as effective if your goal is to leverage the value of an integrated SEO campaign. The new SEO, customer optimization strategy (COS), takes place above the shoulders in a well-thought-out content campaign that incorporates the old SEO (no, it is not dead), and also recognizes the new power of the customer to express what they want in social and digital media through user-generated content (UGC). The new foundation for COS is data and data analytics, including predictive analytics that enable content decisions based on customers’ future needs.
As customer sentiments and perceptions shift, content and marketing messages shift to stay fresh and relevant. The customer is telling us what they want. We just have to listen (collect data), pay attention (analyze data), and give it to them (make good decisions based on the analysis).
The Content Marketing Shift – Optimization, Measurement, Performance
AB: Tell me more about your view on the convergence of content and SEO.
DL: Search is content but content is not always search. What I mean by this is that search is obviously dependent on content both strategically and tactically. But the "early and often” opportunity for search to benefit and align closely with content strategy must be earned consistently at companies in order to be integrated and fully supported. Bottom line: there is often a gap between the ideal notions of search + content marketing, and what happens in the real world. In the most practical way, this is how the two could work together to improve lead generation:
- Define a keyword strategy
- Optimize your website to get found for both brand and non-brand competitive terms
- Create blog and other marketing content (inbound marketing)
- Promote content and participate in social media (demand generation)
- Convert site visitors into leads (lead generation)
- Nurture leads with targeted messages (lead management)
- Optimize your marketing for mobile
- Analyze and refine strategies
So the back-end strategy at play is generating leads or sales through demand generation. I think of demand generation as an awareness effort designed to drive traffic to your website to cause potential customers to “inquire” about your products.
Demand generation is not lead generation. It’s an enabler for lead generation. Content marketing is often synonymous with inbound marketing, focused on the general marketing funnel effort.
Demand generation is driving those Web visitors further into the funnel thereby generating demand, from the perspective of sales value.
Demand generation is the sales side of inbound marketing; it comes complete with back-end goals related to conversion rates and revenue, whereas inbound marketing is a precursor to demand generation and leaves the ROI issues to the demand generation people in your organization.
Simply, inbound marketing is front-end awareness whereas demand generation also includes back-end nurturing and closing. SEOs today must continue to focus on aligning to content strategy and inbound marketing while striving and innovating to add value to the lead quality being driven through the funnel.
About Your Session at Share 14
AB: Tell me more about your session at Share 14.
DL: I’m honored to be speaking at two sessions – one on global search marketing and the other on in-house SEO operations. In both, I plan to cover strategic and operational topics important to the SEO leader or practitioner with a slant on strategy alignment, process excellence, a focus on data and results, and practical takeaways.
AB: Why Share? Why do you attend?
DL: I attend Share to connect with industry leaders, learn and return with both innovative and practical tips. Our industry changes so quickly that even a few new insights or connections can make a significant difference in results. Share is a world-class event where I can learn about the latest strategies and best practices from search and digital marketing leaders.
AB: What advice can you give Share 14 attendees to make the most of their experience?
DL: As Woody Allen said long ago, “80 percent of life is showing up.” So make the business justification to do that, and then have in mind a few objectives to fulfill at the event – and prepare to share your takeaways with colleagues when you return to the office. Maybe it’s to meet 20 new people plus learn five new things and implement at least three of them within a month.
Takeaways from events like this come from both session topics and hallway discussions, so go out of your way to meet new people and keep in touch. And be sure to take action when you get home.