Joined up Marketing: In with the old, in with the new
Search engine optimisation (SEO) and other components of online marketing have only recently become an essential part of how a business promotes itself when compared to the 'traditional' methods of publicising and promoting a business.
From start-ups to FTSE conglomerates, the world of online marketing has been adopted with vigour and considerable investment, often without a completely joined up idea of exactly how the most value can be extracted from the channel.
A rather public case in point has been highlighted recently with the IPO of Facebook. Media and investors around the world were shouting from the rooftops about how this was "the future" and "must be embraced in the new social world we live in" and "is certainly worth $100bn". However, no- one was completely sure how to go about realising such value.
When reality dawns, what we are left with is a marketing channel that needs to be treated in the same way as any other traditional marketing channel. What will always win through are great ideas, great content and consistent and appealing brand messages, combined with expertise of how best to deploy this.
Online marketing activities, from SEO, pay per click (PPC) and the new frontier of social media, are often found not only running independently of each other but of all other PR and marketing activities within a business. Now that these new media channels have proved they are here to stay, the important thing for businesses is how to go about complete integration with the other long standing and established channels.
Let's take a traditional PR department for example. Success is often judged against column inches, positive mentions and brand exposure. Relationships are often cultivated online and offline with top journalists, prominent publications and respected industry professionals, often with original research, top products or interesting findings. Within SEO, these are some of the most highly prized commodities and can prove extremely tough to develop, with high level partnerships often requiring information or resources that most SEO's simply do not possess. Conversely, where SEO excels is in developing relationships with the consumers, personal and professional sites and blogs - area which PR often does not possess the time or resource to delve into.
Likewise, utilising other marketing activities such as sponsorships or prominent events (sport, tech, travel etc) which, in their nature allow conversation to develop easily can often provide the opportunity for natural 'link bait' that all SEO's crave. This works alongside PR's remit of increasing the reach and brand awareness amongst different audiences.
A sharing of resources and expertise in such a case can clearly lead to much greater success. With SEO having access to some of the top tier partnerships, which, in ranking terms are worth their weight in gold, and PR folk having the ability to distribute their messages to previously inaccessible areas.
This is not simply limited to online and offline activities. Often paid for and organic search campaigns are managed by different parties, who, on many occasions, will view each other with suspicion. At the end of the day however, what will ensure clients (and therefore agencies), remain happy, is the most efficient use of resources and continual improvement in cost per acquisition (CPA) and return on investment (ROI). Of course these can be improved whilst operating separately. However, analysis of this data together can drive efficiencies and therefore significant savings. If cost per click (CPC) is proving too expensive, there may be scope not only to shift this to other keywords but across to organic search, if it costs in, and vice versa.
There are natural barriers, however, that prevent this from happening. From an agency perspective, a reticence to share data can often prove a sticking point, with safeguards regularly needed to ensure intellectual property control is not breached. From a client perspective however, this tends to come down to education. Traditional marketing and PR departments are on many occasions unaware of the potential benefit of online cross channel promotion and just how closely these activities are to each other.
It is imperative that education begins across the marketing world, of the key performance indicators (KPI's) that each channel is working to and how these can be complemented not only through a sharing of resources but also of ideas.
In a world where many describe online media as the 'new way', it might be worth considering how utilising these more traditional channels can actually make this a reality.