The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
It’s a highly competitive market for SEO skills at the moment. But as a hiring manager, how do you ensure that you are selecting the right fit for your team, and not just the available candidates? It’s crucial for the well-being of your existing team, your prospective hires, as well as your SEO performance, to hire well.
Who you hire, when, and in what order can come down to several factors. Working in-house may mean your budget for hiring SEOs is limited, so you might need to find someone who ticks a lot of skill boxes broadly, but less deeply. With an agency, or enterprise team, you may have the luxury of investing in a broad roster of talent where each individual is highly-focused.
Skills needed for a well-rounded team
Not every SEO team is created equal. You have to ensure that you’re hiring in a way that suits your organization. To do this, consider what skill sets already exist in your business and where there are gaps.
First, let’s look at some commonly sought-after SEO skills. I’m loosely categorizing these into practical skills (those that are needed specifically for great SEO performance) and soft skills (those that are needed for a good team dynamic).
Practical skills are often the ones focused on more in the hiring process. After all, we want to ensure our new colleagues are proficient SEOs! How you cover these skills might be a mix of staff, freelancers, and agency support.
As important as practical skills are the “soft” ones. These are the skills that are interpersonal and can help your team be efficient and collaborative.
There are other skills that, whilst not strictly SEO skills, can help your team to function at a higher efficiency. These adjacent skills are often rolled-up into SEO skills, although it’s debatable as to whether every SEO should have an in-depth grasp of them, or merely know how to work alongside those that do.
These skills are by no means a comprehensive list, but they show you the core elements that your team will need to comprise.
How to assess your team’s skills gaps
Before looking at whether you need to hire new team members, or how to upskill the current ones, you need to look at where the skill gaps are.
If you work closely with the SEOs in your company, you’ll likely already have an idea of where their strengths are, or the areas of SEO that they naturally gravitate towards. Perhaps you have that one person on the team who is always asked the technical questions or is the go-to for help with E-A-T issues.
Determining your team’s areas of weakness doesn’t have to be a long and complicated process. Here are some quick methods of getting a good enough picture of where their competencies lie.
Your team will know their own strengths and weaknesses well. A good first port of call is to ask them to rate their own confidence with the list of skills mentioned above. Ask them to rate their practical experience of them out of 10, as well as their theoretical knowledge out of 10.
By running this exercise you not only see where there may be skill gaps in your team, you’re also helping your colleagues to take stock of their own areas for development. Through this and a robust development plan, you may be able to fill those skills gaps internally without the need to hire.
If your team is small, or their manager is not experienced in SEO, you’ll need the help of an external coach to identify skill gaps.
Bringing someone in from outside your company will remove any bias in assessing the availability of necessary skills on your team. You could consider a career coach, but given the specialism, you may benefit more from bringing in an SEO consultant with management experience.
A third way to get a good understanding of where there are skill gaps is to ask your team to identify them. They will have a good idea of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and where they would like to see additional resources focused.
Identifying other useful skills and experience
Your team may have experience tangentially related to the work they are doing for you that actually helps them to be better SEOs. When you’re considering the skills gaps in your company, don’t forget to encourage your team to look at these skills that weren’t necessarily developed through work.
Experience gained outside of work
Consider their hobbies and volunteer work. You may be looking to hire externally for the next people manager role because no one on your team currently manages their colleagues. Could a candidate have developed those skills through their outside lives?
Perhaps you have a scout troop leader in your team, sports coaches, or voluntary industry mentors. These skills might not be immediately apparent from a CV or your experience of them at work, but dig a little deeper and you may find the missing skillset or experience you need for your department.
Don’t discount the valuable skills and experiences gained outside of a workplace setting, especially for candidates or team members who are more junior. It may be that they have not had the opportunity to showcase those skills in their careers so far but they excel in them outside of work.
What to do once the skill gaps have been identified
Once you have a better idea of where your team’s skill gaps lie, you have to decide whether to hire, train, or contract out those skills.
You may be able to grow your existing colleagues’ skills to bridge that gap with formal SEO training or like those from Moz Academy. This can also be a great way of keeping your team engaged, with the added bonus of professional certifications.
When considering training, be sensitive to life commitments. SEO is an industry that seemingly rewards “hustle”. However, a lot of people don’t want to carry out more work outside of their contracted hours, even if it is for themselves. Don’t expect your team to always be working to improve their knowledge and skills outside of work. Instead, if you want to build a world class SEO team, give plenty of space within work hours for your team to develop their skills.
If the skill gaps are too significant, you may need to bring that resource in. One way of doing that is through agencies or freelancers, but this isn’t always a cost-effective long-term solution.
Finally, you could hire someone new. Here’s how.
Create a job specification
Use the skills your team is lacking as a foundation for your new role specification. Create a description and list of capabilities around these core skills. For example, if you have identified a need to bring more technical expertise into your team, create a role that focuses on that.
Remember that it’s hard to hire an SEO who is a phenomenal all-rounder. Most of us have our leanings towards tech, content, digital PR, etc. That said…
Be careful of being too narrow
If you create a very rigid “wishlist” of necessary competencies or experience you may miss out on applicants who have the right skill set for the role.
Benefits of overlapping skill sets
There can be benefits of doubling up on competencies within a team. For instance, if you’ve noted that you need a great on-page SEO but you’re getting applicants who also have a technical background, consider that a plus even if you already have great technical SEOs in your team. There’s always more that we SEOs can learn, and bringing in people who have similar specialisms, but different approaches, can help deepen our competency.
How to interview SEOs
There are many, many guides on how to conduct great interviews. What I want to focus on here are the nuances of interviewing SEOs.
In my experience, interviews for SEO roles tend to come in two main flavors:
What combination of these, the number of stages involved, and who sits in on them differs greatly. But is this the optimum way to assess the competencies of an SEO?
The interview process
How you structure your interview should depend on a number of factors including:
For instance, an SEO with two years’ experience may require a different set of questions to that of a managerial candidate with 10 years’ experience.
There are a variety of interview techniques and activities you can use to better gauge the suitability of a candidate for a role and help them to understand if your company is the right one for them.
The formal interview
Most of us will have taken part in a formal meeting with a prospective employer. It can be a good way of quickly determining if you have rapport, and in theory, allow for both the candidate and interviewer to dig into skills and experience.
In reality, however, it’s quite a flawed method of assessing fit. Many people simply do not excel within the high-pressure situation of a one-on-one or panel interview. Depending on the role they are applying for, it could be the last time they are expected to perform in that set-up, so why interview them like that? Having a great set of interview questions can help, but to understand an individual’s capability, you may need to dig deeper.
That said, some SEO roles, in particular client-facing account or project management, will require meetings that are actually quite similar in nature to an interview. The formal interview process might be a good stage of assessment for these types of roles.
The informal chat
A less formal method for finding out information about a candidates’ skills and experience is through a more casual discussion. This interview style can be much more laid-back, giving as much space to the candidate to ask questions as the interviewer.
This can be a good way of assessing how a candidate might perform in team meetings, liaise with outside agencies, or communicate with suppliers. For roles that don’t necessarily require sales pitching or formal presentations, then an informal chat is a better route to discern a person’s fit for a job.
Often a second or third stage of the interview process is the take-home task like auditing a website and presenting findings, or pitching a marketing project. The idea of the homework is to give candidates some time to think through a problem and work towards their best solution. It allows an interviewer to gain insight into how a candidate might actually go about a real-life SEO issue.
This is a tricky stage to get right, though.
In practice, the at-home element of these tasks can often take a candidate a long time to prepare. Given that they’re likely in several other interview processes at the same time as yours, they may be working well into their evenings and weekends to prepare for all of these tasks.
In addition, these tasks often require access to SEO tools. It’s possible to get free trials for some, but they’re limited in functionality and by trial length, or a candidate may not feel comfortable using their existing employer’s tool licenses to complete work for an interview. It will be better if, as part of this stage, you offer candidates data dumps to work from or give them temporary access to the tools they need to use.
There is also the risk on the candidate’s side that they may well come back with some excellent work and still not get hired. They will have sunk time, energy and expertise into an SEO situation just to have the interviewers say no. In some, unfortunately not atypical cases, the interviewing company may go on to use the candidate’s work even though they haven’t been hired.
On the side of the interviewing company, you also don’t really know how independently the candidate worked on the project. Look at SEO focused forums and subreddits and they are awash with people asking advice on how to best complete a task or present their findings for interviews.
A further complication of these stages is that they often test skills that aren’t necessarily needed for the role. In addition, the tasks usually need to be shared back in the form of a presentation and Q&A. As we’ve already discussed, if presentation skills are not crucial to your role, you may not be assessing the right competencies. After all, a candidate might have found a great solution to an SEO problem, but is this the right format for finding out how they arrived at it if presenting makes them nervous?
An interview assessment method that is common in the engineering and development world, but hasn’t really made it across to SEO, is the live task. Candidates can be given a problem to solve, or a website to audit, and asked to work on it whilst they are in the interview. This way, they can easily be provided with the tools they need, the risk of them asking for external help is mitigated, and they aren’t required to spend additional time outside of the interview to prepare for it.
It can, however, be quite a daunting prospect for the candidate. To make them more comfortable, consider giving them the site or rough outline of the sort of task they will be working on before the interview. Also make sure to give them the freedom to turn their, and your, cameras and microphones off if on a virtual interview, or for you to leave the room if it is an in-person interview. No one likes being stared at as they work!
To ensure it’s not just you getting to know the candidate, but that the candidate gets to know your company well, you could consider including a peer interviewing option.
Here, a candidate gets to sit with a selection of their potential colleagues and discuss what it’s like working at your company. It’s crucial that the meeting does not contain managers or anyone involved in the hiring, so the candidate can feel encouraged to ask the probing questions they want in order to find out if the company is the right fit for them.
Interviewing at the right level
It can be tough to ask the right questions of candidates who are at a different stage of their SEO career than you. If you’ve been in the industry for several years, it might be difficult to identify what someone of their experience should know and be able to achieve. Equally, if you’re not an SEO yourself, but involved in hiring one, you may not know enough about the discipline to really gauge the extent of your interviewee’s knowledge. It’s important to identify the depth of skills you would expect someone at the level you’re hiring for to have. One way of doing this is by looking at the types of problems you would want that person to solve. What skills would need to be present for them to do that? Then look at weighting those skills. Which are absolutely necessary for getting the job done and which would aid to a degree.
If you have little experience in SEO yourself you may need to consult with members of your SEO team, or look to an external advisor to help you.
Be clear about the role’s level
You don’t want to discount an eager, quick learner from a job that only requires a basic understanding of SEO because they didn’t interview as well as your last hire who is now a manager.
Similarly, a candidate may really impress you with their expertise and experience but is the role too basic for them and they are likely to want to advance on from it quite quickly?
Level appropriate questions
To make sure you’re giving your candidates the best chance to shine in their interviews, here are some ideas of questions for each of the main skill sets and how they can be tailored for junior, middleweight, and senior roles.
How would you go about optimizing a page to maximize its exposure in the SERPs?
This type of question allows for the fact the candidate might not have direct experience of carrying out this activity themselves, but tests their theoretical knowledge and approach to problem-solving.
Give me an example of when you used on-page SEO to improve rankings of a page. What did you do, why did you do it and what were the results?
This sort of question allows for the candidate to show their direct experience with on-page SEO but does not require them to show responsibility for the strategy behind it. They can show their practical knowledge and also hint at the reasoning behind the activity.
Give me an example of when you developed and employed a content pruning strategy. What was the strategy, why did you develop it and what was the outcome?
This type of questions allows the interviewer to test the candidate’s strategic reasoning as well as their ability to identify the best methodology for achieving results, and how they analyzed those results.
What would you look for when carrying out a technical SEO audit?
This type of question helps to identify whether the candidate has a theoretical knowledge of broad technical SEO activity.
Give me an example of when you’ve encountered a duplicate page issue, what caused it, and how you resolved it.
This type of question begins to examine the candidate’s practical experience in technical SEO and can help you to identify if they have a working knowledge or merely theoretical knowledge of technical SEO.
Give me an example of a deindexation issue you encountered, how you identified it, and how you rectified it.
This type of question will give the candidate space to demonstrate their end-to-end practical experience of serious and complex technical SEO issues. It will likely allow them to show their experience of setting up alerts and automations as well as how they think through technical problems, communicate those to other teams and work to find a resolution.
What’s a campaign that you’ve seen recently that you admired, and what would you have done differently?
This tests the candidate’s ability to iterate on ideas without expecting them to have launched campaigns themselves yet.
Give me an example of a campaign that you launched that wasn’t initially successful, and what you did to improve it.
This tests a candidate’s strategic thinking, ability to adapt to the needs and wants of the media as well as giving examples of their work.
What would be your strategy for launching a campaign to generate links in a highly regulated industry like gambling? How have you overcome struggles with regulated or hard-to-represent industries in the past?
This type of question assesses a candidate’s ability to create a well-considered strategy within a set of limiting boundaries. It also assumes prior experience of more complicated campaigns.
If the company’s core KPI is conversions, what metrics would you look at to see if SEO is helping towards that goal? What additional information might you need?
This question does not assume the candidate has had experience with onboarding a new analytics account before but tests their theoretical knowledge.
What is your process for ensuring data integrity in a new analytics account?
This sort of question will allow the candidate to show that they are conscious of how data can become compromised and their process for ensuring clean data. It will also show whether they understand how they can compromise data themselves.
Tell me about a time when you deployed a complex tracking solution, your steps, and the reporting you were able to produce through it.
This type of question will explore the depth of experience a candidate has in more complicated analytics and tracking solutions.
What do you feel are the key components to a successful [SEO/digital PR] strategy?
This type of question will test the candidate’s theoretical knowledge of creating strategies and will empower them to talk about their knowledge of auditing, measuring, reporting, and iterating.
Give me an example of a strategy you created that yielded great results, the steps you implemented, and the outcome.
This question allows the candidate to show their own experience of creating strategies and gives them the opportunity to discuss one they are particularly proud of.
Give me an example of a strategy you created that was not successful and what you did as a result. What would you do differently next time?
Asking this sort of question explores the candidate’s ability to fail well, including how they recover and what they have learned from that experience.
How would you manage your time if you were asked to complete multiple tasks with the same deadline, but only had time to complete one?
This question allows the interviewer to see how a candidate would handle a situation they are likely to encounter a lot early on in their career. It assesses the candidate’s time management and communication skills.
Give me an example of a time when you had conflicting deadlines and how you managed the expectations of the stakeholders involved?
Through this question an interviewer can get an idea of how a candidate has approached scheduling conflicts and stakeholder management in practice when facing that pressure, rather than what they would hope they would do in theory.
Give me an example of a project that required significant scope changes and how you handled the communications, time management, and activity allocation considering the changes
This question assesses a more experienced candidate’s approach to project management when there are multiple factors that are impacted by scope change. It allows them to discuss their line management approach, resource allocation and stakeholder communications.
Removing bias in hiring
The SEO industry has typically had a problem with promoting similar faces in conferences, committees, and within jobs. To ensure that your hiring practices encourage diversity, you should look to remove as much bias from the process as possible.
Nameless CVs and resumes
One way of removing bias is to only pass on anonymized CVs or resumes to hiring managers. This way, there is less risk of any implicit bias towards specific naming conventions affecting the hiring process.
It needs to be mentioned, of course, that this is just papering over a bigger issue, and that any employees in charge of hiring should take implicit bias training.
There are numerous tests available that identify whether your hiring managers have any subconscious bias towards or against people based on various characteristics. One such suite of tests is provided by Project Implicit, a non-profit organization staffed by international researchers with the mission to educate the public about bias. Their tests cover a range of potential bias such as sexuality, disability, and skin color.
Diverse interview panels
Another way of limiting bias is ensuring a diverse group of people are involved in the decision-making. This means your interviewers represent a diverse cross-section of the public, not just your organization.
Consider foregoing CVs or resumes
To make sure you aren’t hiring people based on years of working, rather than the quality and breadth of the experience they have gained, you may consider doing away with the CV altogether. Instead, candidates can answer a series of questions when applying that assesses their competency for the role.
This can stop hiring managers from weighing suitability based on former job titles (of which the SEO industry has no standard), length of time at previous roles, or impressive-sounding brands. Instead, candidates will be invited to interview based on their aptitude.
Hire people with little experience but great potential
We all had to learn somewhere. At one point in our careers, a manager took a chance on someone with relatively little SEO experience and let us loose on a website. In order to help the industry grow and adapt, it’s imperative that we continue to hire in and train up entry-level SEOs. However, this isn’t something that should be done lightly, and you should always have a good support system in place.
What to watch out for when hiring
There are a few things to be mindful of when hiring SEOs in the current climate.
The reasons behind short periods of employment
There are several reasons why candidates only worked for a year (or less) at a role. Traditionally, short periods of employment have been treated with suspicion, but ours is a flexible and dynamic industry where staying for years and years in a role doesn’t always make sense. There’s also the COVID-19 pandemic to consider, as several companies went through severe hiring and working disruptions.
In addition, it’s important to encourage employees to find the best possible fit for them, which may entail some movement between jobs. Be careful not to dismiss a candidate purely because of short stints in previous positions or companies.
As mentioned above, you’ll often want a “culture” type interview round for new hires. The idea being that it can help to determine whether a candidate would fit in well with an existing team or structure.
This isn’t always a great idea, though. If we’re looking to promote diversity in hiring and also bring new ideas and approaches into our teams, then we should hire for values fit and not culture fit.
Culture fit is expecting a candidate to fit in with the existing way of doing things. Values fit is making sure they agree with the core principles on which your business is based, but allowing for differences in approaches, personality, and behaviors.
It’s a tough market to hire in at the moment, because SEO skills are very in-demand. Make sure you aren’t overlooking great candidates or even existing colleagues when trying to build your perfect SEO department.
Be clear about what you need from your team and look both internally and externally for that skill set. Remember to hire for potential and not necessarily for their current experience level, and don’t rule out candidates unnecessarily or arbitrarily.
There is a lot of movement in the market at the moment allowing for amazing opportunities. Make sure you’re setting yourself and your future team up for success.
The marketing lifecycle: An overview
Remember when digital marketing was simple? Create content, throw it over the wall, hope for the best.
Note that we said “simple,” not effective.
To be effective is more complicated, and this keeps accelerating. There are so many options, so many channels, and so many audiences, that effective digital marketing requires a term to which people often react strongly—
Very few people inherently like the idea of “process.” It brings forth visions of rigidity and inertia.
But there simply has to be a framework in which to produce and publish effective marketing assets. Without this, you have nothing but chaos from which productive work gets done accidentally, at best.
How did it get this way for the enterprise? How did things become so interconnected?
- Marketing isn’t a point in time, it’s an activity stream. It’s a line of dominoes you need to knock over, roughly in order. Lots of organizations do well at some, but fail on others, and thus break the chain of what could be an effective process.
- Marketing activities overlap. It’d be great if we could do one thing at a time, but the marketing pipeline is never empty. Campaigns target different audiences at the same time, and new campaigns are being prepared as existing campaigns are closing.
- Marketing involves a lot of actors at vastly different levels. There’s your content team, of course, reviewers, external agencies and contractors, designers, developers, and—of course—stakeholders and executives. Each group has different needs for collaboration, input, and reporting.
Some of the best business advice boils down to this: “Always understand the big picture.” You might be asked to do one specific thing in a process, but make sure you understand the context of that specific thing—where does it fit in the larger framework? Where does it get input from? How are its outputs used?
In this article, we’re going to zoom out for an overhead view of how Optimizely One helps you juggle the complete marketing lifecycle, from start to finish, without letting anything drop.
Ideas are born everywhere—maybe with you, maybe with your staff, maybe with someone who has no connection with marketing at all, and maybe from an external source, like an ad agency or PR firm. Leading organizations have found a way to widen the top end of their pipeline—the start of their content marketing funnel—and take in more ideas from more sources.
Good ideas combine. Someone has one half of an idea, and someone else has the other half. The goal of effective collaboration is to get those two pieces together. One plus one can sometimes equal three, and more ideas mean better ideas overall. Creativity is about getting more puzzle pieces on the table so you can figure out which ones fit your strategy.
How do you manage the flow of ideas? How do you make sure good ideas don’t get dropped, but rather become great content? The only way to publish great content is to get ideas into the top end of the pipe.
Optimizely One can streamline and accelerate your content intake using templated intake forms mapped to intelligent routing rules and shared queues. Everyone in your organization can know where content is developed and how to contribute to ideas, content, and campaigns currently in-process. Your content team can easily manage and collaborate on requests, meaning content development can become focused, rather than spread out across the organization.
Campaigns don’t exist in a vacuum. They share the stage with other campaigns—both in terms of audience attention and employee workload. Leading organizations ensure that their campaigns are coordinated, for maximum audience effect and efficiency of workload.
Pick a time scale and plan it from overhead. What campaigns will you execute during this period? In what order? How do they overlap? Then, break each campaign down—what tasks are required to complete and launch? Who owns them? In what stage of completion are they in? What resources are required to complete them?
Good marketing campaigns aren’t run in isolation. They’re a closely aligned part of an evolving body of work, carefully planned and executed.
Optimizely One provides comprehensive editorial calendaring and scheduling. Every marketing activity can have an easily accessible strategic brief and dedicated workspaces in which to collaborate. Your content team and your stakeholders can know, at a glance, what marketing activities are in-process, when they’re scheduled to launch, who is assigned to what, and what’s remaining on the calendar.
Good content takes fingers on keyboards, but that’s not all.
Content creators need frameworks in which to generate effective content. They need the tools to share, collaborate, structure, stage, and approve their work. Good content comes in part from tooling designed to empower content creators.
Your content team needs a home base—the digital equivalent of an artist’s studio. They need a platform which is authoritative for all their marketing assets; a place that everyone on the team knows is going to have the latest schedules, the latest drafts, the official assets, and every task on the road to publication.
Content creation isn’t magic—it doesn’t just appear out of the ether. It comes from intentional teams working in structured frameworks.
Optimizely One gives your editors the tools they need for the content creation process, AI-enabled editing environments for fingers-on-keyboards, all the way through intelligent workflows for collaboration and approvals. Authors can write, designers can upload and organize, project managers can combine and coordinate, stakeholders can review, and external teams can collaborate. All within a framework centered around moving your campaigns forward.
Leading organizations look at content beyond its immediate utility. Everything your content teams do becomes an incremental part of an evolving body of work. Content doesn’t appear and disappear; rather, it continually enlarges and refines a body of work that represents your organization over time.
Good creative teams remix and transform old ideas into new ones. They can locate content assets quickly and easily to evolve them into new campaigns quickly. They don’t reinvent the wheel every time, because they lean on a deep reservoir of prior art and existing creative components.
Digital asset and content management should store content in a structured, atomic format, allowing your organization to store, retrieve, organize, and re-use marketing assets quickly and easily.
Optimizely One gives your content team a place to store their content assets, from text and rich media. Content can be archived and organized, either manually, or by using AI to automatically extract tags. Content can be stored as pure data, free from presentation, which makes it easy to re-use. Your content team will always know where to find work in progress, media to support emerging campaigns, or assets from past campaigns. Brand portals make it easy to share assets with external organizations.
Business happens all over the world in every language. To effectively compete around the world, your content needs to be globalized.
Globalization of content is a holistic practice that affects every part of the content lifecycle. Words need to be translated, of course, but you also need to consider cultural globalization—images and symbols that might change—as well as globalization for numbers, currency, and time zones. Going even deeper, you might have to make design changes to accommodate things like differing word lengths and the flow of text.
Beyond simply changing content, your work process is affected. When does translation happen? Who is authorized to order it? Who can perform it? How do you bring external translation companies into your internal processes, and how does this affect the flow of content through your organization?
Optimizely One helps you manage the entire globalization process, whether it’s done in-house or automatically via one of our translation partners. Your customers can be served content in their language and culture, and you can carefully control the alternate, “fallback” experience for languages not yet available, or when you’re not translating all of your content.
Some experiences need to be visually composed from a palette of content and design components. Designers and marketers want to see exactly what their content looks like before they publish.
In some cases, this is easy—everyone should be able to see what a web page looks like before it goes live. But what about your mobile app? What about display advertising? A social media update?
And what happens when you’re modifying content based on behavior and demographics? If you want to see how your web page will look for someone from California who has visited your site before and already downloaded your whitepaper on their iPhone…can you?
Content no longer leaves your organization on a single channel. Composition and preview is always contextual—there is no single, default experience. Leading organizations want full control over their visual presentation and they know that they need to see their content through the eyes of their customers.
Optimizely One provides the tools to visually compose experiences across multiple channels and can preview that experience when viewed through the personalization lens of whatever demographic and behavioral data you can dream up. And this works regardless of channel: web, email, display advertising—everything can be previewed in real-time.
Content can’t do any good unless it can reach your customers. You need to publish your content to them, wherever they are, which means having the flexibility to push content into multiple channels, in multiple formats.
A consumable piece of media is an “artifact.” Your content is the idea and message that make up that artifact. Leading organizations develop their content separate from any concept of an artifact, then transform it into different formats to fit the channel that will spread their message most effectively.
Sure, make a web page—but also push that content to your mobile app, and into your social networks. Broadcast a text message, and an email. While you’re at it, push the information into the display panel in the elevators. Let’s be bold and broadcast it on the TV screens that play while your customers fill up with gas.
The key is delivery flexibility. The world of content delivery has changed remarkably in just the last few years. It will no-doubt change more in the future. No platform can anticipate what’s coming, so you just need the flexibility to be ready to adapt to what happens.
Optimizely One provides complete delivery flexibility. Our systems store your content separate from presentation, and allow multiple ways to access it, from traditional websites to headless APIs to connect your content to mobile apps or other decoupled experiences. Your content can be combined with internally-stored content or third-party content to provide a seamless “content reservoir” to draw on from all of your channels.
Throughout this lifecycle, we’ve moved from content, to artifacts, and now on to “experiences.”
One person consuming an artifact—reading a web page, listening to a podcast, watching a video—is an experience. Just like one piece of content can generate more than one artifact, one artifact should enable thousands of experiences.
Technology has advanced to the point where all of those experiences can be managed. Instead of every customer getting the same experience, it can be personalized to that specific customer in that specific moment.
You can do this using simple demographic or technographic data—perhaps you cut down the information and make your content more task-oriented when you detect someone is on a mobile device. However, the real power comes when you begin tracking behavior, consolidating information about your customers, and giving them specific content based on what you’ve observed.
Leading organizations have a single location to track customer behavior and data. For every experience, they know exactly what this customer has done, how they’ve interacted with the organization, and they can predict what they’ll do next. Content and artifacts will morph themselves to fit each individual experience.
Optimizely One connects both customer behavior and demographics along with the tools to activate that data to affect your customers’ experiences. Our platform allows you to track customer behavior and match that with customer demographics—this includes behavior tracking for customers you can’t even identify yet. Based on that behavior and stored data, editors can modify experiences in real-time, changing content and design to match to what each individual customer is most likely to respond. Or let the machine do the work, with personalized content and product recommendations.
No matter how much you know, customers will always surprise you. The right answer to persuading your customer to take an action might be something you’re not even thinking of. Or, you might have an idea, but you’re not confident enough to bank on it. And let’s face it—sometimes, you just love two different ideas.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could publish more than one thing?
You absolutely can. And you absolutely should.
Leading organizations let go of the idea that an experience is bound to one version of an artifact. Don’t just write one title for that blog post—write three. Publish them all and show them randomly. Let your customers tell you—by their next action—which one was the right one to use.
Experimentation allows you to try new things without the inertia of re-considering and re-drafting all your content. Ideas can go from your mind to pixels on the screen quickly and easily, and you can see what works and what doesn’t. Try a new title, or next text on a button. Does it give you better results? If so, great, keep it. If not, throw it away and try something else.
Refine, refine, refine. The idea that you publish content in one form and just hope it’s the right one is a set of handcuffs that can be tough to shake. But the results can be impressive.
Optimizely One allows you to quickly create and publish multiple variations of content and content elements to any channel. You can separate your content into elements and try different combinations to see which one drives your customers to move forward in their journey, then automatically route more traffic through winning combinations. You can manage feature rollouts and soft-launches, enabling specific functionality for specific audiences in any channel.
The key to a learning and evolving content team is a transparent and unflinching look into what happens to your content after it’s published.
Analytics need to be considered in the context of the entire content domain. What content performs well but has low traffic? What content is consumed often but never moves customers down their buying journey? Customer behavior needs to be tracked carefully, then used to segment customers into audiences, based on both your content team’s observations and insights provided by AI.
Optimizely One offers complete behavior tracking and content analysis, showing you what content works, what content doesn’t, and what your customers are doing during every step of their relationship with your entire digital estate.
Juggle the entire lifecycle
“Publishing myopia” prevents most organizations from truly benefiting from the power of their content and marketing technology. Too many ideas are undercut by an obsession with the publish button. We rush content out the door and just throw it over the wall and hope it lands.
Within that mode of thinking, great ideas get trapped under the surface. Great content is delivered to only one channel in one language. Great experiences never see the light of day because content exists in only one form. And every customer sees the same thing, no matter how their own experience might benefit from something else.
Remember: the marketing lifecycle is a series of stages
Each stage builds on the last and allows content to grow from a random idea your team takes in from the field and turns it into a spectacular multi-channel experience which rearranges and modifies itself to fit each customer.
Juggling all of the steps in the marketing lifecycle can be done, but it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees and get too myopic about individual steps in this process. Leading organizations step back, consider the entire cycle from start to finish, and make sure their ideas, their products, and their messages are enhanced and strengthened in every step.
Comparing Credibility of Custom Chatbots & Live Chat
Addressing customer issues quickly is not merely a strategy to distinguish your brand; it’s an imperative for survival in today’s fiercely competitive marketplace.
Customer frustration can lead to customer churn. That’s precisely why organizations employ various support methods to ensure clients receive timely and adequate assistance whenever they require it.
Nevertheless, selecting the most suitable support channel isn’t always straightforward. Support teams often grapple with the choice between live chat and chatbots.
The automation landscape has transformed how businesses engage with customers, elevating chatbots as a widely embraced support solution. As more companies embrace technology to enhance their customer service, the debate over the credibility of chatbots versus live chat support has gained prominence.
However, customizable chatbot continue to offer a broader scope for personalization and creating their own chatbots.
In this article, we will delve into the world of customer support, exploring the advantages and disadvantages of both chatbots and live chat and how they can influence customer trust. By the end, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of which option may be the best fit for your business.
The Rise of Chatbots
Chatbots have become increasingly prevalent in customer support due to their ability to provide instant responses and cost-effective solutions. These automated systems use artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) to engage with customers in real-time, making them a valuable resource for businesses looking to streamline their customer service operations.
Advantages of Chatbots
One of the most significant advantages of custom chatbots is their round-the-clock availability. They can respond to customer inquiries at any time, ensuring that customers receive support even outside regular business hours.
Custom Chatbots provide consistent responses to frequently asked questions, eliminating the risk of human error or inconsistency in service quality.
Implementing chatbots can reduce operational costs by automating routine inquiries and allowing human agents to focus on more complex issues.
Chatbots can handle multiple customer interactions simultaneously, making them highly scalable as your business grows.
Disadvantages of Chatbots
Chatbots may struggle to understand complex or nuanced inquiries, leading to frustration for customers seeking detailed information or support.
Lack of Empathy
Chatbots lack the emotional intelligence and empathy that human agents can provide, making them less suitable for handling sensitive or emotionally charged issues.
Initial Setup Costs
Developing and implementing chatbot technology can be costly, especially for small businesses.
The Role of Live Chat Support
Live chat support, on the other hand, involves real human agents who engage with customers in real-time through text-based conversations. While it may not offer the same level of automation as custom chatbots, live chat support excels in areas where human interaction and empathy are crucial.
Advantages of Live Chat
Live chat support provides a personal touch that chatbots cannot replicate. Human agents can empathize with customers, building a stronger emotional connection.
For inquiries that require a nuanced understanding or involve complex problem-solving, human agents are better equipped to provide in-depth assistance.
Customers often trust human agents more readily, especially when dealing with sensitive matters or making important decisions.
Human agents can adapt to various customer personalities and communication styles, ensuring a positive experience for diverse customers.
Disadvantages of Live Chat
Live chat support operates within specified business hours, which may not align with all customer needs, potentially leading to frustration.
The speed of response in live chat support can vary depending on agent availability and workload, leading to potential delays in customer assistance.
Maintaining a live chat support team with trained agents can be expensive, especially for smaller businesses strategically.
Building Customer Trust: The Credibility Factor
When it comes to building customer trust, credibility is paramount. Customers want to feel that they are dealing with a reliable and knowledgeable source. Both customziable chatbots and live chat support can contribute to credibility, but their effectiveness varies in different contexts.
Building Trust with Chatbots
Chatbots can build trust in various ways:
Chatbots provide consistent responses, ensuring that customers receive accurate information every time they interact with them.
Chatbots offer instant responses, which can convey a sense of efficiency and attentiveness.
Chatbots can assure customers of their data security through automated privacy policies and compliance statements.
However, custom chatbots may face credibility challenges when dealing with complex issues or highly emotional situations. In such cases, the lack of human empathy and understanding can hinder trust-building efforts.
Building Trust with Live Chat Support
Live chat support, with its human touch, excels at building trust in several ways:
Human agents can show empathy by actively listening to customers’ concerns and providing emotional support.
Live chat agents can tailor solutions to individual customer needs, demonstrating a commitment to solving their problems.
Human agents can adapt to changing customer requirements, ensuring a personalized and satisfying experience.
However, live chat support’s limitations, such as availability and potential response times, can sometimes hinder trust-building efforts, especially when customers require immediate assistance.
Finding the Right Balance
The choice between custom chatbots and live chat support is not always binary. Many businesses find success by integrating both options strategically:
Use chatbots for initial inquiries, providing quick responses, and gathering essential information. This frees up human agents to handle more complex cases.
Escalation to Live Chat
Implement a seamless escalation process from custom chatbots to live chat support when customer inquiries require a higher level of expertise or personal interaction.
Regularly analyze customer interactions and feedback to refine your custom chatbot’s responses and improve the overall support experience.
In the quest to build customer trust, both chatbots and live chat support have their roles to play. Customizable Chatbots offer efficiency, consistency, and round-the-clock availability, while live chat support provides the human touch, empathy, and adaptability. The key is to strike the right balance, leveraging the strengths of each to create a credible and trustworthy customer support experience. By understanding the unique advantages and disadvantages of both options, businesses can make informed decisions to enhance customer trust and satisfaction in the digital era.
The Rise in Retail Media Networks
As LL Cool J might say, “Don’t call it a comeback. It’s been here for years.”
Paid advertising is alive and growing faster in different forms than any other marketing method.
Magna, a media research firm, and GroupM, a media agency, wrapped the year with their ad industry predictions – expect big growth for digital advertising in 2024, especially with the pending US presidential political season.
But the bigger, more unexpected news comes from the rise in retail media networks – a relative newcomer in the industry.
Watch CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose explain how these trends could affect marketers or keep reading for his thoughts:
GroupM expects digital advertising revenue in 2023 to conclude with a 5.8% or $889 billion increase – excluding political advertising. Magna believes ad revenue will tick up 5.5% this year and jump 7.2% in 2024. GroupM and Zenith say 2024 will see a more modest 4.8% growth.
Robert says that the feeling of an ad slump and other predictions of advertising’s demise in the modern economy don’t seem to be coming to pass, as paid advertising not only survived 2023 but will thrive in 2024.
What’s a retail media network?
On to the bigger news – the rise of retail media networks. Retail media networks, the smallest segment in these agencies’ and research firms’ evaluation, will be one of the fastest-growing and truly important digital advertising formats in 2024.
GroupM suggests the $119 billion expected to be spent in the networks this year and should grow by a whopping 8.3% in the coming year. Magna estimates $124 billion in ad revenue from retail media networks this year.
“Think about this for a moment. Retail media is now almost a quarter of the total spent on search advertising outside of China,” Robert points out.
You’re not alone if you aren’t familiar with retail media networks. A familiar vernacular in the B2C world, especially the consumer-packaged goods industry, retail media networks are an advertising segment you should now pay attention to.
Retail media networks are advertising platforms within the retailer’s network. It’s search advertising on retailers’ online stores. So, for example, if you spend money to advertise against product keywords on Amazon, Walmart, or Instacart, you use a retail media network.
But these ad-buying networks also exist on other digital media properties, from mini-sites to videos to content marketing hubs. They also exist on location through interactive kiosks and in-store screens. New formats are rising every day.
Retail media networks make sense. Retailers take advantage of their knowledge of customers, where and why they shop, and present offers and content relevant to their interests. The retailer uses their content as a media company would, knowing their customers trust them to provide valuable information.
Think about these 2 things in 2024
That brings Robert to two things he wants you to consider for 2024 and beyond. The first is a question: Why should you consider retail media networks for your products or services?
Advertising works because it connects to the idea of a brand. Retail media networks work deep into the buyer’s journey. They use the consumer’s presence in a store (online or brick-and-mortar) to cross-sell merchandise or become the chosen provider.
For example, Robert might advertise his Content Marketing Strategy book on Amazon’s retail network because he knows his customers seek business books. When they search for “content marketing,” his book would appear first.
However, retail media networks also work well because they create a brand halo effect. Robert might buy an ad for his book in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal because he knows their readers view those media outlets as reputable sources of information. He gains some trust by connecting his book to their media properties.
Smart marketing teams will recognize the power of the halo effect and create brand-level experiences on retail media networks. They will do so not because they seek an immediate customer but because they can connect their brand content experience to a trusted media network like Amazon, Nordstrom, eBay, etc.
The second thing Robert wants you to think about relates to the B2B opportunity. More retail media network opportunities for B2B brands are coming.
You can already buy into content syndication networks such as Netline, Business2Community, and others. But given the astronomical growth, for example, of Amazon’s B2B marketplace ($35 billion in 2023), Robert expects a similar trend of retail media networks to emerge on these types of platforms.
“If I were Adobe, Microsoft, Salesforce, HubSpot, or any brand with big content platforms, I’d look to monetize them by selling paid sponsorship of content (as advertising or sponsored content) on them,” Robert says.
As you think about creative ways to use your paid advertising spend, consider the retail media networks in 2024.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
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