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Link Relevance vs. Content Relevance in Link Building

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Link Relevance vs. Content Relevance in Link Building

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.

Relevance is talked about a lot in the context of link building. In truth, it’s something that no one can really provide a concrete (or even close to concrete) answer to, because none of us knows exactly how Google measures relevance. Even having access to things like the Google Natural Language Processing API and seeing categories such as this doesn’t mean that we know how Google measures relevance themselves, because there will be so much more under the hood that isn’t visible to the public.

Even if we did know exactly how Google measures relevance, the extent to which they reward or penalize what they find as they crawl the web is also up for debate — like any ranking signal. We know that they use page speed, but they are also free to turn the dial on this up and down however they want.

This, in part, is why SEO is so fascinating. We’re optimizing for something that we can’t completely see and testing and refining based on the results we get. We can speculate on what Google may do or what we observe them doing, then a peer may see the exact opposite, and both may be right.

When it comes to link building and, specifically, the part that relevance plays, the potential answers are a lot more complex than we think. This is because relevance isn’t binary. We can’t just say that a link is relevant or not. We can’t say that content is relevant or not. The answers are far more nuanced than this, and we need to split things out a lot more to even begin to comprehend how Google may look at things.

With that in mind, let’s start by splitting out link relevance and content relevance.

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Link relevance

When we talk about link relevance, we’re referring to the topic of the page and domain where the link is placed. When building links, we often look for target websites to outreach to and generally, it’s a good idea to find “relevant” links, but “relevant” is actually quite tricky to define. Here are some examples why.

Domain relevance

If you get a link from Moz.com, then we’d say that the topics are things like SEO, digital marketing, content marketing, etc. These are a few of the broad topics that we’d classify Moz into. Whilst digital marketing in itself is a big topic, it’s not that complex or tricky to define the Moz domain and therefore, understand what is and isn’t relevant to it.

Page relevance

Things can get more complicated than this if you think about websites such as The New York Times which has dozens of categories and hundreds of subcategories. Broadly, they would be classified as a news website, but they have categories for pretty much every topic that you can think of.

Anchor text

Additionally, we can add other elements to link relevance such as anchor text. What if you get super relevant anchor text but the page where the link is placed is about a completely different topic that isn’t relevant? Does this make the link more or less relevant?

In many cases, you may not even control the anchor text that is being used which means that it can be completely random. We know that Google use anchor text for understanding a link, but to what extent do they use it?

And this is just touching the surface of what link relevance can include.

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Content relevance

We then have content relevance which is more about the page on your website that you get links to. It could be an existing page or it could be a brand new page that you’ve created to help with link building.

The attributes of content that sits on your website are far more under your control, so if you create something that is designed to get links and starts to go off topic a little, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect Google to take a harsher view on this in holding you accountable.

Things get hard when you remember that as SEOs, we often have link targets that we want to meet in order to catch up, overtake, or stay ahead of our competition. We want to get as many quality links as possible in order to increase the amount of traffic that we get from organic search.

To get more links, you can go broader with the topics and themes that you produce content about. This naturally opens up more potential link targets which in turn, increases the chances of you getting more links.

What all of this comes down to is striking the balance between producing a piece of content that is relevant to your brand, whilst getting as many links as possible. It can look something like this:

As you can see, many agencies (and in-house teams!) sit toward the right and are prepared to go wider with topics and themes because it can lead to more links. Irrelevance is driven by the pressure to build large volumes of links, and our industry does a great job of showcasing link building campaigns that have gotten hundreds of links, so we believe that this is what all of us should be aiming for.

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However, Google wants us more focused on relevant themes because ultimately, they want us to deserve any links that we get.

My take: link relevance matters a lot less than content relevance

Having talked about each one, my take is that content relevance matters a lot less than link relevance to Google and therefore, to your ability to rank in organic search. Here are a few reasons why.

Anyone can link to you

Literally anyone on the web can link to your website, it’s not something that you can actually control. This is party why link spam is so hard to deal with and why the disavow tool was invented.

Even putting spam to one side, anyone can link to you for any reason they want.

For example, I can link from right here on the Moz blog to one of my favorite content pieces of all time. Neither website is related to each other in terms of the business they do and this is a blog post about link building that links to content about movies. But no one would see this as spammy.

What if your personal blog about SEO gets a link from NASA? I’m sure you wouldn’t be complaining about it!

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The point being, it seems a stretch to think that Google would have a problem with links like these and therefore, shouldn’t be anything to worry about.

But, do they have value? Does the link above from Moz to a piece of content about movies hold as much value as a link from say, IMDB? This leads us onto my next point and why I think link relevance matters less than content relevance.

Authority and trust probably overrides link relevance

I do believe that Google cares a lot about how much they can trust a certain website and the links from that website. I’d venture a strong guess that Moz is a trusted domain and that it has the ability to pass value to the websites that it links to. We know that they have the ability to effectively “turn off” the ability for a website to pass PageRank to another and that they now have the ability to interpret the use of the nofollow tag so that they can decide whether it can be used for indexing and ranking purposes.

With that in mind, it would make sense for Google to make an assessment of the website giving the link and using this as a strong indicator to help decide how much value to pass across the link.

This would allow them to still pass value even when topical relevance isn’t there but they trust the website giving the link – which, as we can see, can easily happen.

The content we create is a stronger signal to Google

In contrast to the idea that anyone can link to you, you are far more in control of the content that you create. Even if you have a website that has a lot of user generated content, you still have overall editorial control over the processes for publishing that content. Essentially, you can be held accountable for the content that you create.

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If you run an online pet store and you create a piece of content about personal finance, few would argue that this isn’t relevant. But the key difference when compare to getting a random link from a personal finance website is that you are accountable for the content because it sits on the website that you run. Google can hold you to a higher standard because of this.

So, even if that piece of content gets 100 links, Google could easily say that they’re not going to value those links very highly because they can’t see any topical relevance.

Does Google really want to reward irrelevant content campaigns

This one is key for me and let’s bring this all back around to link building.

Let’s imagine that you create a bunch of content-led link building campaigns for your online pet store but the topical relevance is very questionable. The quality of the content is great, it’s nicely designed and unique and even cites some expert input. This content has generated hundreds of links as a result of how good it is.

Does Google really want to reward you by valuing these links very highly and as a consequence, giving your organic search visibility a boost?

No, they don’t.

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The truth is that in situations like this, it’s pretty obvious that the content has been created for the purposes of generating links. This in itself isn’t necessarily a problem, but if you do it over and over again, whilst the content clearly serves no other purpose, it’s not exactly a signal that your website is truly link worthy.

And remember, when it comes to links, Google will look for evidence that you truly deserve the links that you get and if the majority of links that you get come from off-topic campaigns, there is a strong argument to say that you don’t.

When does Google start to care about irrelevant content?

This is the big question for me and one that I can’t give you a complete answer to.

Launching some content pieces that are completely off topic and gets some links isn’t likely to get you into trouble. After all, everyone does random stuff from time to time and sometimes, a brand may decide to create some content or launch a campaign that is just a bit of fun.

If I were Google, I’d look for evidence that content is being created just for links. So I may look at a few signals such as the following.

Ratio of links to off-topic content vs. the rest of the website

If the majority of links pointing at a domain are to pages of content that is topically irrelevant when compared to the rest of the domain, I’d probably want to take a closer look at why. They may not impose a penalty or filter, but I may flag the domain for a Googler to take a look manually and see what’s going on.

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The content being a little bit orphaned in terms of internal links

With many content-led link building campaigns, they are published somewhere on a website that is a little hidden away from the result of the pages. This can be for a bunch of reasons but essentially means that the architecture ends up looking like this with the orange page being your campaign:

1656430788 399 Link Relevance vs Content Relevance in Link Building

The campaign isn’t integrated with the rest of the domain and kind of sits on its own.

Now, imagine that lots of incoming links start to appear that point to this page which is isolated, wouldn’t that look a little strange?

As an exception, this isn’t likely to mean much. But if it happens over and over again, it starts to look unnatural.

The content not linking to other pages to continue the user journey

If a piece of content isn’t relevant to the rest of the website, then it’s quite hard to add internal links or calls to action that make sense. So a clear signal for irrelevant content is a lack of links from the content to other pages.

Essentially, not only is a piece of content isolated in terms of site architecture, it’s also isolated in terms of linking back into that architecture.

This can also be common because if a piece of content is created just for the purpose of generating links, there is no incentive for the creator to link to product or category pages – that’s not what the content is meant to help with.

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How to ensure more content relevance

We should accept that content relevance is important and something that Google can (rightly) hold us accountable for. So, how can we ensure that relevance plays a part in producing ideas for link building campaigns and that we don’t get sucked into just going after high volumes of links?

Start with your customers

More specifically, start with the journey that they take when finding your product or service.

When we come up with content ideas, we can fall into the trap of thinking too much about who we’re trying to get links from — bloggers, journalists, writers, etc. We trick ourselves into thinking that if we are a travel brand, then working with a travel blogger will mean that we’re getting in front of our target audience.

Unfortunately, this may not necessarily be the case.

So, we should instead look at the customer journey. There are various ways to model this funnel but here is one that we use all the time at Aira and an example for a B2B company:

1656430788 764 Link Relevance vs Content Relevance in Link Building

This also shows that the journey isn’t always linear. Customers may move backwards in their journey as well as forwards and it may take a lot of steps before they commit to a decision. Google calls this the messy middle and is basically the stage when customers ponder their choices and are deliberating what to do next.

If you want to produce relevant content ideas for your link building campaigns, you need to start by understanding and mapping out the customer journey.

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Use keyword research to inform idea generation

When we produce content ideas for link building, we often don’t think about keywords because the goal of the content isn’t to rank, it’s to get links. So we’re not really incentivized or motivated to do extra research for something that we’re not being measured on.

However, doing this can be a great way to increase relevance because target keywords for your brand are going to be closely aligned with the pain points that customers have, alongside the solutions that the brand offers to those pain points. By integrating these keywords into your ideation process, you can’t help but produce ideas that are close to the target customers.

Reduce focus on link volumes

If you have a lofty link target to hit, you are much more likely to produce content ideas that aren’t relevant to your brand. This is because in order to hit link targets, you know that you need a good level of link prospects to outreach to. Even if you have a very good link conversion rate of say, 25%, that would mean that you still need 100 link prospects for every 25 links that you want to build.

How do you get more link prospects? By widening topics so that you can target different sectors of bloggers and journalists.

Instead, the focus needs to be on link prospects that are closely aligned with your own products, services and customers.

This will naturally limit the link volumes that you’re likely to achieve, but you can be more sure that you’ll produce a piece of content that is highly relevant to because you’re moving the pressure to get high link volumes.

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In summary

To summarize, try to avoid thinking of relevance as something that is binary. There are far more layers to it than this and as we’ve seen, we’ve only really scratched the surface here on what Google is likely to be doing.

When you do think about relevance, focus more of your attention on content relevance and ensure that content that you produce is unquestionably relevant to your customers and your brand.

By taking this route, you need to acknowledge that it may lead to fewer links, but is also more likely to put you in a position where you’re not worried about Google updates that may target relevancy in link building, as well as manual reviews by Googlers!

The ultimate added bonus here is that you’ll be creating content that isn’t just for links — it will be far more useful to regular customers, too, adding to the value of your work.

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Here’s Optimizely’s Automatic Sample Ratio Mismatch Detection

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Here's Optimizely’s Automatic Sample Ratio Mismatch Detection

Optimizely Experiment’s automatic sample ratio mismatch (SRM) detection delivers peace of mind to experimenters. It reduces a user’s exposure time to bad experiences by rapidly detecting any experiment deterioration.

This deterioration is caused by unexpected imbalances of visitors to a variation in an experiment. Most importantly, this auto SRM detection empowers product managers, marketers, engineers, and experimentation teams to confidently launch more experiments. 

How Optimizely Experiment’s stats engine and automatic sample rate mismatch detection work together

The sample ratio mismatch actslike the bouncer at the door who has a mechanical counter, checking guests’ tickets (users) and telling them which room they get to party in.

Stats engine is like the party host who is always checking the vibes (behavior) of the guests as people come into the room.

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If SRM does its job right, then stats engine can confidently tell which party room is better and direct more traffic to the winning variation (the better party) sooner.

Why would I want Optimizely Experiment’s SRM detection?

It’s equally important to ensure Optimizely Experiment users know their experiment results are trustworthy and have the tools to understand what an imbalance can mean for their results and how to prevent it.

Uniquely, Optimizely Experiment goes further by combining the power of automatic visitor imbalance detection with an insightful experiment health indicator. This experiment health indicator plays double duty by letting our customers know when all is well and there is no imbalance present.

Then, when just-in-time insight is needed to protect your business decisions, Optimizely also delivers just-in-time alerts that help our customers recognize the severity of, diagnose, and recover from errors.

Why should I care about sample ratio mismatch (SRM)?

Just like a fever is a symptom of many illnesses, a SRM is a symptom of a variety of data quality issues. Ignoring a SRM without knowing the root cause may result in a bad feature appearing to be good and being shipped out to users, or vice versa. Finding an experiment with an unknown source of traffic imbalance lets you turn it off quickly and reduce the blast radius.

Then what is the connection between a “mismatch” and “sample ratio”?

When we get ready to launch an experiment, we assign a traffic split of users for Optimizely Experiment to distribute to each variation. We expect the assigned traffic split to reasonably match up with the actual traffic split in a live experiment. An experiment is exposed to an SRM imbalance when there is a statistically significant difference between the expected and the actual assigned traffic splits of visitors to an experiment’s variations.

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1. A mismatch doesn’t mean an imperfect match

Remember: A bonified imbalance requires a statistically significant result of the difference in visitors. Don’t expect a picture-perfect, identical, exact match of the launch-day traffic split to your in-production traffic split. There will always be some ever-so-slight deviation.

Not every traffic disparity automatically signifies that an experiment is useless. Because Optimizely deeply values our customers’ time and energy, we developed a new statistical test that continuously monitors experiment results and detects harmful SRMs as early as possible. All while still controlling for crying wolf over false positives (AKA when we conclude there is a surprising difference between a test variation and the baseline when there is no real difference). 

2. Going under the hood of Optimizely Experiment’s SRM detection algorithm

Optimizely Experiment’s automatic SRM detection feature employs a sequential Bayesian multinomial test (say that 5 times fast!), named sequential sample ratio mismatch. Optimizely statisticians Michael Lindon and Alen Malek pioneered this method, and it is a new contribution to the field of Sequential Statistics. Optimizely Experiment’s sample ratio mismatch detection harmonizes sequential and Bayesian methodologies by continuously checking traffic counts and testing for any significant imbalance in a variation’s visitor counts. The algorithm’s construction is Bayesian inspired to account for an experiment’s optional stopping and continuation while delivering sequential guarantees of Type-I error probabilities.

3. Beware of chi-eap alternatives!

The most popular freely available SRM calculators employ the chi-square test. We highly recommend a careful review of the mechanics of chi-square testing. The main issue with the chi-squared method is that problems are discovered only after collecting all the data. This is arguably far too late and goes against why most clients want SRM detention in the first place. In our blog post “A better way to test for sample ratio mismatches (or why I don’t use a chi-squared test)”, we go deeper into chi-square mechanics and how what we built accounts for the gaps left behind by the alternatives.

Common causes of an SRM  

1. Redirects & Delays

A SRM usually results from some visitors closing out and leaving the page before the redirect finishes executing. Because we only send the decision events once they arrive on the page and Optimizely Experiment loads, we can’t count these visitors in our results page unless they return at some point and send an event to Optimizely Experiment.

A SRM can emerge in the case of anything that would cause Optimizely Experiment’s event calls to delay or not fire, such as variation code changes. It also occurs when redirect experiments shuttle visitors to a different domain. This occurrence is exacerbated by slow connection times.

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2. Force-bucketing

If a user first gets bucketed in the experiment and then that decision is used to force-bucket them in a subsequent experiment, then the results of that subsequent experiment will become imbalanced.

Here’s an example:

Variation A provides a wildly different user experience than Variation B.

Visitors bucketed into Variation A have a great experience, and many of them continue to log in and land into the subsequent experiment where they’re force-bucketed into Variation A.

But, visitors who were bucketed into Variation B aren’t having a good experience. Only a few users log in and land into a subsequent experiment where they will be force-bucketed into Variation B.

Well, now you have many more visitors in Variation A than in Variation B.

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3. Site has its own redirects

Some sites have their own redirects (for example, 301s) that, combined with our redirects, can result in a visitor landing on a page without the snippet. This causes pending decision events to get locked in localStorage and Optimizely Experiment never receives or counts them.

4. Hold/send events API calls are housed outside of the snippet

Some users include hold/send events in project JS. However, others include it in other scripts on the page, such as in vendor bundles or analytics tracking scripts. This represents another script that must be properly loaded for the decisions to fire appropriately. Implementation or loading rates may differ across variations, particularly in the case of redirects.

Interested?  

If you’re already an Optimizely Experiment customer and you’d like to learn more about how automatic SRM detection benefits your A/B tests, check out our knowledge base documentation:

For further details you can always reach out to your customer success manager but do take a moment to review our documentation first!

If you’re not a customer, get started with us here! 

And if you’d like to dig deeper into the engine that powers Optimizely experimentation, you can check out our page faster decisions you can trust for digital experimentation. 

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How to Use Email Marketing Automation to Encourage SaaS Adoption

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How to Use Email Marketing Automation to Encourage SaaS Adoption

SaaS adoption refers to the process that earns your product a permanent place in your user’s workflow. This happens when you empower your audience to extract useful value from your solutions.

Email, a tried and tested communication tool, plays an essential role in helping brands relay their product’s value to their customers and educate them on how to make the most of it.

However, smaller teams might find themselves at a crossroads, balancing the need for personalized communication with the scale of their user base

Email marketing automation offers a practical solution by ensuring that each message is tailored and timely, yet sent out with minimal manual effort.

In this article, let’s look at five tips that will help you build robust email marketing automation that will motivate your audience to adopt your tool and make it a part of their daily lives.

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1. Segment your audience

Audience segmentation is crucial for personalizing your emails, which in turn, can significantly boost SaaS product adoption. Remember, a message that resonates with one segment might not strike a chord with another.

The key to effective segmentation is understanding where each customer is in their journey. Are they new subscribers, active users, or perhaps at the brink of churning?

Here are some actionable steps to segment your audience effectively:

  1.  Analyze User Behavior: Look at how different users interact with your SaaS product. Are they frequent users, or do they log in sporadically? This insight can help you create segments like ‘active users’, ‘occasional users’, and ‘at-risk users’.
  2.  Utilize Sign-up Data: Leverage the information gathered during the sign-up process. This can include job roles, company size, or industry, which are excellent parameters for segmentation.
  3.  Monitor Engagement Levels: Keep an eye on how different segments interact with your emails. Are they opening, clicking, or ignoring your messages? This feedback will help you refine your segments and tailor your approach. Plus, consider setting up small business phone systems to enhance communication with your audience.

2. Create campaigns based on behavior

Sending behavior-based campaigns is pivotal in effective email marketing. By focusing on performance metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and engagement times, you can gauge the effectiveness of your emails and adjust your strategy accordingly.

You can also use digital signage to entertain or make customers aware of something new – product or service, through a digital sign.

Different types of email campaigns serve various purposes:

  1. Educational Campaigns: These are designed to inform and enlighten your audience about their problem. They can include tips, best practices, and how-to guides. The goal here is to provide value and establish your brand as a thought leader in your industry.
  2. Interactive Campaigns: These campaigns encourage user engagement through surveys, quizzes, microblogging platforms, or feedback forms. They not only provide valuable insights into user preferences but also make the recipients feel heard and valued.
  3. Onboarding Campaigns: Targeted toward new users, these messages help them get the value they seek from your product as soon as possible. They can include step-by-step tutorials, video guides, or links to helpful resources.

4.Re-engagement Campaigns: Aimed at inactive users, these emails strive to reignite their interest in your SaaS product. They might include product updates, special offers, or reminders of the benefits they’re missing out on.

3. A/B test before deployment

Rather than pushing a new campaign to your entire audience as soon as you draft the emails, A/B testing helps you know whether your messages are any good.

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Here are some best practices for A/B testing in email automation:

  1. Test One Variable at a Time: Whether it’s the subject line, email content, or call-to-action, change just one (or a couple) element per test. This clarity helps in pinpointing exactly what works and what doesn’t.
  2. Choose a Representative Sample: Ensure that the test group is a good mix of your target audience as a whole. This way, the results are more likely to reflect how your entire audience would react.
  3. Measure the Right Metrics: Depending on what you’re testing, focus on relevant metrics like open rates, click-through rates, or conversion rates. This will give you a clear picture of the impact of your changes. Along with these steps, it’s important to use an SPF checker to ensure your emails aren’t marked as spam and increase the deliverability rate.
  4. Use the Results to Inform Your Strategy: Once you have the results, don’t just stop at implementing the winning version. Analyze why it performed better and use these insights to inform your future campaigns.
  5. Don’t Rush the Process: Give your test enough time to gather significant data. Adopt comprehensive marketing reporting solutions that give you a clear picture of your campaigns’ efficacy.

4. Leverage email templates

When managing multiple email automation campaigns, each with potentially dozens of emails, the task of creating each one from scratch can be daunting. Not to mention, if you have multiple writers on board, there’s a risk of inconsistency in tone, style, and branding.

Email templates are your secret weapon for maintaining consistency and saving time. They provide a standardized framework that can be easily customized for different campaigns and purposes.

They are also a great way to communicate with your customers. Another way to communicate efficiently with your customer is through best small business phone systems, which is especially efficient when conveying information about your product or service.

Here’s a rundown of various types of templates you should consider having:

  1. Welcome: For greeting new subscribers or users. It should be warm, inviting, and informative, setting the tone for future communications.
  2. Educational Content: Used for sharing tips, guides, and resources. If you are making this template to introduce online GCSE physics tutor services that you provide, you should be clear, concise, and focused on delivering value in your template.
  3. Promotional: For announcing new features, offers, or services. It should be eye-catching and persuasive without being overly salesy.
  4. Feedback Request: Designed to solicit user feedback. This template should be engaging and make it easy for recipients to respond.
  5. Re-engagement: Aimed at rekindling interest among inactive users. It should be attention-grabbing and remind them of what they’re missing.
  6. Event Invitation: For webinars, workshops, or other events. This should be exciting and informative, providing all the necessary details.

5. Use a tool that works for you

Email is more than just a marketing platform; it’s a multifaceted tool that can drive customer engagement, support, and retention. Given its versatility, it’s crucial to choose the right email automation tool that aligns with your specific needs.

When selecting an email automation tool, consider these key features:

  1. Intuitive Interface: Even your non-technical team members should find it easy to use.
  2. Robust Segmentation Capabilities: The tool must offer advanced segmentation options to target your emails accurately.
  3. A/B Testing Functionality: Essential for optimizing your email campaigns.
  4. Integration with Other Tools: Look for a tool that integrates seamlessly with your CRM, analytics, and other marketing platforms. Additionally, integrating a multilingual translation support can further enhance the tool’s versatility, allowing you to reach a diverse audience with tailored content in their preferred languages.

Popular tools like Mailchimp and ActiveCampaign offer free trials which are great for brands to take these for a spin before making a choice.

Wrapping up

Leveraging email automation makes it easier for SaaS brands to market their solutions to their audience and ultimately increase adoption rates.

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Segmenting audiences, creating messages based on their behavior, testing emails before setting campaigns live, utilizing templates for speed and consistency, and adopting a tool that you are comfortable working with are essential email marketing automation tips to help you get started on the right foot.

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Marketing Team Reorgs: Why So Many and How To Survive

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Marketing Team Reorgs: Why So Many and How To Survive

How long has it been since your marketing team got restructured? 

Wearing our magic mind-reading hat, we’d guess it was within the last two years. 

Impressed by the guess? Don’t be.  

Research from Marketing Week’s 2024 Career and Salary Survey finds that almost half of marketing teams restructured in the last 12 months. (And the other half probably did it the previous year.) 

Why do marketing teams restructure so often? Is this a new thing? Is it just something that comes with marketing? What does it all mean for now and the future? 

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CMI chief strategy advisor Robert Rose offers his take in this video and the summary below. 

Marketing means frequent change 

Marketing Week’s 2024 Career and Salary Survey finds 46.5% of marketing teams restructured in the last year — a 5-percentage point increase over 2023 when 41.4% of teams changed their structure. 

But that’s markedly less than the 56.5% of marketing teams that restructured in 2022, which most likely reflected the impact of remote work, the fallout of the pandemic, and other digital marketing trends. 

Maybe the real story isn’t, “Holy smokes, 46% of businesses restructured their marketing last year.” The real story may be, “Holy smokes, only 46% of businesses restructured their marketing.” 

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Put simply, marketing teams are now in the business of changing frequently. 

It raises two questions.  

First, why does marketing experience this change? You don’t see this happening in other parts of the business. Accounting teams rarely get restructured (usually only if something dramatic happens in the organization). The same goes for legal or operations. Does marketing change too frequently? Or do other functions in business not change enough? 

Second, you may ask, “Wait a minute, we haven’t reorganized our marketing teams in some time. Are we behind? Are we missing out? What are they organizing into? Or you may fall at the other end of the spectrum and ask, “Are we changing too fast? Do companies that don’t change so often do better? 

OK, that’s more than one question, but the second question boils down to this: Should you restructure your marketing organization? 

Reorganizing marketing 

Centralization emerged as the theme coming out of the pandemic. Gartner reports (registration required) a distinct move to a fully centralized model for marketing over the last few years: “(R)esponsibilities across the marketing organization have shifted. Marketing’s sole responsibilities for marketing operations, marketing strategy, and marketing-led innovation have increased.”  

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According to a Gartner study, marketing assuming sole responsibility for marketing operations, marketing innovation, brand management, and digital rose by double-digit percentage points in 2022 compared to the previous year.  

What does all that mean for today in plainer language? 

Because teams are siloed, it’s increasingly tougher to create a collaborative environment. And marketing and content creation processes are complex (there are lots of people doing more small parts to creative, content, channel management, and measurement). So it’s a lot harder these days to get stuff done if you’re not working as one big, joined-up team. 

Honestly, it comes down to this question: How do you better communicate and coordinate your content? That’s innovation in modern marketing — an idea and content factory operating in a coordinated, consistent, and collaborative way. 

Let me give you an example. All 25 companies we worked with last year experienced restructuring fatigue. They were not eager creative, operations, analytics, media, and digital tech teams champing at the bit for more new roles, responsibilities, and operational changes. They were still trying to settle into the last restructuring.  

What worked was fine-tuning a mostly centralized model into a fully centralized operational model. It wasn’t a full restructuring, just a nudge to keep going. 

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In most of those situations, the Gartner data rang true. Marketing has shifted to get a tighter and closer set of disparate teams working together to collaborate, produce, and measure more efficiently and effectively.  

As Gartner said in true Gartner-speak fashion: “Marginal losses of sole responsibility (in favor of shared and collaborative) were also reported across capabilities essential for digitally oriented growth, including digital media, digital commerce, and CX.” 

Companies gave up the idea of marketing owning one part of the customer experience, content type, or channel. Instead, they moved into more collaborative sharing of the customer experience, content type, or channel.  

Rethinking the marketing reorg 

This evolution can be productive. 

Almost 10 years ago, Carla Johnson and I wrote about this in our book Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing. We talked about the idea of building to change: 

“Tomorrow’s marketing and communications teams succeed by learning to adapt — and by deploying systems of engagement that facilitate adaptation. By constantly building to change, the marketing department builds to succeed.” 

We surmised the marketing team of the future wouldn’t be asking what it was changing into but why it was changing. Marketing today is at the tipping point of that. 

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The fact that half of all marketing teams restructure and change every two years might not be a reaction to shifting markets. It may just be how you should think of marketingas something fluid that you build and change into whatever it needs to be tomorrow, not something you must tear down and restructure every few years.  

The strength in that view comes not in knowing you need to change or what you will change into. The strength comes from the ability and capacity to do whatever marketing should. 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 

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