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Paid and Organic are Indistinguishable



When that reality was, though, was a matter of extreme debate ~ Iliad & Odyssey

The idea of Paid Search and SEO being one, has been debated for years. Paid search is pay per click (PPC) traffic that is not free. You have to pay a cost dictated by Amazon, Microsoft Ads, Google, Oath. SEO is free search engine optimized organic traffic, think Yahoo, Google and Bing here in the states. Referencing Wikipedia, “Webmasters and content providers began optimizing websites for search engines in the mid-1990’s, as the first search engines were cataloging the early web”. Following close behind, Wikipedia states, “there are several sites that claim to be the first ppc model on the web, with many appearing in the mid-1990s”. 

Debates surrounding organic search and paid have been going on since the 90s, this is clear. What is not clear is just how indistinguishable the two are. Google, launched in 1998, AdWords (now google ads) in 2000, how did this impact how advertisers’ market worldwide? Native advertising has been defined into 6 formats by the IAB, as a form of paid advertising, placed there to be indistinguishable from the content on the page, why? Content is king, disrupted more recently with fake news. Seamless cross channel amplification here in 2018, now includes voice, AI, search bots and in-market cross channel segments.

My Question To You

What is the difference between referral, ppc, display, organic, direct, and social? Is it personalization? A quick Google search states, and I quote, “Personalization is a means of meeting the customer’s needs more effectively and efficiently, making interactions faster and easier and, consequently, increasing customer satisfaction”.

Organic and Paid Search As One

Mitch Larson industry expert and friend at a top global agency told me more recently that, “I am having a hard time not thinking about organic and paid search as one. Not having an integrated strategy here has been a pain point for me”. A year and some change ago, I felt the same, reinforced after coming back from PPC Hero’s Austin conference and seeing Frederick Valley’s presentation.  (He asked Alexa to optimize all of his advertising accounts, Alexa with a smile, reported back with what she had already done). Since this conversation occurred between Mitch and I, Google went ahead and did some crazy things.

Some of the Crazy Things:

  • Smart bidding with conversion action sets at the campaign-level
  • Local shopping campaigns & gallery ads
  • Google patented search behavior
  • Google patented user intent
  • Search has adjusted from answering questions to answering Intent
  • Cross account optimization and a new U.I.
  • Expanded on variations across match types
life insurance paid search

Consider The Crazy

Things you want to consider that I agree with, per Mitch, “is companies large and small have departments working in a silos”, these departments do not have skill sets that cross disciplines. From my experience across matrix organizations you would be hard pressed to get them all in a room together on a regular basis. Furthermore, to add salt to a wound, large brands have been and continue defend brand with paid search. Knowing that you have to defend your brand, or a brand is a good target for customers. You have to make adjustments to your bids because a: as a brand your competition is out bidding your bad ads or b: you as a non-brand business are not as relevant even with a good ad. Either way driving up cost incrementally. The good news is that brands recognize a user experience is channel agnostic, when intent is in play, I need to defend my brand. The bad news is that a generic search for say life insurance sampled above, this time thanks to and Getethos.Com, is the reason why bids continue to increase. Add on universal Attribution Woes, were brands like Farmers are close to solving for the walled garden, yet so far away from a comprehensive marketing strategy that aids in the bidding decision.

Advertisers Have No Answer

Still we open the door per Mitch’s questions, “Why are paid search marketers bidding on keywords that we are ranking very well for? and Can you quantify the results that having an ad in place where organic dominates decreases or increases your ability to convert?”. 

Back to my debate with Mitch, I said, “if strategy is no longer about building an ad, or paying for a keyword in a key wordless world”, Amazon is trying to bring back to life by the way, “that we should start to think of paid and organic as one.”   This is my opinion; and surely all methods of organic do apply to paid search across all channels. Data points from suggest, “in 2017 46.8% of the global population accessed the internet and by 2021 this figure is projected to grow to 53.7%.” This is important for one reason alone, the data does not distinguish between paid activity and or organic, just an individual generic search itself, from accessing the web (It does not distinguish how the search occurred). Further supporting the idea that we should move away from distinguishing paid advertising and organic, SEMrush, “found that the number of direct websites visits to your site positively impact our organic SERPs position.” The math suggests from Martech.Zone that 39% of all global traffic, 35% from organic and 4% is from paid search. Leaving 61% of users going directly to a site, when one interacts online. Keep in mind there is very little public data about voice search. All this stated here means that the focus clearly has to be on quality.

The engines reward our sites at the end of the day based on quality. Quality theoretically is driven by user’s engagement with your site, direct traffic likely being a significant factor, less all other things like content, bounce rate, pages per session or interactions in general. Interestingly enough why is it that paid search focuses so much on content curation and how that is delivered. Isn’t this the idea of organic? BethKanter.Org defines content curation as, “the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme. The work involves, sifting sorting, arranging, and publishing information.”

seo and paid search query

Finally, thanks to the Farmers digital team for the sample. If you are not paying attention, or an advertiser having never seen Google Ads. You will click through the first thing you see which is an ad. The engines in parity partnership have been moving at an inconspicuous speed to make both Microsoft ads and Google Ads as indistinguishable to organic listings. 

In conclusion we can talk about a key-wordless future, voice, mobile, AI, bots, dynamic, native, responsive, css, html, flat, responsive ways for a user to interact with your advertising. Each goes a mile deep and requires a unique skill set, how about we stay a mile wide as an industry and start to focus our strategy on what is advertising generally. This starts with the consumer, turns into a query “paid or organic”, and ends with the consumer.


(Re)Introducing your favorite Optimizely products!



(Re)Introducing your favorite Optimizely products!

It’s important to us that you, our valued customers and partners, can identify with the tools you use daily.  

In that pursuit, Optimizely set out to simplify the way we talk about our product suite. That starts, first and foremost, with the words we use to refer to the technology.  

So, we’ve taken a hard look at everything in our portfolio, and are thrilled to introduce new names we believe are more practical, more consistent, and better representative of the technology we all know and love.  

You may have seen some of these names initially at Opticon 2022 as well as on our website. In the spirit of transparency, the team here at Optimizely wanted to make sure you had full visibility into the complete list of new names, as well as understand the context (and rationale) behind the changes. 

So, without further ado… 

Which names changed?  

Some, but not all. For your ongoing reference, below is a complete list of Optimizely products, with previous terminology you may be familiar with in the first column, and (if applicable) the new name in the second column.  

Used to be… 

Is now (or is still)… 



Optimizely Digital Experience Platform 

A fully-composable solution designed to support the orchestration, monetization, and experimentation of any type of digital experience — all from a single, open and extensible platform. 

Content Cloud 

Optimizely Content Management System 

A best-in-class system for building dynamic websites and helping digital teams deliver rich, secure and personalized experiences. 


Optimizely Content Marketing Platform 

An industry-leading and user-friendly platform helping marketing teams plan campaigns, collaborate on tasks, and author content. 


Optimizely Digital Asset Management 

A modern storage tool helping teams of any size manage, track, and repurpose marketing and brand assets (with support for all file types). 

Content Recs 

Optimizely Content Recommendations 

AI-powered and real-time recommendations to serve the unique interests of each visitor and personalize every experience. 

B2B Commerce 

Optimizely Configured Commerce 

A templatized and easy-to-deploy platform designed to help manufacturers and distributors drive efficiency, increase revenue and create easy buying experiences that retain customers. 

Commerce Cloud 

Optimizely Customized Commerce 

A complete platform for digital commerce and content management to build dynamic experiences that accelerate revenue and keep customers coming back for more. 


Optimizely Product Information Management 

A dedicated tool to help you set up your product inventory and manage catalogs of any size or scale. 

Product Recs 

Optimizely Product Recommendations 

Machine-learning algorithms optimized for commerce to deliver personalized product recommendations in real-time. 


Optimizely Web Experimentation 

An industry-leading experimentation tool allowing you to run A/B and multi-variant tests on any channel or device with an internet connection. 

Full Stack 

Optimizely Feature Experimentation 

A comprehensive experimentation platform allowing you to manage features, deploy safer tests, and roll out new releases – all in one place. 


Optimizely Personalization 

An add-on to core experimentation products, allowing teams to create/segment audiences based on past behavior and deliver more relevant experiences. 

Program Management 

Optimizely Program Management 

An add-on to core experimentation products, allowing teams to manage the end-to-end lifecycle of an experiment. 


Optimizely Data Platform 

A centralized hub to harmonize data across your digital experience tools, providing one-click integrations, AI-assisted guidance for campaigns, and unified customer profiles. 


So, why the change?  

 It boils down to three guiding principles:  

  1. Uniformity: Create a naming convention that can be applied across the board, for all products, to drive consistency 
  2. Simplicity: Use terms that are both practical and concise, ensuring the names are something that everyone can understand and identify with  
  3. Completeness: Develop a framework that showcases the full and complimentary nature of all the products and solutions within the Optimizely suite 

 As the Optimizely portfolio comes together as a complete, unified platform, it’s important that our names reflect this, as well as support our 3 key solutions (i.e. orchestrate amazing content experiences, monetize every digital experience, and experiment across all touchpoints).  

Other questions? We’ve got you covered. 

Q: Why have you made these product name changes? 

    • We wanted to simplify how we talk about our portfolio. The renaming applies a naming convention that is both practical and concise.  


Q: Do the new product name changes affect the products I own? 

    • No, there is no impact to product functionality or capabilities.  


Q: Do the new product name changes affect who is my Customer Success Manager or Account Manager?  

    • No, there are no changes to your Customer Success Manager or Account Manager. 


Q: Do the new product name changes affect the ownership of the company?  

    • No, ownership of the company has not changed. We have only made changes to the Product Names. 


Q: Have any contact details changed that I need to be aware of?  

    • Only contact details for former Welcome customers has changed. These are the new contact details you should be aware of: Optimizely, Inc.| 119 5th Ave | 7th Floor | New York, NY 10003 USA. Phone: +1 603 594 0249 | 


Q: Where can I send any follow up questions I might have?  

    • If you have any questions about the Product Names, please contact your Customer Success Manager or Account Manager.  

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Email Marketing Trends 2023: Predictions by the Industry Stalwarts



Email Marketing Trends 2023: Predictions by the Industry Stalwarts

Every year, we see new trends entering the world of email marketing.

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5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers



5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers

Who doesn’t like to have a good experience consuming content?

I know I do. And isn’t that what we – as both a consumer of content and a marketer of content – all want?

What if you create such a good experience that your audience doesn’t even realize it’s an “experience?” Here’s a helpful mish-mash of easy-to-do things to make that possible.

1. Write with an inclusive heart

There’s nothing worse than being in a conversation with someone who constantly talks about themselves. Check your text to see how often you write the words – I, me, we, and us. Now, count how often the word “you” is used. If the first-person uses are disproportionate to the second-person uses, edit to delete many first-person references and add more “you” to the text.

You want to let your audience know they are included in the conversation. I like this tip shared in Take Binary Bias Out of Your Content Conversations by Content Marketing World speaker Ruth Carter: Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns.

Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns, says @rbcarter via @Brandlovellc @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

2. Make your content shine brighter with an AI assist

Content published online should look different than the research papers and essays you wrote in school. While you should adhere to grammar rules and follow a style guide as best as possible, you also should prioritize readability. That requires scannable and easily digestible text – headings, bulleted text, short sentences, brief paragraphs, etc.

Use a text-polishing aid such as Hemingway Editor (free and paid versions) to cut the dead weight from your writing. Here’s how its color-coded review system works and the improvements to make:

  • Yellow – lengthy, complex sentences, and common errors
    • Fix: Shorten or split sentences.
  • Red – dense and complicated text
    • Fix: Remove hurdles and keep your readers on a simpler path.
  • Pink – lengthy words that could be shortened
    • Fix: Scroll the mouse over the problematic word to identify potential substitutes.
  • Blue – adverbs and weakening phrases
    • Fix: Delete them or find a better way to convey the thought.
  • Green – passive voice
    • Fix: Rewrite for active voice.

Grammarly’s paid version works well, too. The premium version includes an AI-powered writing assistant, readability reports, a plagiarism checker, citation suggestions, and more than 400 additional grammar checks.

In the image below, Grammarly suggests a way to rephrase the sentence from:

“It is not good enough any longer to simply produce content “like a media company would”.


“It is no longer good enough to produce content “as a media company would”.

Much cleaner, right?

3. Ask questions

See what I did with the intro (and here)? I posed questions to try to engage with you. When someone asks a question – even in writing – the person hearing (or reading) it is likely to pause for a split second to consider their answer. The reader’s role changes from a passive participant to an active one. Using this technique also can encourage your readers to interact with the author, maybe in the form of an answer in the comments.

4. Include links

Many content marketers include internal and external links in their text for their SEO value. But you also should add links to help your readers. Consider including links to help a reader who wants to learn more about the topic. You can do this in a couple of ways:

  • You can link the descriptive text in the article to content relevant to those words (as I did in this bullet point)
  • You can list the headlines of related articles as a standalone feature (see the gray box labeled Handpicked Related Content at the end of this article).

Add links to guide readers to more information on a topic – not just for SEO purposes says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

You also can include on-page links or bookmarks in the beginning (a table of contents, of sorts) in longer pieces to help the reader more quickly access the content they seek to help you learn more about a topic. This helps the reader and keeps visitors on your website longer.

5. Don’t forget the ‘invisible’ text

Alt text is often an afterthought – if you think about it all. Yet, it’s essential to have a great content experience for people who use text-to-speech readers. Though it doesn’t take too much time, I find that customizing the image description content instead of relying on the default technology works better for audience understanding.

First, ask if a listener would miss something if they didn’t have the image explained. If they wouldn’t, the image is decorative and probably doesn’t need alt text. You publish it for aesthetic reasons, such as to break up a text-heavy page. Or it may repeat information already appearing in the text (like I did in the Hemingway and Grammarly examples above).

If the listener would miss out if the image weren’t explained well, it is informative and requires alt text. General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text. That’s a short sentence or two to convey the image’s message. Don’t forget to include punctuation.

General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text, says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For both decorative and informative images, include the photo credits, permissions, and copyright information, in the caption section.

For example, if I were writing an article about Best Dogs for Families, I would include an image of a mini Bernedoodle as an example because they make great family pets. Let’s use this image of my adorable puppy, Henri, and I’ll show you both a good and bad example of alt text.

An almost useless alt-text version: “An image showing a dog.”

Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.

It wastes valuable characters with the phrase “an image showing.”

Use the available characters for a more descriptive alt text: “Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.”

It’s more descriptive, and I only used 112 characters, including spaces.

Want to learn more? Alexa Heinrich, an award-winning social media strategist, has a helpful article on writing effective image descriptions called The Art of Alt Text. @A11yAwareness on Twitter is also a great resource for accessibility tips.

Improve your content and better the experience

Do any of these suggestions feel too hard to execute? I hope not. They don’t need a bigger budget to execute. They don’t need a lengthy approval process to implement. And they don’t demand much more time in production.

They just need you to remember to execute them the next time you write (and the time after that, and the time after that, and the … well, you get the idea.)

If you have an easy-to-implement tip to improve the content experience, please leave it in the comments. I may include it in a future update.

All tools mentioned in the article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please feel free to add it in the comments.

If you have an idea for an original article you’d like to share with the CMI audience, you could get it published on the site. First, read our blogging guidelines and write or adjust your draft accordingly. Then submit the post for consideration following the process outlined in the guidelines.

In appreciation for guest contributors’ work, we’re offering free registration to one paid event or free enrollment in Content Marketing University to anyone who gets two new posts accepted and published on the CMI site in 2023.


Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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