Should Marketers Shift Offline Budgets to Digital Marketing?

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

shift marketing digitalYou don’t have to look much further than recent headlines and research studies below to see that many companies are losing confidence in traditional marketing and advertising.  

The changing trends in information production, distribution and consumption coupled with the uncertain times we live in create an unprecedented challenge for companies to better reach and engage with customers.

Whether changes in marketing direction are motivated in response to market and industry conditions, changing consumer behaviors or the need to stay competitive and cost effective, one thing is certain: companies that don’t nail down marketing efficiencies and customer retention are in for a long, cold winter.

Here are a few recent headlines and studies of interest:

Integrated Marketing Media Mix’ Study: More Digital with Mainstay Traditional: “As marketers integrate their media campaigns, they are adding email and other digital media in ever-increasing numbers – though offline media remain vital to integrated campaigns, according to “the Integrated Marketing Media Mix”” 
DMA Study via Marketing Charts

NCDM Database marketers need to innovate, explore multichannel options: “Tim Suther, senior VP at marketing services company Acxiom, agreed, stressing the need for database marketers to extend their skills into digital marketing.” 

Direct Marketing to Account for 53% of U.S. Ad Spend in 2009 Growth for Interactive Marketing:  ”Expenditures in the newer online media will maintain significant growth in the coming year. Commercial email will continue to claim the top growth ranking for 2009, while internet advertising will claim more than 15% of all direct marketing advertising dollars in 2009.” 
DMA Power of Direct Marketing’ Report

Survey Finds Pharma Marketers Poised to Embrace Digital: “The pharmaceutical industry is behind the curve in many areas of digital marketing, but it is likely to make a significant leap ahead in the coming year. That is the conclusion of “Digital Marketing in Pharma”, a new survey from MarketBridge, in conjunction with Pharmaceutical Executive magazine.”

Economy Shrinking 65% of CMO Ad Budgets, Money Shifts toward Digital: “Nearly two-thirds (65%) of CMOs and marketing execs say their ad budgets will decrease because of the troubled economy, but more of their money will go toward digital/interactive marketing than before
epsilon CMO Study via Marketing Charts

Digital and Direct Orange boss urges total budget switch to online:  ”Speaking at the annual IAB Engage conference, held last week, Billingsley made the case for advertisers to transfer all their budgets to digital. He also accused ‘archaic executives’ of wanting to see their creative work on TV, thus holding back the inevitable shift toward online marketing.”
Brand Republic Marketing

Research and opinions in favor of digital marketing are pretty clear: Invest marketing and advertising budgets in internet and mobile or face the consequences of failure. That’s a bold statement, but is it really true?

While presenting at last month’s Social Media Smarts Workshop in New York, I offered the question, “Should marketers shift budgets from offline to digital?” and then posted the question to LinkedIn as both a demonstration of how the “Answers” feature worked and to get the pulse of the LinkedIn community on the topic. Replies were compelling and here are a few I’d like to highlight:

Lynne Mysliwiec - VP, Analytics at Epsilon Data Management:

My opinion is that media budget allocation should be commensurate with ROI in the short term (immediate sales driven) and long term (quality/value of customers transacting in a channel after some time frame). Budget allocation should also be consider immediate marketing needs. For example, if you’re planning a new product introduction, cutting mass back to nothing will probably jeopardize or delay the ultimate success of this new product. It would make sense to drive brand-based and/or product-introduction investments toward mass media to give your new product a fighting chance or you will have to adjust your expectations for penetrating the new markets the product was designed for. 

Since the impact of mass media on sales tends to be less measurable than direct-response media, in a downturn one expects that many mass-media budgets are slashed in favor of measurable media, although often those budgets are cut as well. 

ARE people pulling out of advertising and print-based DM and allocating dollars toward digital for 2009? Yes they are, although many are using cost cutting as the primary thought process behind that migration rather than data-driven thought-processes and will re-think those decisions as their businesses exit the recession.

 Jim Gilbert - Direct Marketing Professional, Author and Professor:

The answer is in understanding your metrics. If you have traditional programs that are working, keep them. Test, if you can, integrating off/online with personalization techniques like PURLS. 

Furthermore, the more the online shift, the better for direct marketers using traditional vehicles like mail and catalogs. Less mailbox clutter, more visibility for messages that are relevant to the consumer.

Dan Gershenson – Creative Director at The Creative Underground 

To me the question has to start first with how your target audience is behaving based on the latest research you have about them. Which makes the answer a case-by-case situation rather than a blanket statement of “go more digital”. Now, if it appears for example that your target is comprised of heavy web users that only marginally read magazines or newspapers, then the shift to more digital is warranted. But just because the world has more Blackberrys and iPhones in it these days doesn’t mean that there aren’t audiences that have special relationships with print or direct mail.

What you have to discover is if your target is one of them based on how the demographic and psychographic information is trending for that specific group. In all likelihood, I wouldn’t doubt it if in most cases you’re talking about a suitable mix of the two because it’s not often realistic to say certain groups use all of one form of media anyway. Sure, the media attention is going to continue to show its love for digital. But show some love for your audience first before you get swayed too much by the press.

Lynne, Jim and Dan make a pretty good argument for making sure companies rely more on data than the headlines to make decisions about moving marketing budgets.  Company marketers will never get the data from digital marketing without testing, so I would encourage those who have not historically leveraged search, social media, mobile and other interactive advertising channels to do their homework (or have an agency help them) to establish a digital marketing roadmap and start testing and capturing data.

You can read a good post about direct marketing compared to social media marketing here as a tactical primer.

What do you think? Is your company moving more budget to digital marketing efforts ? (Internet, mobile, display). If you work within an agency, are you seeing more clients move towards or away from digital marketing programs? What tactics are you emphasizing for 2009?

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6 Social Search Engines to Start 2009

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

There are many reasons to search social media including monitoring for brand and reputation management purposes. Smart online marketers have also been using social search for other reasons including competitive research and opportunistic content marketing through social keyword trends.

Most advice on how companies should be listening to the social web with minimal cost involves monitoring individual services, which is inefficient.  Premium social media monitoring services do this much more effectively but can be expensive.  Here are 6 free social search tools that may help small businesses make their initial foray into searching the social web more productive while keeping costs to a minimum.  

Delver Social Search
Delver is a “socially connected” search tool in alpha, that is based on your friends influence on content, i.e. drawing upon the “wisdom of crowds” to filter the universe of search content. You first identify your social profiles and can then add more specific information to then identify your own social graph. Facebook is emphasized. Search results are then influenced by your network.  If Google ever buys Facebook then this service might be an attractive target.

WhosTalkin? not to be confused with “Who U Stalkin”, is a social media search tool by Joe Hall that allows users to search for conversations around topics of interest.  Queries are performed against all sources but you can search on specific social services organized by: Blogs, News, Networks, Videos, Images, Forums and Tags.  The list of practicing SEOs that beta tested this tool includes some genuine smarties so this one may be worth watching since saved searches, RSS feeds and other features found in the tools below are not yet rolled out.

Samepoint is a social conversation search engine that segments search by: Social Mentions, Discussion Points, Bookmarks, Wikis, Network,s B2B Networks, Groups, Life Casting, MicroBlogs, Reviews, Podcasts, Documents, Video, Images, News and Web or all.  Each search result extracts sentinment and keywords as well. In fact, there’s a trending social search term page which I think is very interesting.  The Discussion Points feature is interesting because it shows the most commented content in the search results according to your query and the number of sources.

socialmention allows you to search a term on specific categories of the social web including:  Blogs, Microblogs, Bookmarks, Comments, Events, Images, News, Video or All. There’s also a Social Rank score based on the number of mentions every 4 weeks and you can subscribe to search results via RSS.

Serph, from ACS, has been around for several years and searches on blog search engines, social news and bookmarking websites such as Bloglines, Digg, Google Blog Search, YouTube, Topix, Sphere, Yahoo Answers, Flickr and Delicious. Serph is a bit slow but can be useful to cross check queries with other services and you can subscribe to search results via RSS.

OneRiot is a bit like Delver in that it uses your social network to influence the search universe for your query but takes heavy consideration of what’s currently popular within your network when sorting search results.  Topics that are “emerging” or “surging” are indicated as such in the search results. OneRiot is alpha at the moment, but has promise.

Nearly all social media monitoring tools are keyword based and use some kind of crawler or data aggregator to harvest information and then various schemes to organize and sort as search results or monitoring reports.  Each social search tool has unique features, whether it’s crawling the social web at large or filtering by your network. One or more of the 6 tools above might be right for you to start tracking conversations about your company, brands and even your competition.

From a marketing standpoint, social search tools like those above create additional content and marketing opportunity discovery options for real-time situations, that most standard search engines can’t compete with.

There have been numerous efforts made with tools like Custom Google Search Engines, Yahoo Pipes and home grown programming to create low cost or free social search tools, but what other free tools have you found to be effective at searching multiple sources of social content on the web?

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2008 Top SEO Blogs by RSS Subscribers

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

As part of  maintaining the BIGLIST of search engine marketing blogs, we’ve posted a list of the top SEO blogs that publish their RSS feed subscriber counts and on this last day of 2008, I thought I’d put up just one more.

A few more SEO blogs have been added to this list from the last two times and a few blogs have switched places as the old guard makes way for the up and coming.  Fire up your feed reader and start subscribing:

Matt Cutts


Search Engine Land

Search Engine Watch

Search Engine Journal

Search Engine Roundtable

Online Marketing Blog

Search Engine Guide

Marketing Pilgrim

Pronet Advertising

Graywolf’s SEO Blog

Get Elastic




Small Business SEM

Web Analytics World


SEO Pedia

SEO Scoop

SEO 2.0

StepForth SEO News Blog

Cre8pc Blog

It would be great of SEOBook and similar popular SEO focused blogs could be on this list, but they don’t publish their subscriber counts through Feedburner’s FeedCount. There are a few others we’re waiting for as well.

If you’re aware of other SEO related blogs that publish their feeds through Feedburner and have the FeedCount feature turned on, please drop the URL in the comments.

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How Community Building Boosts SEO

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

community seo A while back I had a Twitter discussion with a few smart Minnesota based marketers, @cbensen, @albertmaruggi and @bestbuyCMO about the importance of customer service and community building that turned to a variety of ancillary benefits. Connie mentioned that community building is a long term investment that continues to pay dividends. Albert pointed out that SEO & community building can be 2 separate tactics with SEO having nothing to do with community. Barry wanted more of an explanation, which motivated this long overdue post.

An increasing number community managers have become visible within social media sites like Twitter, on blogs and Facebook from various sized companies. We’ve even interviewed people with those types of responsibilities from Dell and Comcast.  I’ve been thinking about how the content creation and outreach efforts of a community manager can also be of benefit to an organization’s search engine optimization efforts. 

My opinion is that it would actually take extra effort to make community building work and not realize the positive effects for SEO.  Many search engine optimization consultants that engage social media channels have noticed how their efforts resulted in community building effects.  Building up profiles on various social media sites and participating in communities to share and promote content attract links, but it also builds trust.  

It makes perfect sense for off page SEO efforts to involve community building but as @TysonFoods mentioned recently, the best person to work in that capacity is a someone within the company, not an agency. That is a topic for another post though.

Community building with SEO effects in mind isn’t so different than Public Relations or Interactive Marketing with SEO in mind. Content + links = better search visibility. That’s simplifying things a bit, but you can get more search engine optimization basics here.

Community building with SEO benefits typically involves:

  • Monitoring brand terms as well as keywords important to the organization using a social media monitoring tool
  • Create content and interaction destinations: blogs, social profiles
  • Content with unique urls can be linked to
  • Content that is optimized with keywords and proper IA is good for search engines and good for users
  • Content that is relevant and useful will attract links from those empowered to publish (bloggers, blog commenters, forums, consumer reviews, consumer generated content such as images, video, audio)

Social media monitoring is keyword based as is SEO.  Socia media monitoring counts links and SEO builds links.  Encouraging or “energizing” evangelists of a brand also builds content ala CGM and attracts links.  Some of those links go directly to the evangelists’ own content and some will go to the brand itself. Search engines discover and follow these links and when factoring in context and keywords used, will use that information when sorting documents in search results. ie, Content + links = better search visibility.

My question for community managers is, are you leveraging any SEO keyword research and insight to assist word choice when building profiles, creating content and outreach online?  I would not suggest any kind of overt keyword usage that wouldn’t otherwise make sense, but becoming better informed about keywords in a search context can add to the bottom line results of your efforts. And in this economy, who doesn’t want to show more value for their efforts?

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Happy Birthday TopRankBlog & SEO Blogs Class of 2003

Friday, December 26th, 2008

I am happy to say that this weekend, December 28th  marks 5 years of blogging at Online Marketing Blog. From the infamous “Florida Update” of December 2003 to current, practical advice on social media strategy December 2008, TopRank has been a trusted source of information for thousands of readers.

The entire TopRank Blogging team wishes a sincere Thank You to everyone that has commented, subscribed and linked to us over the years.  TopRank’s blogging efforts have been recognized in many ways including being one of the top 50 favorited blogs on Technorati, ranked a top marketing blog on Advertising Age and endorsed by fans from The DMA, PRSA, Microsoft, IBM, Yahoo and many others.

We hope readers will continue to enjoy the mix of current insights, tactics, interviews and conference coverage on the topics of search, social and online PR content that we’ve been providing during the past 5 years of blogging. 

A big thank you goes to Thomas aka TwisterMC who helps keep the blog back end and design running smoothly as well as making periodic contributions.  A big thanks also goes to TopRank team members that have endured gruelling liveblogging schedules including: Dana Larson, Jolina Pettice, Mike Yanke, Julie Brue, Ashley Bruce  and Jessica Cameron Ruud. 

One of the benefits of blogging for the past 5 years has been to use our own blog as a way to test a variety of content types, usability and blog software features, analytics and promotion tactics. We’ve been able to share some of these insights in our posts but more specifically with our corporate blogging clients. 

Some of our Most Popular Blog Posts Include Resources:

Most Popular Tips Posts:

Most Popular Interviews:

Most Popular Polls:

Most Popular  Conference Liveblogging Posts:

There were many insipiratoins for the interviews, live conference blogging, SEO blog reviews, lists, polls, tips, news and commentary posted in the 2,000 plus entries at Online Marketing Blog.  I thought it would be interesting to take a look down memory lane and see what other search engine and search marketing blogs were on the scene late 2003. Keep in mind, these are true early adopters and pioneers. Google started their main blog late Spring 2004 and Yahoo in Fall of 2004:

ABAKUS - Blog born on our about February 07, 2003.  Initially written in English, this German blog from Alan Webb and friends  is now all German SEO all the time. At least as far as I can tell. Spreken ze deutsch? Alan was another pioneer in SEO blogging that I met early on.

Google Blogscoped - Blog born on our about April 28, 2003.  Phillip Lessen started this blog emphasizing information about Google  ”Contains 80% Google” (news, products, tips/tactics) as well as many posts about search engine optimization and marketing. 

Searchblog - Blog born on or about October 20, 2003. John Battelle is the author of “The Search - How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture”, co-founding editor of Wired Magazine and CEO of Federated Media.  With over 140 thousand subscribers, Searchblog is by far the most popular blog on search engines not run by a search engine itself.

Search Engine Blog - Blog born on or about April 15, 2002. Started and owned by Peter Da Vanzo, Search Engine Blog was a pioneer in the world of blogging and blogs about search engines. It isn’t really updated any more since Peter now writes at  

Search Engine Journal - Blog born on or about June 11, 2003, Loren Baker Search Engine Journal has fluctuated in it’s focus over the years from news to tips to news to a hybrid and in the past few years bringing on advertising and more staff bloggers.  SEJ is now a thriving search marketing blog and continues to grow subscribers and offer useful tips and industry news. 

Search Engine Lowdown - Blog born on or about July 15, 2003 Started by Marketing Pilgrim’s Andy Beal when he was with a company called Websourced and when people spelled blogg with two g’s. )  Andy paved the way towards respectable blogging of industry news and grew a tremendous following at SEL. After he left, Garrett French took the reins doing a great job of writing, but the blog never quite recovered. It’s now been dormant for over a year.

Search Engine Roundtable - Blog born on or about December 2, 2003.  One of the most unique  formats and comprehensive in it’s coverage, Search Engine Rountable is run by Barry Schwartz and includes a number of contributors and guest bloggers. Barry and his team of bloggers were the first I know of to aggregate search marketing industry forum threads of interest and provide extensive liveblogging of conferences. I have the utmost respect for the pioneering work Barry has done over the years and will always appreciate the guest blogging opportunity he offerred, which inspired me to liveblog conferences here at OMB.

SEOBook - Blog born on or about December 1, 2003. Aaron wall decided to document his quest to learn SEO and wrote a 24 page e-book online about SEO which has grown much larger and to be one of the most popular books online about search engine optimization. Aaron started out writing commentary about industry news as well as his own observsations. He’s gone in, out and back into consulting and continues to write provacative, original content. Peter Da Vanzo mentioned above now writes for SEO Book as well.

Traffick – Blog born on or about July 03, 2002 and called “Threads and Needles”. However, the site has been posting savvy and insighful industry observations since 1998. Cory Kleinschmidt and Andrew Goodman were two of the first pioneers of commentary on the search marketing industry.

Besides the pioneering search engine and and marketing blogs above, there were a number of other informative resources on search engines and search marketing available in late 2003 (and before) that eventually added or moved entirely to a blog platform later on including: Search Engine Guide, Pandia & ResearchBuzz and Search Engine Watch.  Sites like SEO Today and Li’l Engine also focused on articles about search marketing in 2003 and are now blogs.

What other search marketing blogs were popular in the latter part of 2003 that I missed?

 Photo adapted from Rev Dan Catt

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