Your Digital Marketing Needs to Change – Rich Brooks

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Your Digital Marketing Needs to Change - Rich Brooks

Are you just going to “roll over” your current marketing plan into next year?

With 2018 rapidly coming to a close, Rich Brooks of flyte new media shares his agency’s changing strategies for the new year. How they plan to refocus their attention and generate more leads going forward. He reminds us that if you plan to do the same thing in 2019 that you did in 2018 – or just more of it – then you should expect disappointing results. Remember, your competition is already pivoting with the changes and you need to, too.

Whether it’s diving into AI with chatbots, changing the way you create blog posts and other content, or even redesigning your own website, it’s time to shift your marketing plan to compete with the ever changing digital marketing industry.

Welcome to another episode of the Agents of Change podcast. I’m your host, Rich Brooks, and this is episode 273, powered by flyte new media.

No guest today, I just want to talk to you for a while. I want to talk to you about what I’ll be doing for 2019. You can’t succeed in 2019 doing what you did in 2018. This is true in digital marketing every single year, but it feels especially true this year.

As I’ve mentioned a couple times, my presentation this year at the Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference – I did the opening keynote for the first time I think ever – and it was all about disruptions. Disruptions that are coming to digital marketing or that are already here that are going to impact the way that we’re going to market our businesses online in the coming years.

And in this presentation I called, “Disruptions”, I focused on three main things that will change the way we do business. The first one was “artificial intelligence”, or “AI”. And for the past couple weeks we’ve actually had a couple of experts come in and talk about it. We had Natalia Maynez last week and she talked about all the different ways that digital marketing was being changed by artificial intelligence. And the week before that we had Jeffrey Kranz talking about how to optimize your website for Rank Brain, which is the AI that Google uses to improve search results.

In my presentation I talked about Rank Brain, I talked about how AI impacts digital advertising, lead generation, content curation, and content creation. Yeah, that’s right, we’re going to have robots writing our content any day now. If you think that’s crazy, you should know that in 2017 I believe it was a well-respected newspaper whose name now escapes me – was it the Washington Post – that had 850 articles that appeared in that newspaper written by robots, written by artificial intelligence.

In my presentation I also talked about chatbots and smart speakers, just as a bunch of examples of how artificial intelligence is already impacting the way that we connect with our customers.

Another big thing that was changing was privacy, and a lot of this was brought on by GD PR, with took effect in the EU but impacted people all around the world because we live in a global economy with privacy rules in place. And most of them are really good rules that we should have been abiding by all the time, but it does change how we have to market ourselves. And we have to start thinking about how we reach our ideal customers in 2019, because a lot of the ways in which we reach people now are not going to be allowed in 2019.

So think about some of the changes that are going on. Maybe some of the tools that they’re giving us in Facebook to reach our ideal customers, some of the information we’re getting in Google Analytics, all that may be taken away from us. Even the information that we carry with us or that we have stored at Facebook or Google, there’s block chain options out there right now that would allow you to take your content, your information, with you every time you left. Which would really improve our privacy but really hurt our ability as marketers to reach that audience. A lot of interesting stuff going on in privacy.

And then the third one was just congestion, which is an ongoing problem in digital marketing, and probably one of the big reasons why Facebook changed whir algorithm – not the only reason, but one of the reasons why – because you just can’t see everything that all your friends are posting. There’s just not enough time in the day, so Facebook is making some of those calls for us and other platforms are also changing their algorithms a little bit – not as much as Facebook – all because there’s just so much information out there. So you really need to figure out a way to stand out online and get people to connect with you.

Those are some big three things. So that’s AI, privacy, and congestions. All things that I talked about in my presentation this year at the Agents of Change Conference.

What else has changed? Well this podcast is all about how to reach more of your ideal customers from search, social, and mobile marketing. So on the search side of things, things are constantly evolving. We talked a little bit about Rank Brain – we did that episode a couple weeks ago – we did a deep dive on it and how to optimize. Google is looking for more really rich, longer content than is used to be. I used to be able to succeed and get some great page one rankings with blog posts that were 300-500 words. That’s just not going to work anymore, or it’s very rare that it does.

The technical side of SEO is becoming much more important as well. Site speed, security, things like where you’re hosting your images. All these things are having a huge impact on search engine visibility, search engine rankings, and getting more inbound links, local SEO and citations. These are all things that have been evolving over the last few years but are making a big change now.

On the social side of things we continue to see shrinking organic reach on social media. And depending on the type of business you’re in, social media might need to become an afterthought for you. I never thought I’d say that, because I looked at some of my old blog posts recently and it was talking about the power of social media, and there’s still a lot of power in social media, but you need to rethink the way that you’re approaching it and you may need to rethink the type of platforms you’re focusing on to reach your ideal customers.

And then mobile marketing. We’re definitely entering a “mobile first era” if we’re not already there. Google is rewarding websites that are mobile first. There’s the expectation that website are going to be mobile friendly, there’s the knowledge that you’re ideal customers are on mobile devices. Now there are a lot of ways to go mobile beyond your website. I’ve done a presentation on that at a previous Agents of Change. Having a podcast is one way of going mobile, and doing things like geo-targeting, which we did a segment with Justin Croxton earlier this year, who also spoke at Agents of Change this year. That’s another way of going mobile. Your customers are on their phone more often than they ever have been before, and that’s going to continue to grow. So you can’t ignore that, you need to kind of focus on that, too.

So these changes are coming – so again – if you are planning on doing the same thing in 2019 that you’re doing in 2018, you’re not going to see very good results because your competition is smarter than that and they will be pivoting and they will be changing the way that they market because they know what worked and the past won’t work now. What got you to this point won’t get you any further.

So with that in mind, I want to share with you what we’re doing here at flyte new media. Now if you don’t know, flyte new media is my day job. I have run – for the past 21+ years – a digital agency. And what flyte new media does is we design and build websites. We’re a WordPress agency. And then we back it up with marketing, we do search engine optimization, we do social, we do paid ads, we do email marketing, we do content creation. We basically work with small to medium sized businesses and solopreneurs, and nonprofits as well, in trying to help them reach their ideal customers.

So when I think about what are we going to do in 2019 for marketing, I’m thinking about really three different things. How are we going to market flyte new media? How are we going to market The Agents of Change? How are we going to do the marketing for all of our individual clients who need our help reaching their ideal customers, generating more leads online, and making more sales?

So some of the changes that we’re looking at is hiring a new Director of Marketing. Our previous Director of Marketing, Amanda O’Brien – a brilliant marketing mind – but she moved on to other things, and so we’re looking to fill that role. We’re in the process right now, we’re in our last round of interviews. And hopefully very soon I’ll be able to announce our new Director of Marketing. Now that’s filling a role that already existed at flyte. Right now I’m kind of filling in for the Director of Marketing, and John Paglio in my office has been burning the midnight oil. He’s the other Digital Marketer and he’s been working really hard at keeping up with all of our clients.

Once we have our new Director of Marketing, then we’re going to hire a Sales Manager. Now we’ve never had a Sales Manager before. I’ve been doing sales, and to a lesser degree, some of the other people in the office have been doing sales as well. But we’re going to hire somebody who’s dedicated to the sales process. Somebody who’s going to be handling all of our inbound leads, handling all of our outbound leads as well. Maybe calling on certain areas or certain industries, who’s going to be going to trade shows, who’s going to be going to networking events that really I just can’t do as much anymore.

And I’m really excited about this because I saw something the other day on Shark Tank where the woman said, “When you start, you do everything yourself, but then hire for weaknesses”. I don’t think I’m weak when it comes to marketing or sales, but I do know that there are people out there who are better than me at this, and perhaps more dedicated to that than I am. I’d rather kind of pull back a little bit and focus on growing flyte new media as a company, and thinking about the strategic vision, and getting up on stage more where I really like sharing information. So hiring those two new people is also a way of me saying, “I’m ready to grow this company.” We’re currently at 8-9 employees, and I’m looking to get up to 15, so that we have a deeper roster. As well, we can help more people.

Another thing that’s going on is we’re redesigning our logo. We kind of unveiled it at the Agents of Change conference this year, but we are going to be rolling it out very soon. No, this doesn’t necessarily improve our marketing, but this new all red version of the flyte new media logo – which is a paper plane – is really slick. Ryan Goan is our Creative Director and he kind of did this while I wasn’t looking and then he showed it to me, and I thought it was brilliant. Cannot wait to put it out there in the marketplace. Plus, there’s some nice benefits where when we get it printed it’s actually going to be a little bit less expensive than the 3-color print we’ve been using, and we’ll be able to put it on more items. So that’s pretty cool.

Now that may be a vanity thing, but we’re also redesigning our website. We’ve had the same website for about 3-4 years, it feels like it’s time for an overhaul. Actually we’re putting this on hold right now until we bring on our new Director of Marketing, because the last thing that I’d want if I was a Director of Marketing is to get hired and find out they just launched a new website a week before I came on. So we want this new Director of Marketing to have some input on the design and direction of the new website.

One of the biggest things, and one of the impetuses behind making the change to our website, is that we’re reorganizing our sitemap to better talk about our offerings. For example, currently there is no mention on our website about the fact that we do Facebook advertising or Google AdWords. Which is crazy because those are two of the biggest things we do now as a company and we don’t even have a page on it. How much business have we been losing in the past couple years as we’ve been ramping up our business for Facebook ads and Google AdWords? So look at your own website. Are you really telling the story of your company in 2019 on your website, or 2016?

So I’m excited to do that. There’s some other areas as well that we really want to build out as well, but certainly putting pages together for Facebook ads and Google AdWords, and that’s going to be exciting for us.

Also I’m going through this huge thing I’m calling the “blog purge”. I may have mentioned it briefly in another podcast, but we’ve got about 3,000 pages on our website, about 2,500+ pages of those are blog posts. When I first started blogging it was 2005, so I’ve got thirteen years of blog posts. Plus there was a time when we had another blog called, “Maine SEO Blog”, and a different one than that called, “Florida SEO Blog”, when we had one of our employees move down to Florida for a while and we wanted to kind of build up her business down there as well. And then we sucked them all back into the flyte blog.

So we have a lot of blog posts. And here’s the thing, a lot of those blog posts aren’t very good. At least not by today’s standards. So I actually hired Dan Shure, who’s been on this show before. Yes, as much as I know about SEO, I’ll often go to people that know even more than me, because I want to get even better. So we hired him to kind of help us with this updating of our website and the blog purge. And with his help we were able to identify all of our low performing blog post and pull them into a spreadsheet. These are ones that have not gotten any search clicks in the past 3 months and have gotten very little search traffic. And we’re just purging these. Some of them we’re deleting outright, some of them we’re redirecting to better pages on our website.

And you may wonder why we’d delete pages of blog posts. Well, for a few reasons. One is, Google seems to be rewarding sites that are going through these purges. And I just read something about Disney, they got rid of 80,000 pages on their website and they saw their search traffic increase after that purge. We don’t have 80,000 pages, I’m not expecting a huge increase, but I am hoping to improve that. And as we take a lot of our redundant posts that we kind of merged together into better, higher quality posts that we’re going to see that search engine bump and we’re going to bring more people to the website, and we’re going to generate more leads and more clients.

Lately I’ve been subscribing to Jeffrey Kranz’s “Overthink” email newsletter, and they recently had an article about how and why to clean up your blog. So we’re finding a lot of this redundant content and we’re just basically right now going through the purge. But afterwards I want to get down to about 100-200 quality blog posts – maybe less – and I want to really make these blog posts as good as possible. In fact, here’s something I really haven’t shared with anyone, I think once you get to a critical mass of blog posts – that may be 50, that may be 100 – your amount of content creation should dramatically go down. Because really I think…well let me put it this way, years ago I subscribed to Men’s Health Magazine and I got it for an entire year and it was great. It had these new workouts and it had what you should be eating, and all these sort of things. And I thought it was fantastic, so when the renewal slip came I renewed. And then I discovered that the next 12 months were almost identical to the previous 12 months. They were just renewing basically their old articles with some new information. I stopped renewing, but the bottom line is it’s actually a pretty good marketing idea for you.

You may have some core offerings. For us our core offerings are around Facebook ads, Google AdWords, SEO, email marketing, content creation, and website conversions. So we write some key blog posts on that, and when the next year comes around we don’t want to basically reinvent the wheel and write a whole new article that may compete for the same keywords. Instead we’re going to go back to those core themes that we write about that we talk about that we educate our clients about, and we’re going to improve those articles with new information and possibly new quotes. Maybe there’s a chart or an infographic we can use.

But rather than just stay on this content treadmill where we’re constantly just creating new content that’s basically just regurgitating the old ones, we’re going to take a closer look at the content we’ve already created that has inbound links, that has trust built up from the search engines, and we’re just going to improve those blog posts. And then we’re going to post them with a new date on them with the same URL so we’re not going to be losing all of those inbound links that we had previously.

That’s probably the most audacious project we have going on right now, and I look forward to telling you a little bit more when that project finishes. And then sharing with you what the results were; did we get more traffic, did we get less traffic, did our search rankings improve? Those are all important things that I want to track and I’ll be happy to share with you the good, the bad, and the ugly once we’re done with that.

There are other areas where we’re going to go deeper on, both for ourselves and for our clients in 2019. One being chatbots. We have not done a great job at flyte- either for ourselves or for the Agents of Change podcast – even though we’ve been talking about chatbots for two years. So it kills me that we haven’t done anything or done much about it with ourselves or our clients.

We’re going to double down on the technical side of SEO. There’s a lot going on right now – besides writing quality content, besides getting inbound links – that really impact your search engine ranking. So we’re going to be taking a deeper look, we’re going to be playing around with it with our own website, playing around with it with the Agents of Change website, and we’re going to be rolling it out for clients. In fact, we’re going to be doubling down on SEO in general.

I love social media, it’s a lot of fun. Except when you go to Facebook and everybody just wants to talk politics. But the bottom line is, for a lot of companies out there, a lot of our clients, we’re just not seeing the traffic coming from social. So social is still important, but I’m really focused on how do you drive more quality traffic to your website and how do you generate leads from that traffic. And my gut tells me that SEO is really going to be the #1 driver of quality leads for most of our clients.

Now obviously if you’re in the B2C world, social is always going to play an important part. In fact, I’d argue that social will continue to play a part. I was just speaking to a bunch of HR professionals talking about how they use social media to become an employer of choice, and I think that social media is an important role. And I think it’s important for branding and other things. But at the end of the day, I want to generate more leads and we’re finding that our activity on creating content that’s ranked well is much more important. And for a lot of our clients, the same is true.

And then from a business standpoint, we’re just going to be looking for creating more ongoing engagements with our clients. Moving away from project work and more towards what’s called “retainer work”. As you look at your own business, I might recommend the same. Are you getting more recurring revenue from your client base, and are there ways you can take your current project-based, one-off work and turn it into ongoing retainers? Can you get people to think about spending a little money with you every single month to improve their business or to improve their life? Because that’s much more powerful for both sides of the equation than just one-off projects that may have a quick effect but then fade just as quickly.

Albert Einstein famously said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” So, what are you doing? Are you just banging your head against the wall and just saying that well maybe I’ll blog more often or I’ll start a podcast this year, or I’ll do some email marketing this year? Are you just saying I’m going to do more of whatever I was doing, or even just the same and expect different results? It’s not that kind of year. It’s a year for epiphany. It’s a year to kind of take a step back and look at your digital marketing.

One of the things I realized when I was going through my own blog posts and had to have a very critical eye, is that a lot of our blog posts – even ones that were still driving traffic – were not really in alignment with who our client base is these days. So as we go through we’re going to purge or re-write articles that really aren’t in alignment with what we currently offer and what our clients need. And as we move forward we’re really going to think about is our content in alignment with our goals and the goals of our clients.

Now if you’re not really sure what any of this means, or if you’re not sure how to make this pivot or how to take a step back and look at your content, and your social, and your SEO, and your website, and if you think that maybe these things aren’t working as well as they could, I’d love to talk with you. I actually mentioned this a couple of weeks ago and a number of people have reached out to me asking for help or advice, and sometimes I’ve just sent them off an email with some ideas that they can implement themselves, and other times they’ve sat down with me and are now working with us.

Whatever your situation is, I’d love to hear from you. I’m easy to find. You can go over to the Agents of Change website, you can go over to the flyte new media website, and you can fill out our contact form that comes directly to me. You can reach out to me on Twitter, I’m @therichbrooks, I’m @therichbrooks on every single platform. Really, this is the stuff I love doing the most, and I would love to work with you in 2019 whether it’s an ongoing sort of thing, or whether it’s just a one-off that we can point you in the right direction. I really think that this is what I’m supposed to be doing, is helping small businesses grow.

So if you’re feeling stuck, please reach out to me, let’s talk and figure something out. Let’s not try doing the same things and expect different results. Again, I just want to quote that Chuck D. (Charles Darwin) quote that I mentioned at the very beginning of the show today. It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives, it is the one that is the most adaptable to change. You have to decide for yourself, are you going to be adaptable in 2019, or are you just going to do more of the same?

Alright, that’s all the content I have for this week. We’ve got more interviews and great more content coming up in our next few episodes, so make sure that you are subscribed to the podcast. You can do that at iTunes, you can do that at Stitcher Radio, you can do that at Spotify. Whatever your favorite podcasting platform of choice is, go ahead and hit that ‘subscribe’ button, it’s completely free.

If you enjoyed today’s segment, if you want to, please go and leave us a review at iTunes. It apparently really does make a difference. Hit ‘subscribe’, tell your friends about it, make an Agents of Change podcast t-shit, I don’t care, I’d love to see it all. These are the things that do make a difference and these are the things that help us reach a wider audience. I’m always interested in reaching a wider audience who might be able to make some changes to their own marketing so they can grow their business.

That’s everything I’ve got for today, have a great week and I’ll talk to you again in 7.

Show Notes:

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.