The Invisible Giant That Mucks Up Our Marketing (Inbound 2017 Session)

Rand Fishkin from Moz shared the ways that marketers hold themselves back when they strictly focus on near-term ROI.

Kevin Kononenko on September 28, 2017 (last modified on October 4, 2017) • 4 minute read

Since Rand Fishkin founded Moz, a company that helps you make better decisions around generating organic traffic, you might expect that he would preach about the need to squeeze more out of your content marketing efforts.

But, along Rand’s 10-year journey since founding Moz, he has actually found a separate reality.

Instead, he has found that marketers are frequently held back by cultural conditioning, which focuses their efforts in the wrong places. In other words, instead of seeking to build unique campaigns that will pay off for years into the future, marketers are stuck with adhering to the common limitation: just do what it takes to prove ROI ASAP.

Rand shared a couple examples where leaders make false assumptions and stick to them.

Example 1: Office work is statistically less productive and misery-inducing. Yet, companies force their employees to show up in office 5 days a week, instead of allowing them to work remotely.

Example 2: Employees can only put in 50 productive hours a week. Anything more than that will cause long-term productivity loss that will simply make them less effective. Yet, employers still demand 60-70 hour weeks.

Example 3: Research proves that when team members feel psychologically safe and comfortable, their teams will become more successful. Yet, companies still love promoting the “brilliant asshole” that other employees hate to deal with.

The Wrong Way To Make a Marketing Decision

Similarly, here are the 5 easiest types of marketing to measure:

  1. PPC ads
  2. Social media ads
  3. Retargeting
  4. Email marketing
  5. Direct mail advertising

And here are the 5 hardest types to measure:

  1. Word of mouth
  2. SEO
  3. Organic social media
  4. Content marketing
  5. PR

CMOs tend to gravitate towards the first 5 channels simply because it is easier to measure ROI. Not because it is more effective. This is a terrible reason to make a marketing decision! At the same time, the power of cultural conditioning is strong. The need to improve quarterly results ends in a series of short-term decisions.

At Moz, Rand makes sure that 50% of the marketing budget is dedicated to marketing initiatives that are hard to measure.

Here is one example- in 2008, he started his Whiteboard Fridays series. These are simple videos of him explaining marketing concepts on a whiteboard. At the beginning, they were poorly produced and the least popular piece of content on any given week.

But Rand stuck with it. For months. Without proof of ROI. And finally, by month 18, they showed ROI. Rand has now been doing the videos for 9 years. The quality has gone WAY up, and they are the most popular piece of content from any given week.

Misconceptions about SEO

Rand is also tired of hearing about everybody’s favorite two SEO topics: backlinks and ranking for specific keywords. Moz data has shown that only 54% of web results are presented as either PPC ads on Google or normal listings on their search engine results pages (SERPs). That means almost 50% comes in other forms!

Here are some of the other ways that searchers discover content on Google:

  • Featured snippets
  • Images
  • Reviews
  • Top stories (news)
  • Tweets
  • People also ask (PAA)

If you are just trying to rank for specific terms… you are ignoring 50% of the organic search pie.

Google has also begun to prioritize what Rand calls “searcher-task accomplishment”. This throws a wrench in your entire concept of SEO! Basically, Google wants searchers to find what they want as quickly as possible. They can serve results that you would not expect based on searcher intent. It could be slightly different than the search, or a result with not that many links. That is because Google uses other quality metrics as well.

Recommended Strategies

Rand says you can still succeed in this system by changing the way your prioritize your SEO efforts.

You can create different types of content that will appear in those “other” types of results on SERPs.

You can discover important terms that are using a featured snippet, and try to get your content into the number one position.

You can guest post on popular publications that have domains with high authority.

You can improve the average session duration and bounce rate from popular pages on your site so that Google serves those pages on SERPs more often.

About the author
Kevin Kononenko Growth Marketer @ Databox. Making it easy for marketers to tell the story of their success. Everton FC supporter. Startup guy.

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