- The 8 Factors of Holistic Digital Marketing
- The 8 Factors of Holistic Digital Marketing: Technology
I started off this series with a summary of the 8 main performance factors that you have to be aware of when planning and executing your Digital Strategy. Yes, I narrowed the list down to 8 – 8 things that are often considered on their own, but things that are truly interrelated to such a great extent that to me it seems simply wrong not to consider them in total with each other, and their effect on all aspects of your digital strategy.
How Technology Affects Digital Marketing Performance
The sort of technology you use and the way you use it has a direct impact on four of the six digital marketplace elements – search engine optimization, pay per click advertising, web development and social media. If you’ve looked up the chart from the original article, these are labeled as SEO, PPC, Dev and Social in the chart under the heading, Technology.
One of the first things we do at PPI when we acquire a client, or a new web site, or a new landing page, is run some standard measurement tests on it. Oddly, it seems like almost no one else ever does this or if they do, they don’t understand the implications of things like html to text ratio, or proper cannonicalization, or something as basic as load time. To put it simply, your digital property needs to be well-built. It needs to load quickly, without errors. It needs to deliver the proper layout and content for the device being used to view it. Web server settings need to be optimized to prevent duplicate content. Style sheets need to be organized and served intelligently from one location. Scripts needs to be organized, nested properly, and included in one section of the page whenever possible. You need to use closing tags, for Pete’s sake. Don’t deliver Flash objects to iPad users. All images need to load the first time. Limit how many objects you have delivered from servers other than your own. You know, it’s all those technical things in the site audit that everyone thinks someone else is in charge of fixing. Even if you think it’s something silly, if it’s showing up on an audit report, it needs attention.
Technology and SEO/PPC
Let’s look at an innocent enough example of a collapse in technology maintenance that most folks ignore – here’s a language flag from a report generated by a great little tool called WooRank:
This little red flag says “hey, you left off the Language meta tag – we think we detected English on the page, but you might want to fix that.”
Most webmasters would look at this and go “What the frack? Of course it’s in English! Who cares? Why should I go look up the syntax for formatting the META Language Attribute? Where’s my Mountain Dew?”
Um. Take a look now at this, from a page of the Google Page Quality Raters Guidelines:
Every single query issued to a rater includes a language tag. If it’s that important to Google that their page raters know the intended language of the query, don’t you think Google cares about a definitive meta tag on the page that signals what language the page is in? Trust me on this – if the language meta tag was absolutely useless, it wouldn’t be checked for in every sigle site audit tool worth a damn… and Google wouldn’t have their page raters make sure the language on the page matches the language of the query.
Many of the technological factors that affect SEO also affect PPC. For example, you can suffer low quality scores for things like slow page load time, errors in loading, or serving inappropriate content – like loading up Flash objects to someone hitting your site with an iPhone. Google includes “Landing Page Experience” as a grading factor for Quality Score. If your technology is a mismatch or if you simply haven’t paid enough attention to detail and left a few scripts hanging because the page rendered in the one browser you checked it with, you could find yourself suffering from lower than necessary Quality Scores. Low quality scores means increased cost in the form of a percentage increase in your cost per click. Don’t let stupid things like inline CSS, bloated code, or busted images from a 3rd party server kill your landing page quality.
Technology and Social Media
Another aspect of technology has to do with utilizing it correctly – you have to make sure you’ve matched up the technology in use to the objectives you’re aiming for. This is why I’ve included Social Media under the technology heading. How many times have you seen a business (or representative of a business) post message after message on Facebook begging people to go follow them on Twitter? I’ve even seen users get irate because they don’t see every single one of their FB fans following them on Twitter. Here’s a news flash – those two social networks are almost mutually exclusive! Think about it – the people who are on Facebook are there because of the way Facebook works. It fits their lifestyle or their entertainment style or just plain tickles them in the right place. These people do not use Twitter! Likewise, the people on Twitter don’t stay in one place long enough to read more than 140 characters. Twitter has its own appeal and its own process for tribe-building that is unique to Twitter. Blasting “Like Us On Facebook” as your only message in a Tweet will get you un-followed if you do it often enough. If you run afoul of the natives on a social platform because you mis-marketed, it could completely ruin your continued marketing capability on that platform, at least for the short term.
Similarly, you want to make sure that all the gadgets and gizmos that you use on your site and within your social media messaging serve their proper functions without interfering with one another, and perhaps more seriously, without duplicating functions. There are an awful lot of tools out there that can really make a mess of your social messaging. Between WordPress plugins, Facebook apps and Smartphone Apps, you could end up having an announcement for one blog article posted a dozen times in a row on Twitter – talk about spam. And guess “who” reads Twitter… not only will you piss off your followers, you risk looking like a spammer to the major search algorithms. And if you accidentally completely re-blog an article across all your social profiles and other blogs because of an overzealous WordPress plugin, yeah, well that doesn’t actually help you at all – it creates duplicated content.
And speaking of WordPress, you want to make sure and test all your plugins every time something on the site is updated. Those Google Page Raters will often flag a site as Poor Quality when the actual issue is that someone’s plugins are wonky and you just can’t see the relevant text on the page. Well, that’s the rub with the human raters – they gotta see it to read it to rate it. They aren’t bots and for the most part, they aren’t web developers, so they can’t (and don’t have to) troubleshoot the problem before they assign a rating. Ultimately, your site should be designed to be easily readable by a human being. The fewer gadgets and gizmos you can get by on, the better. Having a minimal number of plugins also makes keeping abreast of technology a little easier when you don’t have 47 plugins to update every 6 and half days. Then test. Then tweak.
Technology and Compatability
Finally, if you think the days of cross-browser compatability are gone, think again. To begin with, Chrome, Firefox and Opera are all making significant headway not only on the desktop, but on small screens too. And just so you know, those Google Page Raters are not allowed to use any browser other than Firefox for rating pages. You also have to create sites that deliver the correct content for the platform visiting at the time – if someone’s on a desktop computer, serve the regular web site. If someone’s on a tablet, serve a scaled up mobile web site (or scaled down desktop web site). If someone’s on a phone screen, serve a mobile-optimized web site. In case you missed it, Google’s already come out and said that if your web site delivers a sub-par experience for the smartphone, your ranking in mobile search will suffer for it.
What’s This Got To Do With Interactive Marketing?
The bottom line is that if you aren’t on top of your technology, don’t establish and follow accepted best practices with your use of technology, you run some significant risks to SEO ranking, cost per click in PPC, standards compatability and delivery of your web content, and who knows what kind of damage you can do to your social media campaigns if you don’t fully understand how the platforms and tools work. This can be a tall order. Take a holistic approach to producing consistent quality by following standards, abiding by guidelines, providing a great user experience, and applying a unilateral standard of excellence to all aspects of your digital marketing strategy (no shortcuts, no hack jobs), and you’ll be golden!
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