Online marketing is about much more than introducing carefully selected keywords and phrases into content to optimize for organic search; or build up backlinks to increase traffic.
The phrases marketing & SEO have become really broad - basically, they can mean anything involving PPC, conversion optimization, analytics, social media, and a host of other activities.
A digital marketing director needs a broad range of experience, and an intuitive knowledge of not only how content, social media, search and advertising interact to form an evolving mosaic, but also how your own brand and web real estate fit into that "fabric".
With a deep understanding of your brand's position, and a clear vision of where it needs to go, the leadership then needs to invoke a host of creative and technical skills to generate the right content, understand its effect, and react and refine accordingly.
You need to know that the person in charge is fully aware of their responsibilities. All too often companies hire someone on, and assume the job is done because the position is filled by someone who met the stipulated criteria. The fact that overall traffic volumes increase marginally subsequent to employing a digital specialist is not sufficient evidence that all your company's SEO requirements are being met.
Here are five important questions that I would ask someone in charge of a company's strategy and implementation.
1. Can you list all business objectives?
There's no point in having a marketing department working furiously when no-one knows what the ultimate goals are. Are you entirely satisfied that a complete business requirements analysis has been performed and that a comprehensive list of business objectives has been drawn up?
Business objectives influence every aspect of marketing because every ounce of work that goes in must further these objectives in some way. The head must be intimately acquainted with these objectives, since they guide him/her in everything they do.
2. Can you demonstrate how each of the objectives are reflected in the marketing activities?
If the head of marketing has a good idea of what is required from your campaigns, then it should be easy for them to demonstrate how everything from the design and layout of the website, to the frequency, timing and content of the tweets, are informed by these objectives.
There's little point in wasting resources and man-hours on SEO campaigns that aren't specifically tailored to further one or more of your business objectives.
Don't be remiss in your evaluation here either. If a business objective is to build a social media following, then tweeting is part of that. But how effective is the current twitter strategy? How many followers do you have? What is their level of engagement?
3. Are we driving new traffic and increasing conversion rates?
We can define a "conversion" as the fulfilment of any business objective for the sake of this argument. So what effect are the campaigns having on these conversions? If the company's online spend is $80 000 per month, then what is coming out at the other end to justify this expense?
Yes, often strategies need to take a medium and sometimes long term view, but the person in charge needs to be able to justify SEO related performance at any time, day or night.
4. Can you prove that conversions are optimized?
Let's say that your website or landing pages are converting at 2%. Is the person in charge convinced that this is the best possible?
Has the company performed split testing? Do you have multiple landing pages to cater for different audiences? Are you funnelling traffic to the correct landing pages optimally? Has all available analytical data been scrutinized to identify traffic patterns and behaviors that can be used to further maximize conversions?
Optimizing conversions extends to technical aspects of online business too.
Google says they lose 20% of their traffic for each additional 100 milliseconds it takes a page to load.
This makes it important to be aware of technical SEO issues in addition to marketing and sales funnels considerations. You can learn more about speed & SEO in the technical SEO section of our comprehensive guide to search optimization.
5. What refinements have been made in the last few months?
This is a great question because it covers multiple bases.
Is your marketing department being dynamic? Are they adapting and evolving in response to changes in search, trends, social media, society, and anything else that affects the stated business objectives. Or, are they plodding along - going through the same routine day in and day out.
Just because a campaign worked once, doesn't mean it should be implemented without question in perpetuity. The Internet changes. Your company needs to adapt with it.
If changes have been made, is it clear that they are the correct response? In other words, has the data collected been properly analyzed. Have the correct conclusions been drawn? Are the changes in line with the business objectives?