Zac Basara [pictured] is the Founder of Australian PPC & SEO agency – SEO Advantage. Here, he discusses the pitfalls of the digital marketing boom and shares some ideas on how small businesses can navigate this….
Every week, I wake up and check Google for ‘SEO Service’ and other relatable search queries simply to see which agencies are buying Google Ads for the terms. For those unfamiliar with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) within digital marketing, this might need not seem odd. Perhaps I’m just checking in on my competition?
The rub is this: the point of Search Engine Optimisation is to get yourself as high up on the results page for a target search as possible. If your SEO agency needs to buy ads to place on page one of Google, perhaps this is a bad sign, as the need for an advert on core terms like ‘SEO service’ or ‘SEO provider’ in effect disproves your ability to do the job.
Yet each week I see advertisements, so it clearly must work. Possibly on naive clients, tasked with a marketing budget but little in the way of specialist knowledge. After all, that’s what we’re here for.
This little anecdote is a microcosm of what is happening right now in the much larger digital advertising space. Ask almost any agency lead, and they’ll tell you digital marketing is booming right now. Skilled professionals were already in short supply, and now with the refreshed lockdowns, businesses are turning to agencies and freelancers to keep business flowing through digital channels instead of traditional ones.
This boom however has a big flaw, particularly for this big pool of SMB owners who are just now starting to dip their toes into the digital marketing waters for the first time.
The mass push to online channels is making it a lot harder to get the same results pre-pandemic in today’s environment. There’s just more competition, and big tech firms like Apple are making it more difficult through privacy changes.
Facebook was a mainstay of SMB marketing, but the platform has become much more difficult to convert and get ROI than pre-pandemic. There won’t be a single marketing agency in the world who will not have noticed this impact by now. The good ones will have explained this impact by now, the others have difficult conversations ahead.
We find ourselves in a perfect storm – there’s very few pressure release valves other than marketing agencies and freelancers. The agencies themselves are very busy, and battling one of the toughest environments for delivering conversions and results in the past decade.
So, things are harder and there’s more demand – what’s the big flaw? The issue here lies in the clients themselves, and their experiences from this time.
Digital marketing campaigns using Facebook and Google are the first baby steps in marketing for almost every business. They are our ‘gateway drug’ that inspires owners to use digital channels to scale, improve and reinvest in their businesses. If their experience from this time is that for some intelligible reason, their business just doesn’t market as well as the previous ones an agency showed to them, what lesson do you think they will take from this?
There’s a surprising amount at stake here. For larger businesses, a bad experience with an agency or freelancer means you move on to the next one, but SMBs might just not engage at all if they get their fingers burned. Right now, the ‘naive clients’ are being won with slick presentations, case studies and projected ROIs that are based on a world that doesn’t exist any more.
Even if the budget does not allow for anything else, we must be taking these opportunities to expand their knowledge of digital marketing tactics outside of Facebook, Google and Amazon advertising. Let them know that the game is changing!
Longer-term marketing strategies like SEO, or returning to more traditional methods such as coupons and EDMs will become increasingly important as the bang-for-buck of online ads decreases.
We cannot expect our clients to do this education themselves, or be surprised when they are unhappy with the result of trying what worked last year and struggling to get them ROI now.
If we let this continue, we run the risk of jeopardising one of the biggest business efficiency enhancements our nation will ever see.
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