Evolving our approach to Digital Marketing for 2023
At Dilate, the goal has always been to stay ahead of the curve and at the front of the industry. In my opinion, we’ve done a solid job of that. Over the last couple of years, we’ve successfully predicted a number of shifts in the landscape and changed our approach accordingly.
In 2023, we’re making some pretty dramatic changes to how we deliver SEO, and our approach to Organic Marketing and Paid Advertising. In this post, I’m going to share why we’re making these big shifts, exactly what those changes look like and what we anticipate to get out of them.
Where this all started.
Before we dive in, you need to know where we’re coming from. When this business was started, it was just one guy—Bodie—operating out of his living room. At the time, Bodie was building websites that ranked in Google, and email marketing campaigns to drive revenue. These were the services that were most effective for the segment of the market he was trying to serve, but as time went on and digital marketing evolved, so did Dilate’s services.
First, ranking websites was no longer a matter of just building them right. They needed ongoing work to stay at the top, and so we added SEO to our product stack. For some businesses however, SEO wasn’t enough, or they needed results faster. Enter, Google Ads (known then as Adwords!). Facebook Ads (now Meta) was next, and the rest is pretty much history.
As 2022 came to a close, our main service offerings were SEO (Organic Marketing), PPC (Paid Advertising) and websites to support both. To keep things short and to the point, SEO was our long-game service for exponential growth, PPC was our short-game service for immediate ROI and websites were the infrastructure that made them both work. Typically we approached new campaigns by getting some runs on the board with PPC, then transitioning to a full-service (so, adding SEO to the mix) campaign once we’d earnt some more budget to work with.
By this point, we’re a global team of nearly a hundred employees. A long way from a sole trader operating out of his lounge room! But the landscape was rapidly evolving.
The Digital Marketing Landscape Changes.
So what’s changed, exactly?
- An Altered Algorithm: Over the last few years, Search engine algorithms (predominantly Google), have been changing pretty rapidly. Google’s mission has always been to ‘organise the world’s information’, and while this isn’t changing—the way they do it, is. They’ve doubled down on their commitment to delivering the best, most useful content, and a big part of this is measuring user experience and engagement. The ‘Helpful Content Update’ is a big deal, and not one we’re taking lightly.
- The Privacy Paradigm: In 2022, privacy was really under the spotlight. It’s still a big deal, and internet users are more concerned with their data security than ever before. Stringent laws all over the world have been introduced to reflect this, and big corporations have made changes to how they collect, handle and share data (Apple iOS 14 being the big one). The result has been advertising that’s harder to target, and a renewed need for compelling creative work built on proper marketing strategies.
- Rise of AI & Content: Skynet is here (just kidding). But AI is certainly no longer a futuristic concept. AI is here, and it’s already caused some pretty dramatic shifts in the landscape. Google’s policies and algorithms are evolving in light of AI, as is the competitive environment.
Those changes might not seem like a big deal, and in isolation—they’re not. But combined, they’ve had a profound impact on digital marketing. AI and AI content-generation has really lowered the barrier to entry for content creation, and flooded the internet with millions (literally) of computer-generated blog articles. These articles have triggered algorithm changes and changes in user behaviour.
With the changes to privacy, data and ad-targeting, it’s also significantly more difficult to get your content in front of the right people—the internet is just busier. This means your customers are becoming more resistant to advertising, more discerning towards content and more frugal with their attention. To get them to choose you over a competitor you need to get in front of them earlier in their journey, with a stronger message and a more compelling position.
So how do we do that?
The answer to all this is pretty simple, but unfortunately simple doesn’t mean easy! The answer is better marketing, better advertising and better content to tie it all together. Seem, simple… right?
Better Marketing. Better Content. Better Brand.
At Dilate, our vision is to become Australia’s most respected digital marketing agency. We’re not trying to be the biggest, the richest or the most well known; just the most respected. We want our clients to experience world class marketing, from a partner that genuinely puts their success at the forefront of everything. To that end, our mission is pretty simple: to create an environment worthy of our people's time, work that's worthy of our client's investment and outcomes beneficial to both.
With that clear north-star in mind, and the landscape changes at hand, we sat down to essentially redesign how we grow businesses. I’ll spare you the details, but the short of it is that we found we needed to take longer in the pre-launch stage preparing a winning strategy, and then expand our activities to speak to your customers throughout their buying journey—rather than just at the end. We needed to get clarity, before we got stuck into the work.
One of the problems we were facing was that we’d positioned ourselves as a premiere PPC and SEO agency, and sharpened those skills to an incredibly honed point, but that was no longer enough. If you take a look at a typical spread of customers in the market, only around 3% are actually ready to make a purchase. The other 97% are still working to understand their problem, get their head around the different solutions or weighing up what they want from a vendor/supplier.
We realised we needed to move your marketing up the funnel—to build trust and awareness with your ideal customers sooner, to add value with helpful content and capture 1st party data. With 1st party data, we can deliver hyper-targeted advertising that speaks directly to your prospects.
Nailing the 3% of the market that know what they need is always something we’ve done really well. But as the internet becomes busier those people are making decisions faster, and being exposed to so much advertising we’re missing our chance to reach them. We’re getting lost in the noise.
The solution is straightforward, speak to the other 97% of people that will become the 3% of ready-to-buy customers over time. Speak to them earlier on in their journey, so that there’s never any doubt who they’re going to choose to solve their problem. They’re going to choose you.
To attract people that are still in the research phase of solving their problem, you need content. To know exactly what content we need to create, what it needs to talk about and who it should be targeted at, we need to dive deep into customer profiling and content strategy. We’ve developed completely new internal processes and systems with a focus on quantitative and qualitative customer research.
In addition to better research and understanding, we’ve also improved our systems to consider the entire customer journey. In fact, the customer journey model has been central to our themes of improvement and innovation over the last couple of quarters—we’re growing up, and really harnessing our marketing training. By considering the customer journey model, we’re able to build more connected customer journeys—funnels—that guide the right person to a purchase or lead submission.
These journeys are content-centric, and focussed on getting the right people to our landing pages (the right place) at the right time (when they’re in the 3% ready-to-purchase stage). Simple, massively effective and decidedly more difficult to pull off than just stuffing keywords into a page! Not that keyword stuffing was ever one of our SEO tactics, mind you.
Once the strategy and foundational pieces were in place, it was time to look at how we actually produce content. Content’s importance can’t be understated. It’s a critical part of a winning SEO campaign, and under this new approach to Organic Marketing that’s even more the case.
- Research-Driven Creation: We’ve always used search-data to drive our content topics. Almost every post we’ve written for a client’s site or our own, has been targeted at a keyword. This isn’t changing, but it is evolving. By leveraging new AI tools and more advanced data analytics, we can identify stronger topics, and more closely understand user intent to ensure our content is not only high quality, but highly relevant.
- Strategy-First Content: With websites getting bigger and bigger, and more and more content being published, proper site architecture is incredibly important. There’s many different models and schools of thought around content categorisation on websites—cornerstone, cluster and pillar, silo to name a few. We’re focussing less on what the structuring is called, and more on how we can deliver it across a diverse range of clients and industries. Our strategic content mapping approach is all about outlining a robust, years-in-the-future plan for content creation that’s not only appealing to Google’s bots, but real people.
- Diverse Content Channels: When I first started at Dilate in 2019, we were publishing short, simple blogs designed to support sites from a freshness perspective. Over time, we’ve evolved our content to detailed, highly researched and unique articles offering genuine value to readers. Typically, we’ve only promoted these articles through search. We target a keyword, ensure it's the best content available for that particular search term, and the traffic comes organically. Now, we’ve developed our capabilities to push out content through other channels—paid channels, email and more.
Native Content. A run-on from the above point, we’re diversifying the type of content we create to be native to particular channels. From in-depth informational articles to critical comparisons and product guides, our written content performs in search and drives brand growth for our clients. Now, we’re diversifying the types of content we produce for clients to expand the channels we’re using to reach customers, and drive even higher engagement. Think video, graphic content and more.
Is it even SEO anymore?
Short answer—no. While SEO is, and will remain, a critical component of our digital marketing tactics suite, it’s not the whole picture. We’re evolving our approach to be more holistic, and to consider the full market and the whole customer experience. We’re bringing together all the elements and tactics required to win in this modern era of digital marketing, and ensuring they work well together to drive success for your business.
To that end, we’ve dropped the naming conventions of SEO and PPC. Instead, we’re referring to our services now as simply Organic Marketing, and Paid Advertising.
Organic Marketing is everything that SEO was and more. It’s about earning the attention of your target customer through helpful, valuable and informative content pushed out through owned-media channels. These channels include your blog, your social media profiles and your email list. It’s also about positioning your brand as an expert, the authority in your space and a trustworthy, reliable choice.
To get technical for a moment, the search engines themselves are also paying attention to how much attention search users are paying to your website. They’re looking at time spent on a page, how many pages the average person visits in a session and even how long your Domain Name has been registered. Organic Marketing is about earning the attention of your prospects, in every sense of the word.
Paid Advertising is interruption marketing, and the natural evolution of our PPC service. It’s about getting the most from self-serve advertising platforms to reach your target audience directly, with a big focus on high-level creative, design and messaging. It’s also about the steps after you’ve paid for a click. If the person doesn’t take action in that session, then what? Our revised approach to Paid Advertising is again, considering the whole funnel. Considering what happens to someone after they’ve clicked but not converted, and supporting them with relevant, helpful content to build trust and a relationship.
Central to both services are our websites, as always. Our website design services are also reaping the benefits of our massive internal evolution; with stronger strategy, positioning and tightening messaging. We’re adding to that a Brand Strategy Workshop offering, where we help clients to understand exactly who they are, where they fit in the market and why their ideal target customer should choose them over their competitors.
2023 is flying by, and it’s shaping up to be one of our most pivotal years yet. We’re psyched with the progress, and the future is looking seriously exciting. With that said, we’re also slowing down our intake of new clients. There’s so much we can offer with our newly redeveloped systems and processes, and we want to make sure that the partners we’re already working with enjoy the benefits of our progress and learning.
If you’re thinking about enlisting our help to grow your business—don’t wait around. Let's Talk!