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The “Everything is Data” Philosophy – Michelle Robbins // Aimclear

Episode Overview: Data is a vital foundation in SEO, as it informs every single decision making process in SEOs marketing strategies. It’s so important many could argue that data is everything in SEO. Join host Ben as he concludes his conversation with Aimclear’s VP of Product Innovation Michelle Robbins, where Michelle shares her “Everything is data,” philosophy and how broadening data sources can improve your marketing strategies.

Summary

  • Behavioral data derived from what users are doing in response to being exposed to content is a vital resource.
  • The analysis and insights gained from data is the most important component in data retrieval, as it yields valuable human context behind user intentions that AI can’t understand.

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                  Welcome back to the last episode of Integrated Brand SEO Week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro, and this week we’ve been publishing an episode every day talking about how to think about how your brand is impacted by SEO, and how SEO impacts your brand. Joining us for Integrated Brand SEO Week is Michelle Robbins who is the vice president of product innovation at Aimclear, which is an integrated digital marketing agency that focuses on elevating brands to beloved status by reaching everyone ranging from uber focused audiences to mass market branding. Aimclear integrates paid and organic search, social, bleeding edge creative, PR data, human expertise and performance marketing so you can make more money.

Ben:                   So far this week Michelle and I have talked about why brand marketers think that everything is content. What SEOs can learn from those brand marketers, how they can incorporate themselves into integrated marketing campaigns. And then the flip side, yesterday we talked about how SEOs can also be incorporated into integrated engineering efforts. And today we’re going to wrap up brand SEO week by talking about Michelle’s philosophy about how everything is data. Okay, here’s the last installment of Integrated Brand SEO Week with Michelle Robbins from Aimclear. Michelle, happy Friday and welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.

Michelle:          Thanks again for having me. It’s been fun.

Ben:                    Excited to have you here. Excited to finally get to this conversation, and I feel like we’re going to argue a little on this one. When you came on my MarTech podcast we talked a little bit about your philosophy that data is everything, and I feel like you’re a big advocate of something is everything as a metaphor for brand marketers everything is content, and you also have the philosophy that everything is data. Now I don’t necessarily agree that everything is data. I think that there are other factors that influence us other than data. Talk to me about what your philosophy is and let’s wrestle.

Michelle:           So when I talk about data I’m not talking about numbers, and I think a lot of people when they think about data they think about numbers. I think about the types of information that we utilize to derive insights and to make predictions, to decide what we’re going to do, whether it’s rolling out a new campaign, getting involved in a new channel, adopting a new product, pivoting a new service, any of those kinds of things. And the sources of data are many and varied. It’s not just about your number of site visitors, it’s what are those visitors doing, right? So it’s behavior. So I think a lot about behavioral data and how behavioral data, what the sources of behavioral data available to marketers and SEOs are, and whether or not they’re being utilized for maximum optimization.

Ben:                     So when we had this conversation last time I posed the question of how is content data, prospects of leads are consuming content, how is that considered data?

Michelle:           The data, it’s the data around the content, right? So it’s what are they doing in response to being exposed to that content? I recently did a webinar where I talked about utilizing first party click stream data analysis to make predictions about people’s behavior once they’re on your site, right? So oftentimes I feel like we’re looking backwards. At the end of the month we look backwards and we say, what did everybody do and how many pages did they look at? What was the bounce rates, how long did they stay on the site? That kind of thing. And that’s informative data as well. But I think more interesting is what did they actually do? And oftentimes we’ll set up what we think, well we think a person’s going to land here, and then they’re going to go here, and then they’re going to go here, and then they’re going to click the checkout button and we have a conversion. Or they’re going to do X, Y, and Z and sign up for our newsletter, or they’re going, you know we make a lot of assumptions about how we would approach, or how we want the optimal path through a site to be.

Michelle:           But if you look at the actual behavior, and you get this from looking at paths through a site, you can say, well our assumption was this, but when we look at what people are actually doing on the site, we see that they go from here and then over to here, and then back to here and then they’re searching for something, and then they’re over here. And you look at all of that data and you can say we’ve actually made it harder for users to convert. We’ve made it more difficult for them to consume the content. And the behavioral data exposes that more so than the numerical data.

Ben:                      I guess I would break it up into two parts. I think of data in a little bit of a different way where yes, data can be very quantitative. There’s quantitative and there’s qualitative data. I guess you know using your nomenclature that there are consumers that are ingesting data and influences that impact what they think about a brand, product or service, and then they emit another data and signal back to the business, that is what we ingest to try to figure out how to optimize. I just think that the philosophy of data is everything. Take some of the emotion and the art out of the practice of marketing and SEO specifically, where emotion and mindsets, and feeling is something that influences consumer behavior, and it’s not necessarily data. It’s not, I don’t know quantifiable in the same way that we’re talking about.

Michelle:            And millions of AI would disagree. So this is interesting, because I think it gets to “Oh what is important about data?” Because I think that you’re inferring that in saying everything is data, I’m saying data is the most important thing that we have, and data is not the most important thing we have. I think actually our own analysis and insights that we derive from data is the most important thing we have in our creativity, because we can understand emotions at levels that AI cannot, right? So I think that leveraging machines, leveraging data, leveraging the behavioral signals, the qualitative and quantitative outputs that we can get are incredibly important, because without those then we really are just trying a lot of different things right? Then it’s like, well this is a great ad, we love this ad, but if that ad doesn’t resonate with anyone then it’s not a great ad, or is it? It’s up for debate. It’s like art, art you know I could see a painting and think it’s amazing and you could see it and be like, I don’t understand why you were even looking in that direction.

Michelle:             The data will surface whether or not the preponderance of people actually perceive it as art or perceive it as not art. And understanding that behavioral data point can inform you as to whether or not to continue in that direction or not continue in that direction. Arts kind of a terrible example, because it should be 100 percent subjective. But objectively when you’re talking about what you’re doing with your content in your marketing, if you’re doing things that are not data informed, then you’re probably missing out on a lot of opportunity. I think that you can make decisions based on emotion and feeling, and natural instinct, and your gut, and things-

Ben:                        Intuition.

Michelle:              … and intuition and that’s going very well for our pandemic. But it might be better to look at qualitative-

Ben:                        Shots fired at the current political administration.

Michelle:              I’m just saying I’m a fan of science. I think we can do more with data than we understand we can do. That’s what I’m saying. I think that there’s let the machines do what the machines are good at, and machines are good at ingesting vast amounts of data, vast amounts of disparate data and categorizing, organizing, spitting out information about that data that we can then take and apply our own creativity, our own analysis and insights to make a better informed next decision.

Ben:                        The reason why I wanted to have this conversation with you on our SEO focused podcast is I think that this is something that gets lost, and it’s a constant debate within the SEO community about where does the science stop and where does the art start? And in broader marketing circles I think that we’re data-driven, but the creative really, really matters and in SEO traditionally it’s been very, very much data-driven. Very scientific about people’s approach, and now that we’re seeing the rise of zero click more brand SEO, which is the purpose of this week, starting to think about the art of marketing. Starting to think about the storytelling that goes into it, understanding that Google can interpret all of this data and understand what you mean and what words you’re trying to get across. You don’t actually have to keyword stuff, like focusing on the art and the creative components of SEO as a marketing channel, and not just only thinking about the scientific pursuit of optimizing to please Google is a very important conversation to have.

Michelle:               Completely agree. I would say that I think it’s not that Google even has a greater ability to understand the content that we as SEOs put out there. It’s that Google has a greater ability to understand what the searcher is actually looking for. And I think there’s a difference. There’s a difference between what we assume people are going to do to find our product versus what people in the world do. We don’t have as much people in the world as Google does, so Google is better able in many instances, in most instances I think we would all agree they do a great job of surfacing information specifically related to what a person is looking for. They’re getting much more image heavy. They’re getting much more focused on interactive video images. They’re constantly changing the layout of the search results, and this isn’t to frustrate SEOs it’s to be the best resource for users. So I think that SEOs would be better, would be less frustrated if they instead of thinking about what is Google looking for? They really think about what is this person, what is the person who, what problem are we solving with this product or service? And who are the people looking for this product and service? And how can we best surface it for them, for them, not for Google?

Michelle:               If we start from that perspective we might start closing that gap. I would also say that I’m not so much a fan of being data driven as I am being data informed. A lot of data is not necessarily better, right? Having one or another data point does not necessarily give you the best information you need to make a decision to pivot a campaign, things like that. So I think it’s a combination of utilizing data and really understanding how to analyze and interpret that data. Don’t just take it at face value.

Ben:                         I think that it’s an interesting time for the SEO community as we start thinking about changes that Google is making in their ability to understand what the consumers wants are. And the more that that happens, the more that SEOs need to stop focusing on optimizing to please Google and start trying to understand and meet the needs of the end consumers. Michelle, I appreciate you coming on the show and talking to us a little bit about how we can think about integrated marketing, about how we can think about folding brand practices, and your philosophies on data on the podcast.

Michelle:               Thank you so much for having me. This has been fun.

Ben:                         Okay, and that wraps up Integrated Brand SEO week, and this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversations with Michelle Robbins, vice president of product innovation at Aimclear. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Michelle, you could find a link to her LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact her on Twitter where her handle is Michelle Robbins, M-I-C-H-E-L-L-E-R-O-B-B-I-N-S, or you could visit her company’s website, which is Aimclear.com A-I-M-C-L-E-A-R dot com.

Ben:                        Just one more link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about, if you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to VoicesofSearch.com where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions, or you can apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is Voices of Search on Twitter, and my personal handle is Ben, J. Shap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P and if you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish an episode every day during the work week. So hit that subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed soon. All right, that’s it for today, but until next time remember, the answers are always in the data.