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Why Brand Marketers Think Content is King – Michelle Robbins // Aimclear

Episode Overview: Brand marketers rely on different types of content and mediums to reach the right consumers and customers for their business. Content is essential to every brand marketers wheelhouse, but is it the only tool at their disposal? Join host Ben as he kicks off Integrated Brand SEO Week with Aimclear’s Vice President of Product Innovation Michelle Robbins to answer a fundamental question – Why brand marketers think content is everything.

Summary

  • Content is everything brand marketers put out about their company’s respective brand, which includes everything from video games to TV shows and billboard ads.
  • Brand marketers understand they need to keep to one brand identity, but it’s important to create and diversify that message to best fit their respective channels.
  • To best understand what’s happening in a local market, brand marketers need to understand how Google acquires information via “Foot traffic,” to create the right content.
  • Google acquires foot traffic through mobile searches users conduct and the geolocation data they choose to share.

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                  Welcome to Integrated Brand SEO Week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and this week we’re going to publish an episode every day, talking about how you can think about how your brand is impacted by SEO and how SEO impacts your brand.

Ben:                  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, and human expertise, and performance marketing, so you can make more money.

Ben:                  Today, Michelle and I are going to talk about why brand marketers think everything is content. Okay. Here’s the first part of my conversation with Michelle Robbins from Aimclear. Michelle, welcome to the Voices of Search podcast.

Michelle:        How are you doing, Benjamin? It’s great to be here.

Ben:                  Honor and a privilege. You’ve been on my other podcast, the MarTech podcast. Very excited that you have landed in a new role, and now we get to talk about SEO. What could be better?

Michelle:        Everything.

Ben:                  Considering that’s everything going on in the world, what a joy to get to reconnect. Catch us up. At least, catch me up, and maybe the audience in the Voices of Search podcast is getting to know you for the first time, a little bit about your background and what you’re doing at Aimclear.

Michelle:        I’ve been in search and digital marketing for over 20 years now. First starting at a small agency in Orange County, California. And in the mid-90s, and from there, took on web development and programming and really leaned hard into technology, and discovered that as much as I loved search and digital marketing, I also loved technology. And so, I had my own web development consultation firm building web server, utilities, applications, websites, things like that, while also doing digital marketing for folks.

Michelle:        Started working at Third Door Media, and I actually worked there for 12 years, running their technology division and working with the editorial team, ending up as editor in chief and VP of content for the brand. So, my experience kind of crosses a lot of different areas and touches on a lot of different verticals that people work in and focus on from technology to marketing, search, obviously. Of course, SEO gets baked into all of this, so I’ve got a pretty broad background in these things.

Michelle:         Most recently, I’ve been focusing more on data science because that’s one area that was not core to what I had been doing for 20 years, and so it’s really been the past couple of years that I’ve been focusing on data more. So, I brought all of that experience to Aimclear, to work across dev ops, data ops, marketing ops, all the ops, and basically, bring together what we can learn from data and informed insights analysis combined with Martech, to produce outstanding programs for our clients.

Ben:                   I think Michelle, you’re … I appreciate you telling everybody about your experience. I think you’re also being modest. For everybody that’s listening, Michelle is kind of a boss. She’s been a keynote speaker at a whole bunch of stuff. She’s been a writer. Obviously, she’s had her own business, worked for Third Door Media. Kind of a big deal to have you on the show and excited to talk to you a little bit about brand and SEO this week.

Ben:                   Today we’re going to talk a little bit about brand marketers. This is a SEO podcast, and so we don’t really talk about the brand and what brand marketers think. You have a philosophy that says: “Brand marketers think everything is content.” Talk to me about what you mean by that.

Michelle:          It’s actually, that’s brand marketers understand that everything is content. It’s not that they think it’s everything is content, it’s that they fundamentally understand that everything they are tasked with producing for a brand is content and that includes things that people don’t necessarily think about. I think in SEO, we tend to think of content as what is written on a website or maybe we think of it as what we have in an ad campaign or a social media campaign.

Michelle:          But brand marketers understand that content is everything you put out there about your brand, basically. Any signal you give to the world about a brand is content about that brand. So, this includes everything from television commercials, product placement in movies, TV shows, video games, things like that, sponsoring sports teams, large events, and then also of course…

Ben:                   Podcasts.

Michelle:         Podcasts, exactly. Down to digital advertising, right? So, what are you doing in your digital advertising? What you are publishing, of course, on your brand website or on other brand’s websites and anything anyone from your company is doing, so even people doing presentations and speaking at events, that’s content about that brand. I tend to look at anything that a brand puts into the world is content about that brand and brand marketers understand that. I think SEOs are catching up to that.

Ben:                  So, just to paraphrase what you’re saying, is that anything that can be consumer-facing, right? Any asset, whether it’s a speaker, whether it’s an advertisement, whether it’s a webpage copy, is content. It can influence how the end decision-maker, or your prospects, or your customers feel and think about your company.

Michelle:        Sure. Yeah. But I would say not even necessarily public-facing. I mean, private facing, if you take a meeting and you do a private meeting, you put together a deck about your company.

Ben:                  Everything consumer-facing?

Michelle:        Consumer-facing. Yeah, okay.

Ben:                  Right? So why is that relevant to SEOs? Why does that matter?

Michelle:        Because Google operates more from a brand marketing perspective than from what SEOs traditionally have understood about the way Google operates. If that makes sense.

Ben:                  What I’m hearing is that Google is taking all of the signals that they get and all of the data that they’re collecting from multiple different sources. Not just from your search listings, but what the performance of your website is, what the external linking, what everybody else is saying about you, to evaluate, how to position your company.

Michelle:         Yes.

Ben:                   This is not a new concept for SEOs, that there are external signals outside of page optimization, and website optimization, and copy optimization that influence what is going to happen with your search results.

Michelle:         I think it’s more new to SEOs than you would imagine. I say that because I see a lot of the discussions that still happen among SEOs. When they start talking about, focusing on every Google update, every algorithm update, they still tend to be a little more focused on ranking. And figuring out and trying to understand everything that might go into ranking, and following a lot of anecdotal survey results and information that gets pushed out by the community that’s not … It’s really more anecdotal than informative, instead of focusing on brand marketing fundamentals.

Michelle:         To give an analogy, you’d never find a room full of brand marketers trying to figure out what does Nielsen think about our show. what they’re focused on is what does Nielsen’s audience think about our show? They understand that Nielsen is just the interpreter of that. Whereas SEOs tend to focus less on, I think, less on the end consumer than they do on Google.

Ben:                  That makes sense. I think that there is a mind shift that SEOs are constantly thinking about how to please Google, as opposed to how to make experiences that are going to support their end prospects or consumers. But on the flip side, it’s chicken or the egg. You kind of need to please Google to get the visibility to provide the experience to the end consumer. So, how do we rationalize that mind shift and if there needs to be a mindset change?

Michelle:         But that again goes to brand and marketing fundamentals, right? Brand marketers don’t market in one channel. They market in multiple channels. They market in as many channels as are viable to them. SEOs tend to focus exclusively on search engines, which … It sounds obvious, they’re search engine optimizers. That’s what SEO is, right? But search engines can absorb information beyond just that channel. So, the SEOs need to be thinking about all of those other channels available to them, and how all of those channels together and what they’re doing in all of these channels, and is what’s happening in all of these channels consistent.

Michelle:         So again, with brand marketing fundamentals, if you have strong, intelligent brand marketers, you’re not putting out five different versions of what a brand’s identity is. You’ve got one brand identity, and you’re making sure that identity is consistent across all of the channels that you’re in, tailored to the audiences within those channels, but it’s still consistent. If you want your brand to be known as really exciting, then regardless of the channel you’re in, you’re putting out exciting types of advertising, messaging, content, things like that.

Michelle:        SEOs, I feel like, still tend to work in a vacuum, sometimes. I’ll always ask, when we work with clients, I’ll say: “What do you have other marketers working on? What is your billboard strategy? What do those billboard ads look like?” Because if those billboard ads look completely different from the digital ads that we’re producing, then that’s a disconnect. I think that SEOs working together with other people throughout organizations is going to help benefit a cohesive understanding of what a brand identity really is, and I just don’t think SEOs are used to that.

Ben:                 So, last question for you today. As we start thinking about content being everything and that Google is interpreting all of these various signals outside of just the traditional search signals, what are some of the things, KPIs, metrics, signals that SEOs should be aware of and monitoring that might be impacting their search optimization?

Michelle:       Well, I think it goes to understanding what’s happening in a local market. If you’ve got a brand that’s not just a national brand, that doesn’t have any local visibility, so for example, think of chains. If you’re working with a chain, you really need to understand what they’re doing in their local search as well as within their local markets. So, what kinds of advertising they’re doing in their local market? What does their foot traffic look like? Because Google can have access to foot traffic. They can understand which is a more popular location.

Ben:                 How is that possible? How does Google know foot traffic?

Michelle:       Because we all carry devices that tell them where we go all the time.

Ben:                 Sneaky.

Michelle:       Yeah, it’s tricky, right? One of the examples I give when people … just to help people understand what’s really happening out there and the kinds of signals that can be absorbed and can influence the ultimate decision about this brand versus that brand. You’ve got two pizza places, and let’s say they’re across the street from one another. One pizza place has a banging website. It’s really amazing. It’s perfectly optimized. It’s super fast. It’s got tons of great content. It’s got recipes. Basically, it has everything going for it. They’ve got a GMB listing, they’re doing everything right, but they don’t … Maybe on a Friday, maybe they get a hundred people through the door. Oh, and then, let’s say they’ve also got a five-star Yelp review or something.

Michelle:       And then, you’ve got a pizza place across the street that they’ve got an okay website. It’s pretty good. It’s not great, but it’s good. They’ve got a GMB listing, but they don’t pay too much attention to it. Also, maybe their Yelp listing is three stars or something. But every Friday, they get 500 people through the door. Which is the better pizza place in that neighborhood? What’s the stronger signal? The foot traffic, right?

Ben:                Yeah.

Michelle:      Yeah.

Ben:                At the pizza place that’s serving the best pizza.

Michelle:      Exactly. You know that because you can understand the behavior of people in that community, and we kid ourselves if we think that Google doesn’t understand behavior of people in given geolocations. Because they do. Because we give it to them. How much of that is getting into their algorithms? We don’t know. But is it getting in there? For sure. Absolutely. And there are signals we can’t fake, right? SEOs are also very used to being able to turn the dial up on things or turn them down. That’s no longer the case. So, understanding what actually impacts that foot traffic is even more important.

Ben:                I think the overall takeaway here is that, as SEOs, optimizing your search campaigns is no longer just about on-page keyword optimization and technical site optimization in a vacuum. You really need to be able to understand the greater landscape of your business, and that’s one of the reasons why there’s lots that SEOs can learn from brand marketers. So, we’re going to talk more about this in our next episode, tomorrow.

Ben:               That wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Michelle Robbins, vice president of product innovation at Aimclear. Tune back in tomorrow to hear more of my conversation with Michelle, when we discuss what SEOs can learn from brand marketers. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Michelle, you can find a link to her LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact her on Twitter where her handle is @MichelleRobbins, 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. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast.

Ben:              Of course, you could always reach out on social media. Our handle is @voicesofsearch on Twitter, and my personal handle is @benjshap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. 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 workweek, so hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed soon.

Ben:             All right. That’s it for today. But until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.