Changes in Search Marketing...from the Head of Sales point of view

So SEO is changing. We are all pretty aware of that. Just look at the increase in the term Inbound Marketing and the way the recent algorithm updates have been shaping the industry and it’s pretty clear we are in the midst of some serious SEO evolution.

As Head of Sales at Distilled for over 3 years, I have seen a lot of change in what clients are asking for, what projects go well, and what is considered SEO success. When I first started at Distilled it was all about introducing companies to the possibilities SEO had to offer. For the past few years, there has been a shift to more companies looking for smart and creative (not to mention whitehat) linkbuilding. Recently I’ve been seeing a few new trends emerge and I think it’s a very clear sign of the times and the direction search marketing is moving into.

Here are the top 3 new trends I’m seeing in search based on client requests.

1) Can you help me clean up my act?

Clean up your SEO profile

Since the whole JC Penny debacle in February 2011 (seems like so long ago now), a number of sites have seen the impacts from the various black and white animal based algorithm updates. While we have had the occasional ‘URGENT FIX ME NOW’ request from clients, most of the work we have been doing for companies as a result of the updates has been preventative, rather than reactive. New potential clients are coming to us more aware that the previous methods for building links or trying to ‘trick’ Google no long work and they are keen to focus ongoing efforts on sustainable search strategies that mean they won’t get caught out by penalties in the future.

Chris Warren from our New York office recently posted some top tips on SEOmoz for learning from these updates and putting in place stronger and more sustainable search marketing tactics.

For Distilled this is wonderful. It means we get more informed clients, asking us for projects that are more suited to our approach to search. While it can be challenging to change well established habits (sustainable linkbuilding takes longer and can cost more) it is great to see a larger awareness of how important quality is to search.

2) Building brands instead of building links

Build relationships not links

This is the newest trend and something that we are all very excited about. A number of our clients are starting to appreciate that while creative content and outreach are great for building links, they are also fantastic for building brand awareness and sending traffic to their website. A number of our clients’ creative link building projects are also getting a large amount of social shares and sending relevant traffic to the site. This creative content also provides an opportunity for brands to have more of a personality online, giving users a chance to get to know the culture behind the company and building real relationships.

Now the importance of social isn’t that new or innovative. Matt Cutts talked about the importance of Social Media in an SEO strategy over a year ago (March 2011) and in a recent post on their blog, Bing talks about the importance of online marketing strategy diversification when trying to drive traffic to your website.

What is interesting for Distilled is that we are starting to see great results for clients on creative projects where links only make up a portion of the total value gained. Traffic and increased conversions have been the major wins, which allow us to really see great ROI for our clients on the work we have been doing.

Which leads on to my last trend…

3) Conversion Rate Optimization

Conversion Rate Optimization

big bag of money anyone?

While Distilled are reasonably new to the pure CRO consulting space, we have been doing integrated campaigns for a while as a part of our SEO and PPC campaigns. We have always looked for opportunities to improve conversions on a client’s site when possible, but recently we have started doing a lot more stand alone CRO projects where we work with and internal SEO or PPC team to help grow results from the site.

To us this feels like a natural part of what an online marketing agency should be offering as it fits so perfectly with a larger and more comprehnsive search campaign. Its not enough to just think about rankings and traffic, with out an increase in conversions search and social media marketing and can quickly turn from a business tactic to a popularity contest. We love the fact that we now get to work with client on the final part of the equation - bringing in the money!

Again CRO isn’t easy, it usually requires a number of technical changes, testing, time, and patience. But the overall reward can be huge.

So what does this all mean...

I think what is most interesting to me is how all three of these trends are positively impacting our relationships with clients. We are working in house as consultants more than ever before and our internal language for the past year has been focused on communication and effecting change. It’s not enough any more for us just to give recommendations; clients coming to us now need help making the change we recommend actually happen.

Search is evolving and agencies/consultants need to be ready for the changes. Client are demanding more, project scopes are expanding, and showing value for the work being done has never been more important. The leaders of the search industry have always been a fast to adapt and agile industry and it will be interesting to see how different agencies change as we start to push our work beyond just the search rankings and further into the marketing mix.


Caitlin Krumdieck

Caitlin Krumdieck

Caitlin Krumdieck is our Global Director of Client Development and looks after the Distilled Client Development Teams in London, Seattle, and New York. Caitlin is originally from San Diego California and moved to the UK after getting her Degree in...   read more

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  1. Really, the SEO has been changing over time. The difficulties for those working in SEO are to work in line with the changes of search algorithm and the new technologies adopted by the people like mobile, tablets, social media platform, voice search and so on..

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    • So we have been able to keep up with all of the changes Google has been making for our current clients. The problem we are having is getting new and potential clients to realize the value of what we do. It's easy to get people excited, as soon as you tell them that they need to create value on the internet they shut down.

      We have a hard time getting businesses to commit to change to improve their SERP's. It's fun for them to say, "what it would mean for us to have a high google ranking" but like I said before, they are lazy and don't like change.

      Should I just move away from clients like that, or fight for them cause they are not going to. The problem we always run into is that we start to get attached to the company and people we are pitching ideas to.

      Any advice would be helpful, thanks.


  2. Thanks Caitlin, this is a really good post. Much like you guys at Distilled I started to change the way I built links and brands for client before the Penguin update was among us and right now I am so glad that I did. Social Media Marketing is an excellent way ahead for SEO's, the main reason being because when you pitch to a company they may not understand SEO but they recognise buzz words such as Facebook, Twitter and to some extent google+.

    Because of this I have been able to angle my pitches to them to focus on brand building as a way to get traffic and also increase SERP dominance on a whole range of keywords for them.

    CRO is something I have very little experience with and hope to move into offering this properly soon although I need to get myself (and my team for that matter) up to speed on the requirements.
    Loving the site as always and looking forward to your next posts.


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  3. Great post Caitlin. Working with a number of smaller clients on their social media strategy, we have come to the conclusion that strong relationship building via all these channels can be done only through really hard cooperation between the SEO, Social Media Manager and the client. In my experience, small clients are usually tempted either not to bother about social media or to let go of the social media channels and leave it to the agency completely, because they have no in-house staff to handle it. The future here is a really strong relationship and day-to-day coaching of the client by a SEO/social media specialist (or should I say an inbound marketer?)


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    • Caitlin

      Hi Johnny - I agree completely. If as an industry we start to expand out of the SEO box and into larger and more comprehensive and smarter online marketing strategies then we need to get better at helping clients see the potential and the challenges of a great social media campaign. Clients also need to understand that social media isn't easy and its even harder as an agency who is trying to help communicate a companies brand values and message online. Without help from the client, the message could lack that company culture touch it needs to really help the company connect with users for the long term online.

      I also agree coaching is crucial and we have found the more we can get engrained with the company and understand they larger and more long term goals for success, the more we are able to represent them in the right ways online. When this all comes together is really when we get our best results!


  4. Great points, Caitlin!

    I especially like the concept of preventive vs. fixing problems later. Works in all aspects of life, really. Just requires some planning and mindset shift.

    Not trying to squeeze the last juice from perishable fruit but deposing it before it gets bad and adding new fruits consistently.

    Help people, explore, engage!

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  5. Good post Caitlin. I was wondering how Distilled, as a firm that doesn't offer design services, can effectively work with clients on CRO? Design work is also key in creating the graphic elements that are becoming increasingly important for content. Thanks.

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    • Caitlin

      Hi Jason - good question. While we no longer do website design and development for clients as stand alone work, we do actually have a great creative team. You are right creative is extremely important for clients and a lot of our creative work for clients have had the biggest impact on brand awareness and total sales. We tend to create things from simple graphics to interactive data visualization and even videos (although this is still new) We also have CRO experts and are in the process of building out a user testing lab for our CRO work.

      Maybe we should shout a bit louder on our own website about the skilled creative people we have on our team!


  6. Great article Caitlin!

    I totally agree that the search industry have to offer more high value services in order to gain success, the problem though, as Wesley pointed out, is that the customers still believe that “quickfix” could solve the impact of Pandas and Penguins. I guess it´s painful to realize the obvious facts, online visibility can´t be solved by the work of “others” So, it´s our responsibility to educate client´s in order to have them reallocating internal resources that could be used to create “awesome” and creative content that is appreciated by others online.

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  7. I can honestly say that SEO consultants need to wear more hats going forward and working closer than ever with their clients in terms of how a company markets themselves online and offline.

    If a client isn't telling you that they're releasing a giant moving-parts billboard in the centre of your city then you aren't doing your job and without that communication coupled with a lack of SEO input, it is a wasted opportunity.

    Personally speaking, I'm working on my client communications even more than before and will work towards dabbling in other fields. I don't want to have to specialise down the track, but for now what SEO means to me is using all known tools possible and combining them in the most powerful way possible for any given company or situation.

    Unfortunately in Australia, the overall market is small whilst costs are high - how this translates into the SEO world is that I personally need to be more resourceful and broad in my responsibilities. As a result Penguin is definitely pushing that harder than before and is just the wake up call I / We needed.

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  8. Hi Caitlin, let me say thumbs up for the post and an even bigger thumbs up for distilled for making so much content available to the general public. I run an online company and really its just me and the warehouse guy, we are growing rapidly but it is just me doing what i can learn from you guys in terms of SEO. Some functions I am outsourcing like a few rounds of CRO testing and general dev work to put in new features.
    I have a question, currently we are putting a bunch of how to videos on YouTube and getting a lot of love as a result (both from Google and actual customers). Now I have limited time resources at this point but I am wondering if I was to put up relevant blog posts that are industry specific am I better to guest blog for the inbound links or use our own blog for the content creation?.
    Again thank-you !

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    • Caitlin

      Hi Alec,
      Sorry it's taken me so long to reply!

      Firstly I think you should check out this post from Phil on our team if you haven't already Its got great advice on how you can get the most from the videos you are creating.

      In terms of posting vs guest posting. Ideally you should be doing both. However, with time sensitivity I would say to have a look at what will get you the best return on investment and what your site needs more.

      Guest posting is great for a new site, where you are trying to build up strength and generate awareness about your business. It is also a great way to build valuable relationships and help further establish your site in your industry. Some advice though - if you have limited time try to go for the sites you will get the most over all value from. You should be looking to not only get a link, but also be working to position your brand in the best way possible and be reaching out to relevant people through the post. If you are spending the time and effort on creating great content make sure you are getting every thing you can from it.

      You will also want to make sure that you have great content on your own site so that when people check your site out they have a reason to come back for most posts from you. I know it can be hard to keep up with everything while also trying to run a business. I would suggest trying to think about everything you can to get the most out of any content you create and remember sharing pictures and videos on your own blog and accepting other people's guest posts could also help you manage things.

      Good luck!!!

  9. I really agree with building brand term you need strong social media accounts you need to be active on them lot rather than jut making back links which are not going to do much good now..!

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