Internet Marketers’ Holiday Wishlist

It’s that time of the year again when internet marketers have too much on their plate. In our professional lives, we’re working like crazy to launch holiday campaigns, tweak them, and monitor their success. In our personal lives, we’re busy attending holiday parties, buying presents and confirming travel plans. It’s overwhelming and enough to cause people to run for the hills.

via Giphy

As we’re powering through it all, it’s not unusual to overhear someone wish for some inspiration, a little bit of help, a little more time in the day. But what if the all-mighty marketing powers were listening to these pleas? What if they could grant all of our holiday wishes? What would you wish for? I posed this question to both the Moz community and the crew at Distilled and here’s what they had to say about what’s at the top of their marketing wish lists this year.

1) “A way to aggregate all the affinity data.” – Adria Saracino (@adriasaracino)

Affinity data is information about a person and their interests gathered from that person’s online interactions – social media likes, shares, emails, and topics discussed. For example, if a person liked sea kayaking on Facebook, checked in at an outdoor outfitter, and tweeted pictures of themselves out on the water, all of this aggregated data would indicate this person’s affinity for sea kayaking. Upon completing this social media interaction analysis, there would be a complete affinity profile for each person. Turns out this sea kayaker also likes photography and Italian cuisine. Who knew?

The ability to aggregate affinity data would change the marketing landscape dramatically. With this information, search engines could show deeply personalized results. Our sea kayaker might see Italian kayaking trips when searching for “vacations.” While this is great for searchers, it’s also great for marketers. Affinity data would allow us to develop more specific audience personas and develop content for each of them. We’d be better able to build personalized experiences for our customers, reach those individuals, and build brand affinity. [Note: If you’re impatiently waiting for access to this data, Ian Laurie wrote a great post on how you can go about finding random affinities right now.]

2) “I want organic keyword data back.” – Geoff Kenyon (@geoffkenyon)

Google’s move to 100% secure search was one of search marketing’s biggest news pieces in 2013. While the industry foresaw the move towards this and a loss of referring keywords, this hasn’t stopped industry outrage. While there are alternative ways to determine what phrases drive site visitors, many of these methods are costly, time-consuming, and less precise. Marketers miss out on page performance nuances; it’s harder to determine whether webpages adequately address search queries or how pages can be tweaked in order to deliver optimal user experience. As an industry, we can survive without keywords, but it makes it difficult to prove our successes, weakens reporting, and makes it harder to optimize pages for customers. Since Google’s all about optimizing the user experience and providing searchers with the best results, wouldn’t giving us that data back only help the relevance of search?

3) “I want a better Google trends.” – Kristina Kledzik (@KristinaKledzik)

When Kristina and I originally spoke about this, she explained her frustration with Google Trends and its’ inability to allow query modifications or differentiate between multiple phrase meanings. Kristina must have been an exceptionally good white hat marketer this year because shortly after our conversation, Google updated Trends’ functionality. Now when you search for a phrase like “acne,” a dropdown appears that not only allows you to differentiate between the medical condition and the clothing company, but also gives other related topic options like rosacea.

For some searches, Google Trends also takes alternative spellings into consideration. In their blog, Google explained that searches for “Gwyneth Paltrow” and “Gwen Paltro” will all count towards Gwyneth Paltrow, and not separately. They hope that in the future, searches such as “lead actress in Iron Man” will also count towards her name. 

Kristina’s wish was granted, but there are still ways Google could improve upon the Trends tool. For one, they could make good on their mention of combining search variations as exemplified through the Gwyneth Paltrow “lead actress in Iron Man” example. Another useful feature would allow for more than five search phrases or topics at a time. The chart is small, of course, but thorough analysis often calls for the comparison of more than five phrases. With these changes marketers would have a more nuanced understanding of search interest and could better focus brand messaging. Google’s hinting and investing time and money into Google Trends, so it’s not completely implausible we see these changes in the near future.

4) “I wish we could break down silos and create environments where people work together.” –Mike Tekula (@MikeTek)

Mike’s not the only person who wanted to get rid of silos this holiday season; breaking down the silos within marketing as well as between marketing and other company departments was a common wish among online marketers. They felt that departments play politics or fail to communicate effectively far too often.

Without silos, knowledge gained in one area could better inform company decisions. For example, as marketers, we get a lot of user feedback, but oftentimes don’t have input on the original product. With fewer silos, we could offer input and create a product that’s tailored for our customers. There would be less redundancy, better ideation, and greater productivity all of which ultimately create a better customer experience. At the end of the day, that’s what we all want, isn’t it? To better connect customers with awesome companies? 

5) “The ability, at the very least, to be able to bid modify by tablet, separately from desktop.” – Distilled's Richard Cotton

In 2013, Google took away the ability to bid on tablet, mobile, and desktop AdWords campaigns separately, causing headaches for PPC marketers. Google claims to have made this change to reflect that “consumer behavior on tablets and desktops are becoming very similar.” Unfortunately, this sentiment isn’t reflected in the numerous studies that show just how differently people use their devices; people use desktops for work and banking while they use tablets to surf and consume media. In Distilled’s experience, the difference between the two devices isn’t reflected in AdWords accounts either.

In this example below, taken from an unnamed Distilled client, the cost for tablet acquisition is extremely high, almost three times that of desktop. Ideally we’d stop spending money on tablet AdWords spend, but we can’t.

The combination of desktop and tablet causes the inflation of average numbers, fails to illustrate real CPA values, and targets unprofitable traffic. Going back to the way things were, marketers would once again be allowed to target the most relevant audience on the devices where they’re most likely to convert. People aren’t using the two the same, and we wish that campaign structures would be allowed to reflect that.

6) “I wish Bing would develop an analytics product to rival Google Analytics.” – Kate Morris (@katemorris)

Right now, Google owns the free analytics space, forcing marketers to rely on them or on another, larger paid tool. For smaller companies, these larger tools aren’t always within budget, and many have a steeper learning curve than Google Analytics. As we’re all familiar with though, Google Analytics’ features aren’t always easy to access and there are hundreds that would help us to better understand our marketing campaigns. If Bing made a competitive platform and added a couple of distinct features (like, say, tying in their much more reliable keyword tool), this space would really open up. Competition would drive innovation, analytics tools would improve, and marketers would benefit from this greater analytical insight. As an industry, we would be able to take our marketing to the next level.

7) “I'd like some sort of "idea tester" tool that would accurately predict whether or not the stuff that we come up with will go viral.” – Britt Klontz (@Britt_Klontz)

Me too, Britt. Me too. The idea tester tool would allow us to know instantly whether or not something would go viral, whether or not the time and money we put into an idea is worth it. We’d have an extra edge when pitching ideas to clients and we’d save, time, money, and face. (That’s right everyone. No more embarrassing marketing flops.) The industry would be more effective when it came to ideation, and the focus would shift to campaign implementation. Creative teams would really level up, and garner some much deserved attention. Until we have this tool though, Distilled’s James Porter has your back; his post “So You Think You’ve Got A Viral Idea? Now What?” will help you to determine whether or not your content idea has what it takes to go viral.

8) “Authorship as a ranking signal.” – Danny Wood (@dannyjameswood)

To some extent, active Google+ users with authors in their circles see something similar to authorship as a ranking signal; those authors show up higher in their search results. This only applies to individuals who are signed into Google+, though it could be a great addition for all non-Google+ searchers. With authorship as a ranking signal, everyone will see articles from highly respected authors at the top, making it easier for searchers to find trusted well-written content quickly. Authorship as a ranking signal will furthermore reward companies that invest in their authors and consistently publish great content, which is closely in line with Google’s preference for quality content.

9) “Having more trust in SEO professionals would be awesome.” – Kristina Kledzik (@KristinaKledzik)

Over the years, SEO professionals have developed a bit of a reputation problem. We’re seen as untrustworthy people who trick search engines into giving certain search results, a reputation derived from the actions of black hat marketers and online scam artists who promise unattainable results. Ever changing search algorithms haven’t helped us either; things we once touted as best practices, like keyword density, are now regarded as spam. It appears as if we don’t know what we’re talking about, like we’re trying to scam innocent business owners.


It isn’t fair as the majority of us are white hat marketers trying to understand the changing landscape, play by the rules, and affect change within organizations. Our reputation doesn’t reflect that, which undermines our work and deters companies from coming to us who could really thrive under our advice. This holiday season, it would be great if this reputation just disappeared.

Even if our scarlet letter doesn’t magically vanish, never fear. Many companies and search professionals are already taking steps to destigmatize our work, and education has been proven to be our best defense. Explaining why things do and don’t work, refraining from promising unattainable results, being transparent, and delivering what we say we will has already done wonders. Keep on educating, keep on working together, and we’ll clean up our image, holiday miracle or not.

10) “I want Google to explain why things work the way they do.” – Me, Morgan Chessman (@Morgan_Chessman)

In my past job, I learned the basics of search marketing: onpage optimization, quality content, links from high authority, relevant sites -- the basics. What I didn’t know was the “why”; why I was taking certain actions or how search engines interpreted them at a deeper level. Since I joined Distilled three months ago, I’ve been learning nothing but the whys. Not only knowing that things must be done, but knowing why they must be done is crucially important for any marketer who’s trying to convince coworkers or clients to make changes.

The difficult part is that a lot of these “whys” are dependent on your interpretation of Google’s cryptic, dispersed information and understanding patterns. For example? You don’t 301 redirect and move URLs unless absolutely necessary in order to preserve link equity. Why? At Distilled, we’ve pulled our explanation from Matt Cutts’ statements that 301 redirects lose 5 – 15% of PageRank, just like a link. We believe Google is keeping it this way because they fear the content on your new URL may not be as relevant to the linker as the content on the old URL, so the new URL loses a bit of the link equity “voting power.” For these sort of explanations that make sense to non-search marketers, you really have to get into search engines’ brains. All I want for Christmas is for Google to explain their reasoning in an easily digestible, centralized location so that we can all make more compelling recommendations and to have the proof to back us up.

Unfortunately whether or not these holiday wishes come true comes down to more than the wishers white hat status. It’ll be interesting to see which of these are fulfilled in the coming year. Will Google bring back tool functionality? Add new ranking signals? Will Bing come up with a tool to rival Google? What are your thoughts? What would you have added to the list?

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