This week I’m going to discuss a subject near and dear to my heart and that is the problem with trying to do SEO (and any digital marketing for that matter) on the cheap. I’m talking about agencies that only use Google Analytics and Search Console for reporting (along with maybe a few super creative but ultimately useless Excel Spreadsheets), in house Social Media Marketers that have no budget for Social Media Ads or boosted posts, PPC guys that don’t have any ways to do proper keyword research…you know, next to useless services.
I call this ‘Spit & Toothpaste’ method because you’re basically trying to hold together an entire Digital marketing department with Spit and Toothpaste.
From small mom & pop shops to huge international corporations, you would literally be stunned if you knew exactly the kinds of businesses that try to get away with this. Whether it’s because the people in control of the funds don’t understand what SEO is or because the small business owner doesn’t have the budget for anything that might seem ‘new’, I’m going to explain to you why if this is your plan, you’re basically doomed.
I’m going to break this down into two groups to keep it short, sweet and simple: The internal Digital Marketing Teams and the Agencies.
Oh yes, they both are going to fail using this method but the reasons are very different.
Let us begin:
The Internal Digital Marketing Teams
We’ll start with the businesses themselves doing the old ‘just go out and do magic!’ theory of digital marketing because this usually more common than at the agency level.
There are many reasons why companies don’t think digital marketing is a thing they want to spend money on. The most common that I’ve found are the following:
- You’re just getting started out with your business and think you don’t have the budget for digital marketing campaigns or tools
- You have a CFO that really has no clue what it is your DM team does and therefore has no idea why you even need this money so it doesn’t get approved
- Your entire marketing team (or at least the person in charge) is so old school they’re still doing paper business cards, paper flyers and brochures and think that is really going to help them
- You don’t actually even have a marketing person, let alone a team…
Whatever the reason, it happens and so your marketing team is sitting there trying to get by with ‘organic’ social media posts on Facebook, Twitter and the rest, writing blog articles about topics they sort of think that people might want to read about and staring mindlessly at Google Analytics and Search Console to try to figure out what, if anything, changed.
Yeah. Good luck.
Don’t get me wrong, Google Search Console and Analytics has really great stuff in there, but its also very easy to misinterpret the data and it doesn’t always show the whole picture..
What will Probably Happen for Internal Teams
Well, to put it bluntly, nothing. Most likely, you won’t move the needle and even if you did, you’d probably have no clue why so you won’t be able to replicate that.
Let’s break it down Channel by Channel:
Social Media: Social Channels are completely Pay to Play. If you post ‘organically’ on social, especially Facebook, you’re talking to yourself because even your followers will most likely not see it. So nothing’s doing there.
SEO: Well, in reality, most in house DM teams aren’t familiar with the rapidly changing best practices, updates and every other bit of Google nonsense, so they probably won’t even know what to fix here. Do you have any idea how many internal DM people I’ve talked to thought that meta data and having an updated Wikipedia page was going to make them ‘rank number one on Google’? Yeah, there’s a 90% chance you’re not doing proper SEO in-house so most likely nothing’s doing there either.
PPC: How did you figure out what keywords to bid on? Did you do a competition report to see what your competitors are most likely doing this time of year? What’s your current campaign’s quality score? Do you know how to get it higher? Did you even know that Quality score was a thing? How are you going to track this and benchmark it? Yeah, your spend is probably super high right now.
Email: How are you even sending out mass emails without a tool? Are you being silly and using your CRM that can’t track opens, clicks or anything else to do so? Where are you getting your lists? Don’t tell me you’re buying lists in 2017 because no one is that silly, right? Maybe something happened, maybe it didn’t but since you can’t track it, you don’t really know, do you?
Content Marketing: Who even knows. You probably just wrote some long form commercial that nobody read because no one was searching about that topic because you really didn’t have any way to find out what people are actually looking to read in your industry. Yeah Google Analytics can tell you how many people visited the page and what they did once they got there but most likely, nobody bothered to read it because you’re answering questions no one asked.
Agencies That Can’t Be Bothered to Buy Tools
Man, oh man. This is something that I hate because I’ve totally been there. You’re an SEO, Social Media Marketer or a PPC guy and you get a job at a place that’s looking for what you do, you get in there and on the first day you hear:
“Yeah, we mostly use Webmaster Tools and Analytics but they keep telling us we’re going to get Moz one day. We do a lot of client reporting in Excel. You know how to use pivot tables in excel, right?”
Dear digital marketing friends, if you hear this, RUN. Run and don’t look back.
This is a good indication that whatever team you just got hired for is not the company’s main business function and that usually means that 90% of the time, your team has no budget.
If they tell you that they are ‘thinking about’ getting your team Moz or BuzzSumo or any other DM tool that literally any agency worth anything in the business should already have, nine times out of ten you’re never getting it. That’s the sure sign that the company has no idea what it is you do all day, you’re not a priority and they’re probably not serious about branching out into whatever team you just got hired for and they only started that team because some exec in some board meeting one day said, ‘Hey, you know what else we ought to do that might make us some money?’
What Will Probably Happen to Agencies
That’s easy to answer: it’ll be smooth sailing for about six months to a year and then you’re going to start getting very angry clients when they eventually catch on that you’re really not doing anything.
If you’re an SEO only team, you might even be able to string it out for about a year using the tried and true ‘Nothing in Organic traffic happens overnight’ line. While that’s 100% true, nothing at all is ever going to happen with no tools.
Eventually, people are going to realize that no matter what your Social Media team posts, you’re getting no engagement or clicks, your SEO team got your site like twice the impressions in about three months and then you’ve levelled off and now you’re doing nothing and that your PPC team is really just kind of guessing on what they’re supposed to be bidding on.
Also, eventually, your clients are going to realize in a very loud and angry way that all of your data reports you’ve been sending them every month are things they could see themselves in their Google Analytics and Search Console accounts for free.
No one is going to read your stupid Excel spreadsheet reports, no matter how many charts, graphics and goo-gaws you put in there to ‘dazzle and amaze!’
No one is going to renew contracts with your company because well, how many times can you do a free Pagespeed Insights report and throw in a 500 page free-version Screaming Frog Spider report and try to pass it off as an ‘SEO audit’?
About a half year in, maybe less if you get a ‘fun’ client, you’re going to start hearing the old famous line:
“What am I even paying you for?”
And when you hear that from your clients, it’s game over.
Buy the Tools, Thank me Later
I know I say this all the time but stop trying to do Digital Marketing on the cheap. Especially SEO. People hear ‘organic traffic’ and immediately think ‘free stuff’. It’s not free. It’s not free. That’s why organic traffic is called organic traffic and not ‘free traffic’. It’s work and an investment.
That being said, you can’t just cheap out on your tools either and for the love of Matt Cutts, don’t have your DM team going from site to site trying to use free trial versions of stuff, OK? That’s not a good look for anybody. It’s like buying a suit, wearing it out and then taking it back to the store. Just stop that. Get the proper tools. Here is a list of the ones I recommend and no, no one is paying me to recommend, these are just my personal favorites:
SEO (Organic & Local):
- Moz Pro (look, you need this. No two ways about it)
- SE Ranking (not even close to being as good as Moz but better than nothing at all)
- BrightLocal (if you’re doing local SEO, you need this, too)
- aHrefs (for your links)
- Screaming Frog (if you cant make a sitemap or spider a site, you’ve failed)
- Sprout Social (My personal favorite but some people will disagree)
- Buffer (pretty good tool!)
- Hubspot (I know people who flat out won’t work without this)
- Social Bakers (if you’re a hardcore Social Media data analytics junkie, this is the one for you)
- BuzzSumo (you need this for content marketing and since content marketing is the heart of ALL Digital Marketing, just buy it)
- SEMRush (the standard for all things PPC and competitive)
- Certified Knowledge (haven’t used them personally but I hear great things)
- Moz (just get Moz, its fantastic)
- iContact (I’m a bit biased because I used to work there once upon a time, but it’s a good one!)
- Pardot (I’m hearing great things about this one as well and integrates with Salesforce)
Of course, always take your own business needs into account and research any purchase thoroughly before buying any tool and not because some website guy told you to. Smokehouse SEO makes no guarantees about any of these tools helping you succeed but, I’ll tell you what, any of them will be a lot better than using the old spit and toothpaste.
The Bottom Line:
Like any job, you need the proper tools and digital marketing is no exception. If you don’t supply your marketing teams with the tools to do the job, you may as well tell them to build you a house but they can’t use a hammer. Stop punching nails with your fist and get what you need to keep your clients happy and your business moving forward.
Also, everyone say it with me:
EXCEL IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE DIGITAL MARKETING CLIENT REPORTING TOOL.