Kategorie-Archiv: SEO

How using a VPN can benefit SEO

The SEO industry is growing rapidly—estimated to balloon to $79 billion by 2020. Even though you may already be doing great with SEO marketing, you should not ignore the potential benefit of a virtual private network (VPN) on SEO strategies. A VPN is a solution that helps connect two parties on the internet anonymously and using an encrypted network that is private. It is mainly used to protect your online privacy and access content that is not available in a particular zone.

So, how does a VPN benefit SEO? Let’s get started.

Understand local SEO using a VPN

There are many locations that a company might want to target. For example, you can be in Australia and want to target India. However, if you do a quick Google search, it will show local results from Australia—not a specific result for India that you wanted. As an SEO specialist, you may want to know what the people of India are searching for. Moreover, you would also want to know about the competition around those areas. If that’s the case, you should use a VPN.

A VPN can seriously change how you do research about a local market. By using a VPN, you can trick Google into thinking that you are from India (or any region that you are trying to learn about). This also means you can do a local search and learn about the local audience needs and try to understand what queries they are using. All this information can change how you perform in other areas.

Why use a VPN when you can always use targeted ads? Well, first, you need to learn about what the local audience searches for. Clearly, there is an added advantage in knowing local searches. Moreover, you can also see competitors local ads and learn how they are targeting the audience.

Last, but not the least, you can also know how your ads are being served in local areas.

Protect privacy when working

SEO is a competitive market. To succeed, you need always to be ahead of your competitors. This means hiding your steps when you visit your competitors or when you mimic/modify their strategies.

All of this sounds good, but the competitors can easily track your IP and know about you ahead of time. This can lead them to your site which turn will open up the possibility of them copying your strategy. As competition is high, you should always try to hide your steps or at least hide your strategy from the competitors as much as you can.

That’s not the only problem. Google can also track you if they find anything suspicious. They can know if you are buying backlinks—not good.

The solution for all these problems is to use a VPN. It doesn’t matter if you are running a website that is new or old, you should always hide your digital footprint as much as you can. With a VPN, you can do your research and stay hidden at the same time. This will improve your chances to grow in the market.

Do remote SEO work

With the rise in remote work, there is no denying that we need to protect our privacy when working online. Also, as an SEO specialist, you need to have access to the different tools which might be restricted due to the location from which you are trying to access it. For example, China blocks most of the Google services. But if your main focus is SEO, you must have access to Google.

That’s why you should use a VPN to have stress-free access to any tool, website, or service you want. This will improve your productivity, and you won’t have to think twice when working.

Get past the Google’s search query reCAPTCHAs

Working as an SEO specialist, you are always expected to to keep a tab on certain SEO stats and keywords that are relevant to your project. Not only that, but you also need to search for new keywords every now and then. However, Google might flag you for doing too many searches too often. If you are flagged, you will constantly be redirected to Google reCAPTCHAs.

You may also get a different error which might say that there is unusual traffic from this network. Now to proceed further, you need to solve a reCAPTCHA every few searches. This can lead to a loss of productive work. Also, it is no fun to fill reCAPTCHAs all the live long day.

To solve the issue, you must use a VPN. A good VPN can change IP addresses, making you work with a flow. VPNs are also useful in building a blog, and that’s why you will see good blogging guide always encourage new bloggers to use a VPN.

Why should I use a VPN when I can use proxy?

One of the common questions that we receive is why use a VPN when a proxy can be used to the same effect? That’s partially true, but there are many advantages of using a VPN over a proxy. With a VPN, you can:

  • Work faster than with a proxy
  • Change the IP address on the fly
  • Not have to worry about reCAPTCHAs
  • Work with cross-platforms
  • Secure your connection completely
  • Protect your privacy
  • Have a stable and great user experience

What do you think about using VPNs for SEO benefits?

Source:: searchenginewatch.com

How to Boost Your Content Marketing Efforts By Planning Ahead

Collective Wisdom Series Part 1 Planning Ahead Chess Image

Collective Wisdom Series Part 1 Planning Ahead Chess Image

They say two heads are better than one, but we say the more the merrier — especially when it comes to bringing you actionable tips and insights to fuel your digital marketing efforts.

That’s why we’re proud to announce our “Collective Wisdom” series. Throughout the series, we’ll be bringing you insights, tips, and perspectives from some of the top marketing minds to help guide your content marketing strategy. With each entry, you’ll quickly learn proven methods, taking you from the very beginning of the content planning cycle to post-publication amplification and optimization.

Where should we start? At the beginning, of course.

In this piece, we explore the crucial planning stage that essential for content marketing success.

Planning Your Content — Get A Jump Ahead By Stepping Back

Having a solid plan in place is the foundation of any successful content marketing journey. There are several considerations you’ll want to consider before jumping into creation, helping ensure that you have a well-thought-out and meaningful plan from beginning to end already in place.

via GIPHY

Tactic 1: Commit to Having a Plan

As the old saying goes, „A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.“ For marketers, that single, first step is committing to developing and documenting your content editorial plan, even if it’s not super sophisticated to begin with.

Unfortunately, some digital marketers often skip this step entirely. And with 32% of marketers staying organized is a top content planning challenge. Documenting a content plan that you can consistently refer back to will most certainly help.

If you don’t know where to start, start with reading the DivvyHQ and TopRank Marketing report, which features marketers Michael Brenner, Tamsen Webster, Carla Johnson, Robert Rose, and others sharing methods for creating proper content calendars and involving team members in the content planning process.

Tactic 2: Build and Ask a List of Sharers Before Publication

You know that once you release your content into the wild, you need to promote it. But do you spend time upfront locking down who could help you spread the word? If not, the upfront effort is worth it. You’ll have a key next step built in your process, rather than scrambling last minute.

Building a list of target sharers is a two-step process:

1) Reviewing your known contacts

2) Researching and qualifying others who would find your content relevant and share-worthy.

When it comes to researching newbies to add to your list, EmailField’s Aman Thakur likes to use BuzzSumo to discover people who have a history of sharing content similar to what you plan to publish, by searching for keywords related to your piece.

Thakur then recommends looking for relevant BuzzSumo articles that have over 200 or so Twitter shares, filtering the list by people, and exporting them to your sharer-contact spreadsheet or document, a technique he outlined for CMI.

BuzzSumo Sharer List Image

Moz contributor Isla McKetta is a fan of using Followerwonk to search through Twitter profile biographies to help build a list of influencers in your niche who may be well-suited to sharing your content, as she details in the Moz guide to content marketing.

Followerwork Twitter Bio Search Image

Tactic 3: Plan Post Reuse In Advance

Actionable Marketing Guide’s Chief Content Officer Heidi Cohen takes the time to plan out content reuse and even the creation of ancillary works. She suggests:

When you write your post, craft related, tailored pieces at the same time. Present a different aspect of the same topic with each piece. Write two complete posts rather than having a single post in two parts.

Consider where your content will be most likely to fill the needs of those viewing it, and how that will best work when it comes time to reuse and rework your initial messaging. Doing this in the planning stage can both save time in the long run, and ensure that content reuse is done in a well-thought-out manner, instead of possibly being forgotten altogether.

Cohen and others recommend fashioning a measured pace for doling out new versions of your initial content over time, each incorporating a new element or perspective on your original content, or perhaps using updated statistical data, all the while considering where new audiences for your work may exist.

Our own Caitlin Burgess also explores the advantages of experimentation and the role of creativity when planning content reuse, in her helpful „A Tasty, Strategic Addition to the Content Marketing Table: ‘Repurposed Content Cobbler‘.“

„If there’s one thing that every content marketer has in spades, it’s a fully stocked content pantry,“ she says. „From white papers and eBooks to blog posts and original or third-party research, all of that robust and niche content has the potential to be sliced, diced, and repurposed into something new and fresh.“

Tactic 4: Use Target Audience Personas to Supercharge Your Content Calendar

Understanding the pain points, needs, and attitudes of your target audience is critical if you want to develop a content strategy that wholly resonates. After all, how can you be the best answer for your audience if you don’t understand what questions they’re asking or what problems they’re trying to solve.

Social Media Today Community Manager Emma Wiltshire knows how important it is to create marketing personas well before launching content. Knowing the search queries you want to show up for and how they align with the needs of your target audience should be fully understood before you begin creating new content.

Audience Personas Image

Tactic 5: Find Your Best Distribution Options

Savvy marketers understand that the job has scarcely begun once they’ve hit publish on a piece of content, and recognize that amplification is crucial. Those who don’t build distribution and sharing into the planning process risk losing out on a key element in the planning cycle.

As Cathy McPhillips, Vice President of Marketing at Content Marketing Institute (CMI), said:

„You spend so much time creating epic content, so why not spend that same amount of time coming up with a plan for distribution and promotion? It can be a down and dirty spreadsheet — fill in dates, audience, messaging, and what you’re trying to achieve.“

But where should you plan to share your content?

Heidi Cohen also recognizes the advantages of finding the best distribution options for your content, and the time to make these decisions is before content has been completed.

Owned, social, and third-party media all have specific uses, and finding out whether your campaign is best suited to using just one or all three is an important step in the content planning process, outlined nicely by Cohen in her “60+ Ways To Maximize Your Content Distribution” guide.

Distribution Network Image

Weigh the value of each publishing platform and channel, and when you’ve chosen those best-suited to your content, it’s helpful to document the plan and share it with all your team-members, so everyone knows what’s expected, including which key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics will be used throughout the lifetime of the campaign to reach your goals.

Don’t Just Wish — Gain A Major Advantage By Planning Ahead

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said: „It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.“ Take her famous advice to heart, and focus your wishes and goals into creating an actionable content plan.

By taking the time to follow these steps — documenting your plan, building a sharer list, incorporating reuse ahead of time, using audience personas, and finding your best distribution options — you’ll gain a major advantage over those who skip over some or all of the planning stage.

When you’re confident in your content planning process, you can move on to the crafting and creation portion of your campaign, and we’ll take a closer look at that stage in the next part of our Collective Wisdom series. Stay tuned!

Ready to learn more? See Lee Odden present the latest best-answer marketing strategies at Pubcon Las Vegas 2018 on October 16 – 18, and MarketingProfs‘ B2B Marketing Forum in San Francisco on November 13 – 16, where Ashley Zeckman will also be sharing her digital marketing insight.

The post How to Boost Your Content Marketing Efforts By Planning Ahead appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Source:: toprankblog.com

Baidu: Can the search giant hold firm in China’s increasingly competitive mobile market?

Back in May, Search Engine Watch asked me to write a piece about alternatives to Google. This research was enlightening. It gave me another perspective on the search industry across the global context and how it varies from market to market.

This has prompted a series of more in-depth posts which have helped me speculate how search – even within the Google framework – may well evolve over the next few years. My piece on Ecosia looked at the environmental cost of digital activity and suggested that we might see search leaders work to be more transparent about the ecological ramifications of everyday internet activities right down to individual searches. A subsequent piece on DuckDuckGo celebrated the search tool which puts user privacy before sellable ad data – a USP which is all the more valuable as growing numbers of internet users get tired of creepy online tracking and privacy breaches.

Today we look to Baidu – China’s leading search engine.

The ‘Google of China‘

According to Alexa, Baidu is the fourth most popular website globally (behind Google, YouTube and Facebook). StatCounter indicates it currently reaches around 70% of search engine users in its home country. That’s a whopping 448 million people if we base user numbers on the latest CNNIC report.

Baidu’s similarities to Google are plenty. It dates back to the 1990s, boasts a range of digital products and is currently leading the charge in AI development and self-driving cars. But it is arguable that while Google dominates search in the west and looks likely to continue doing so for some time, Baidu’s dominance in China during 2018 has looked somewhat less stable.

Let’s look at why.

China is mobile

By the end of 2017, there were 772 million internet users in China according to CNNIC. To give us some European perspective, that’s more than the whole of our continent. For US audiences, that’s around double the amount of netizens in North America.

The really important fact, however, is that internet use in China is overwhelmingly done on mobile. Again, the CNNIC reports that 97.5% of Chinese internet users are going online via mobile devices.

It is in the mobile context where most searching occurs in China and, crucially, growth is still significant. Between December 2016 and December 2017, mobile search user numbers grew 8.5% and reached 624 million people.

Baidu is losing share

Baidu boasts a perfectly functional mobile search offering, but there have been a number of new companies entering and disrupting the market in recent years. Unsurprisingly, this has caused Baidu to lose share.

Since August 2016, Baidu’s mobile search share has fallen from 87% to 69%. Other well-established domestic search engines Sogou and Haosou are having an impact. But most of this land grab has been won by Shenma, a relative newcomer to China’s search scene. Since being founded in 2014, it has grown to account for 21% of the market.

Shenma: China’s ‘mobile only‘ search option

Shenma’s unique selling point is that it is only available on mobile. But the companies who are behind the tool are certainly very visible across Chinese desktops and laptops too. Alibaba is the umbrella conglomerate under which such brands as Taobao and AliPay sit, while UCWeb is the internet company which owns UC Browser, the third biggest browser in the world.

The influence of both of Shenma’s parent companies is quite obvious when we start to look at the functionality of the service. In the first place, the tool is very geared towards shopping, with app purchases as important to the model as physical products, alongside local search and a unique ‘novel search‘ aimed at users who enjoy reading books on their devices.

Shenma has also been able to leverage the market presence of UC Browser – the search engine included in its mobile offering – and goes some way to explaining the success of the young company in the face of such stiff competition.

Can Baidu respond to Shenma’s advancements?

While Shenma still lags some way behind Baidu in search share, it is clearly doing something right by providing a service which is tailored precisely to the needs of China’s mobile audience, and its growth goes to proving that. In order to respond, Baidu perhaps needs to do more to reverse-engineer its already well-established search tool to be even more mobile-centric. That is, to make it less desktoppy and more geared to on-the-go searching and the capabilities of the mobile devices themselves.

In some ways it is doing this. Recent news from the Baidu Video arm of the company has seen a fresh round of investment totaling $100m. In light of this increased funding, one of the aims now is for the business to become the biggest professional generated content (PGC) video provider in China. Another aim is to develop its short video services, which will further see it appeal to viewers watching this content on mobile devices.

Is Google set to re-enter the fray too?

Shenma isn’t the only threat to Baidu’s hold on the Chinese mobile search market. Google has spent 2018 negotiating with key digital companies based in the country, including a patent cross-licensing agreement with Tencent (owners of QQ and WeChat) and a partnership with e-commerce company JD.com.

These deals preceded the very recent news that Google is also gearing up to launch a mobile-centric search platform in China which links mobile phone numbers to search terms and plans to adhere to the country’s strict censorship laws. Despite criticism being leveled at the company from some corners, a poll from Weibo indicates that there is a healthy appetite among a majority of Chinese netizens for Google to enter the market since the search giant was banned in 2010.

Perhaps the expectation that Google will return to China with their new partnerships, their mobile-specific tool, and their already leading mobile web browser (Chrome is the most popular browser in the country, as it is worldwide) leaves Baidu little choice but to look elsewhere in their development and evolution. Its plans to push its video offering may suggest this. Mobile video is a growth sector in China too – and their position in that vertical may be more solid.

Another theory may simply be that Baidu is awaiting Google’s return to see how this affects the domestic search market at large. After all, it is likely that the next year or so will not be plain sailing for Shenma either if Google’s mobile search platform arrives and disrupts the market again. One thing is certain, though: mobile search in China is fascinating – and I think it could take some surprising turns in the not too distant future.

Source:: searchenginewatch.com

Enterprise B2B Influencer Marketing Interview: Dr Konstanze Alex, Dell

Influencer Marketing Interview with Konstanze Alex

Influencer Marketing Interview with Konstanze Alex

Within the world of B2B influencer marketing, there are a handful of brand experts who have been charting a course within large enterprise organizations for the rest of us to follow. One of those pathfinders is Dr. Konstanze Alex (@konstanze), Head of Corporate Influencer Relations at Dell.

My first experience with Konnie was several years ago when TopRank Marketing was working with Dell to develop relationships with IT influencers as part of an online publication initiative. Since then, we’ve worked with Dell to help develop an influencer marketing playbook, support influencer engagement at events and through content, but her relationship focus on working with influencers has stuck with me through it all.

In this interview, we’ll learn about the uniqueness of B2B influencer marketing, practical tips, a few of Konnie’s favorite influencer programs and where influencer marketing for the enterprise is headed.

What brought you to the world of Influencer Marketing?

Konstanze AlexAbout 5 years ago I stepped into a new role in Social Media Marketing and one of my first projects had me investigate social selling experts for who understood the social media from a social business and sales perspective, specifically for a large global organization like Dell. One important aspect for us at the time was to educate our marketing leadership on social analytics and insights to help build programs for our marketing teams that would in turn lay the foundation for successful social selling programs and campaigns.

How is influencer marketing different for B2B than B2C?

In my experience B2B and B2C influencer marketing are not even siblings in the same family. They might be distant cousins at best.

B2B influencer marketing has a much slower and longer lifecycle. It is truly a long-term relationship business in which trust and mutual value creation are built over a long time via ongoing engagements and constant knowledge sharing.

B2C influencer marketing, in general, is focused on capturing the attention of large online consumer audiences which makes sense given the more transactional nature of the business.

Cutting edge B2B influencer marketing focuses on both, online and offline engagements.

Cutting edge B2B influencer marketing focuses on both, online and offline engagements by the influencers with their highly targeted, smaller business and IT decision maker audiences. The understanding of the off-line aspects of B2B influencer marketing is evolving as long-term relationships mature, trust grows and an alignment of values has been clearly established.

For example, strategic partnerships with influencers can lead to the very natural incorporation of brand content into the influencer’s event and conference keynotes, personal and professional conversations, strategic writings, etc. At that point a B2B influencer relationship resembles traditional relationships with industry analysts.

In B2B influencer marketing it is not the audience size of an influencer but the trust level an influencer has built with his/her audience that matters.

In B2B influencer marketing it is not the audience size of an influencer but the trust level an influencer has built with his/her audience that matters, especially when it comes to high value purchase decisions and long-term commitments a customer makes with a brand. For a brand, the stakes lie in constantly briefing and engaging the influencer on a strategic vision and technical level.

What are 2-3 of the main benefits of collaborating with influencers for B2B companies?

Working with B2B influencers allows our brand to have a constant pulse check with purchase decision makers. Informed influencers who share our vision of the future based on their own experience and expertise provide for independent, third party validation.

Strategic partnerships with influencers provide for an outside in view when creating content for our customers.

Strategic partnerships with influencers provide for an outside in view when creating content for our customers. We need to constantly ensure that, as a brand, we don’t start talking to ourselves, but keep a keen focus on the evolving challenges our customers have and on language they use to express these challenges.

How is influencer marketing positioned within your company? Ex: independent department that serves the brand and departments / business unites or is it more decentralized? What are the advantages of that structure?

At Dell, relationship building and maintenance with influencers, media, press and analysts is housed in corporate communications. We firmly believe that relationships based on trust, aligned values, independence of opinion and mutual value creation are key to successful collaboration between brands and influencers.

What tips can you share about being more effective about influencer identification, qualification and recruitment?

You have to invest time and due diligence to the identification process. A sophisticated influencer program doesn’t rely on a single identification method or one-time vetting process of to start and maintain a relationship with an influencer but rather develops a scorecard that gets constantly reviewed and, most importantly, evolves as this emerging field matures. At this point, we review strategy, methods, tactics and measurement on an ongoing basis.

Are there specific B2B influencers that you keep going back to because they are so amazing?

Yes, of course, we have a number of strategic partners who never stop evolving or expanding their expertise. We value them highly and feel that they represent a reflection of our brand’s values and long term vision.

Do you have a favorite B2B influencer marketing campaign that you can share? What made it successful?

There are numerous, but a couple stand out for me: A year and a half ago we started an influencer hosted business podcast called Luminaries – talking to the brightest minds in tech where we focus on technology visionaries and the very human face of innovation. Our hosts are phenomenal digital storytellers and bring the outside-in view into every episode, every conversation with every guest with a deep commitment to and appreciation of our combined audiences.

We built successful long term influencer engagement around our Realizing 2030 research reports that explore and examine the impact of new technologies on life and work in the year 2030. In strategic partnerships we are able to illuminate the report results from a number of distinct perspectives to make them accessible and relevant to our diverse audiences.

Successful (influencer marketing) programs will continue to lead from a human perspective and understand that technology remains only a tool for humans to achieve progress.

How do you think influencer marketing will have evolved in the next year or two? What will it look like in 2020?

We will leverage new technologies such as AI for increasingly nuanced influencer identification, especially for micro targeting of audiences. We will use intelligent tools to find new ways of measuring results and new roles will have been defined within an influencer marketing team. But successful programs will continue to lead from a human perspective and understand that technology remains only a tool for humans to achieve progress.

B2B Forum 2018

If you would like to learn more about B2B influencer marketing from a panel of brand experts, be sure to check out our sesssion at MarketingProfs B2B Forum November 13-15th featuring Konstanze Brown from Dell, Amisha Gandhi from SAP Ariba and Lucianna Moran from Dun & Bradstreet.

Here are the details:

The Confluence Equation: How Content & Influencers Drive B2B Marketing Success

Content and influencer marketing are hot topics for B2B marketers all over the world as two of the most promising strategies for attracting, engaging and converting ideal customers. What many marketers don’t realize is how collaborating with influencers can create even more credible, relevant, and optimized experiences for target accounts. Join moderator Lee Odden and an expert panel of B2B brand influencer marketing executives from SAP, Dell and Dun & Bradstreet to learn how working with influencers and their communities can help scale quality B2B content that gets results. You’ll learn:

  • The variety of benefits from B2B influencer collaboration
  • How major B2B brands plan, implement and measure influencer content
  • About processes and technologies that support influencer marketing success

We hope to see you there!

The post Enterprise B2B Influencer Marketing Interview: Dr Konstanze Alex, Dell appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Source:: toprankblog.com

Q&A with SAP on digital transformation and search

We’re all scrambling to keep up with digital transformation, navigate which new technology is right for us, and nail that elusive “omnichannel, seamless, ultimate customer experience.”

Yet in all the hustle, we may be missing one of the most important pieces of the transformation process: bringing our internal teams with us. Before we can transform our digital prowess, we need to transform our company culture.

Last week we spoke with Siddarth Taparia, SVP and Head of Marketing Transformation at SAP. He argues that digital transformation is preceded not by technology but by people, and shares what SAP is doing to ready themselves for the future.

As a sidenote, Siddarth will be giving the keynote at the Transformation of Search Summit in NY on Oct 19. We touch on some of his views on the future of search in this conversation.

ClickZ: Tell us a bit about your position and what you work on.

Siddarth Taparia: I’m responsible for all marketing from a transformation perspective: how we need to transform, what role technology is playing in our transformation, and behavioral changes we work on.

SAP as a company has close to 400,000 customers worldwide. We operate in over 100 countries, and have roughly $28 billion in revenue every year. We have one of the largest ecosystems of partners, ranging from large technology companies like Microsoft and Amazon, to services partners like EY, to all our hundreds of channel partners.

CZ: You’ve got one of the largest companies in this space. How do you understand which technologies are right for you? How are you structuring your transformation?

ST: When I think about transformation, I’m not thinking about technology first.

That may sound a little counterintuitive because we’re a technology company. And to this day, technology remains a tool that is powering transformation. But the transformation itself is about two things: it’s about business results, and it’s about people.

When you bring those things together, that’s what brings transformation.

Change is hard—often what we’ve found is that changing the technology is the easy part. Changing the behavior of people takes a lot longer. We don’t think about the technology first. We think about what business results we’re trying to drive. Then we think about what technology.

I’m a big believer in what Peter Drucker said: “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” We can have the best strategy in the world. But to drive it into real change, we need to bring about a cultural change—that’s the hard part. Change management is not to be underestimated in any of this.

CZ: Could you give us an example of how SAP manages change?

ST: One of the big changes we’re in the process of driving right now is “how do we create a highly personalized experience for our customers when they come in?” Technology works best when it disappears. We want to make sure our technology disappears and our customers get a beautiful, personalized experience.

In order to make that happen, we have to drive a lot of internal change. We have to break a lot of silos between sharing of data. We have to look at what we know about our customers from other sources and how we can integrate it. That oftentimes means we have to change our internal processes.

In this case we’ve had to make sure we’re thinking about the customer journey first—before thinking about our internal organization and systems. We’ve had to look at the journey and say “here’s where the customer comes to us, here’s where they make certain decisions, here’s what the rest of their journey looks like, let’s optimize for that.”

Oftentimes, marketing teams are set up by certain structures: brand, events, advertising, digital. But it turns out the same customer is coming to an event, looking at an ad, going to sap.com, and having a one-on-one conversation with a salesperson. We’ve had to turn our systems and processes inside-out so we can have integration of data.

So first and foremost, we need to educate our employees about what we’re doing and why. Every employee in SAP marketing right now can tell you what we mean when we say customer journey. Then we think about how we can work with employees to provide better connectivity across our own systems. How do we change our technology and processes so that they’re not visible to the customer, but they accomplish what the customer cares about: when I go to your website or go to an event, you know enough about me to pick up the conversation from where it was left off last, so I’m not repeating information or having an experience that’s not highly relevant to me.

We’ve been working through this challenge for quite some time, especially as new technologies like AI and machine learning come in and are playing such a big role in terms of providing a much more personalized customer experience.

CZ: From a theoretical or strategic standpoint, that all makes perfect sense. But from a technological side, can you talk about what steps you take? How do you find the right technology?

ST: This is an ongoing journey for us—we’re in it right now. We have almost daily conversations on how to streamline our processes, how to make our CX better, and how to use technology to make that happen.

Right now, we’re looking at how we can send fewer emails to our customers and instead have them naturally come in and find us when they have a need.

None of us wants more emails in our inbox. What is the combination of products that serves us best to be able to be found when customers are searching? We’ve looked at third-party solutions, emerging solutions, and in this case—we’re lucky being a tech company—at our own products. Naturally we have a content marketing strategy so our content is relevant and can be found on Google at the point of need. Not proactively pushing it into inboxes, but ready to be found when the customer is looking. Once they find us, we can engage with them and continue to advance their journey.

If our goal is to improve CX, what are the specific actions we want to take? We want to move away from pushing out marketing messages like email, and toward letting customers come to us and engage at their point of need.

Then we ask what type of technology we need. That could turn into a broad discussion about if we need to change our content marketing strategy, or about how we nurture our customers and provide them the right information. Once we’ve identified those big blocks, we look at the specific technology pieces.

Then the business case kind of builds itself. You’re saying this is what we want to do, this is how we want to do it, and these are the technologies we need to deploy it.

A big part of it is working with our business—operations, sales, front end of customer journey—and leadership team to make sure what we’re doing aligns.

Once we’ve done all that, that technology implementation is the relatively easy part in this day and age. The challenge becomes working with people and educating them on new ways of defining things.

So for instance, that sending fewer emails will improve customer experience and drive better results. There’s always skepticism involved.

People say, “I’m sending out 1000 emails with a 1% open rate and we’re getting a certain return from that. Why do I need to change it?” The conversation at that point is, “it may be working well today, but look at the trends: people are opening less email, paying less attention to information being pushed to them, and using more search and social recommendations to go find information they need.”

We have to educate and enable our people so they can go through the journey with us.

And then of course one of the most important pieces is being able to provide results: how was our email working before vs our end-to-end personalization programs now?

CZ: Can you give any other examples of what SAP does to make sure employees are drivers of technological transformation, rather than reticent toward adapting it?

ST: Our leadership is very in tune with asking, “why are we doing this?” and always bringing it back to a business objectives. When we’re able to explain it internally, then usually we’re able to explain it to our employees very well—it will drive leads, revenue, etc.

Marketing changes almost every 18-24 months completely. The key is bringing employees along on that journey.

Right now, we’re putting in place a heavy duty training program for our employees, so they can build up their digital skill sets for the future. Those skill sets change every 2-3 years, because the market is moving so fast. We want not just our leadership, but every single employee in SAP marketing to be thinking about the skill sets of the future, technologies of the future, and new ways of doing business to drive results.

Change requires a big amount of culture and mindset shift.

In the old world, SAP used to sell on-premise software. The customer would buy their own server, their own computers, and deploy the software. They would pay for the software once and then use it forever. Now, that model has completely changed. With cloud and SaaS, customers are paying a subscription—they’re essentially renting it as they go, which is a huge shift in the market.

From a marketing standpoint, focusing on the point of sale is now just the first step in the customer journey. What used to be kind of the last step—the customer bought the software—has become the first. Now, they need to deploy it, they need to be productive on it, and they need to continue to use it, or they’ll go to your competition. They don’t have a big investment in it, and can just change providers. The care of a customer after they’ve bought something from us is now tremendously important for a company like SAP. That’s a huge shift in mindset for employees—now thinking about the entire customer life cycle.

We started an initiative called Customer First, thinking about how we can have customers for life. Where are our customers in their journey? Are they productive? Are they making use of it? Are they getting business value from it? That’s been a big change for us.

So again, we focus on educating employees on what the new business model is and why it’s changing, and what new technologies they need to think about.

With that, it’s also changing the internal KPIs and metrics we use for success. Now we think about how marketing contributes to adoption and customer lifetime value. KPIs, employee mindsets, technologies we use, and processes we follow internally all have to shift. That’s a big change we’ve driven internally in marketing over the last couple years.

CZ: Search is obviously a key channel to be able to pick up on customer signals without sending a bunch of emails. What’s your view on the changing role of search, and the role of search as part of the broader marketing transformation?

ST: To me search is the most important starting point for any conversation you’re going to have in the future with a customer. Forget B2B and enterprise technology, the business that we’re in. In our personal lives, if you’re thinking about buying a new exercise machine or a new book, where do you go? You go to Google, or Bing, or DuckDuckGo, or whatever your preferred search engine is. That’s the starting point of the customer journey today.

From our perspective, it’s incredibly important to think about how we show up on search. We’ve made a lot of investments in paid search, but we also think about SEO for our own content. Our content strategy is highly based on search—we make sure that our content, thought leadership, research, and the work we’re doing actually ends up being seen by customers. The way to do that is through search.

It’s the ultimate editorial of our time. If you don’t show up on the first page of Google search results, you might as well have called it a day and gone home, because it’s never going to be seen by your customers. From our standpoint, one of the most important things is to make sure that each of our products shows up in the search results for their categories. We make sure our owned, earned, and paid efforts align with our search strategy. This is a change that’s been around for quite some years. We’ve been working with Google, Bing, and others. Search engines have been highly relevant to us for more than five years now in terms of thinking about search as a logical starting point in the customer journey.

CZ: As things like voice search increase, for example, what’s your view on that?

ST: I think of it in two parts. Already in the last couple years, with a large volume of search moving from desktop to mobile, the relevance of the number of search results became much more important. You could see maybe fifteen results on your desktop, but you only see five on your mobile. That’s point 1. Point 2 is that when you then go to voice, it goes from five to maybe one result.

Not only do you have to have a proactive search engine strategy, you also have to have a very proactive brand strategy.

We as a company are one of the most valuable brands in the world—the 17th most valuable according to the latest brand rankings. We’re one of the most valuable brands in Europe. That helps us stand out from the crowd. It helps us get recognized.

Voice search is highly relevant—we’re thinking about it every single day. The number of results is shrinking, and people are paying attention to fewer things.

A combination of a more proactive search strategy and a stronger brand—we’ve gone from #21 to #17 just this year—both of those things help our rankings. Some people see our results and can’t tell a difference from one company to another. As consumers we tend to go with brands that are recognized, trusted, and have been in the business for a long time. The value of brand is not to be underestimated in this day and age.

Source:: searchenginewatch.com