To be competitive in online marketing today, marketers must up their game in three key areas: user experience, content, and awareness.
In this episode, the Data Dames touch on:
- User experience is now tied to more ranking factors than ever before.
- How Google’s machine learning has gotten quite good at figuring out user intent and why that matters for your content.
- EAT (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) signals and structured data.
- Strategies for overcoming the “walled gardens” of social media and search platforms, including digital and traditional PR.
- What are we drinking? Traverse City Whiskey Co!
- Small business shoutout: Whitefeather Meats in Creston, Ohio
- What are we learning about or what’s bringing us joy?
- Love is Stronger blog with author and philosophy professor Shelly P Johnson
- Dogs (of course!)
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Note: This content was created, and is best consumed, as audio, an intimate communication experience. Transcripts fail to capture tone, voice inflection, emphasis, and the other characteristics of audio that make it so personal. So, we hope you’ll listen.
If you do choose to read, please be aware this transcript was created using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and a little bit of human editing; it may contain mistakes and typos.
[Meaningful, Measurable Marketing Podcast Intro]
Jen Carroll 0:52
So okay, so Episode 12 here we go!
Annalisa Hilliard 0:56
To be competitive in 2021 online, marketers must up their game and user experience content and awareness.
Jen Carroll 1:04
Okay, we’re gonna-
Annalisa Hilliard 1:05
How did I do sounding like you?
Jen Carroll 1:07
Annalisa Hilliard 1:08
I thought maybe in Episode 12 I should like because it’s, yeah, me.
Jen Carroll 1:11
You were gonna be me?
Annalisa Hilliard 1:12
Yeah. See if we can fool the listener.
Jen Carroll 1:15
Alright. Today’s topic is what it takes to be competitive in 2021 In online marketing. Our premise is to be competitive in online marketing in 2021, Marketers must up their game in three key areas: user experience, content, and awareness. But before we dive into that, we want to do our regular segment of what are we drinking? So today, we want to feature the Traverse City Whiskey Co. in Traverse City, Michigan. Recently did some cross country skiing. For me the very first time I’ve ever done that, and I am terrible at skiing by the way, but I had a great time. It included a visit to the Traverse City Whiskey Co.
Annalisa Hilliard 2:14
And you know how we found out about them?
Jen Carroll 2:16
No, remind me
Annalisa Hilliard 2:16
When I made us cocktails, I used their cherries.
Jen Carroll 2:20
Oh, where did you where did you get their cherries?
Annalisa Hilliard 2:23
I don’t want to say
Jen Carroll 2:24
Annalisa Hilliard 2:27
Because I don’t want to support the business where I actually got them.
Jen Carroll 2:30
Oh, so go directly to the Traverse City.
Annalisa Hilliard 2:33
Do not go to Amazon.
Jen Carroll 2:34
Oh, you weren’t gonna say where you got them from.
Annalisa Hilliard 2:37
But everyone was like “we know where you got them.” Anyway.
Jen Carroll 2:42
So what’s the-
Annalisa Hilliard 2:43
Don’t buy them off Amazon. You can go to their website
Jen Carroll 2:46
So what’s so awesome about their whiskey their cherry whiskey is amazing.
Annalisa Hilliard 2:52
Yeah, it’s not like a cloying cherry flavor. It’s it’s very natural.
Jen Carroll 2:56
Annalisa Hilliard 2:57
Jen Carroll 2:57
Yeah, that was that was probably the my favorite my favorite there.
Annalisa Hilliard 3:02
I would say Traverse City as a whole is a pretty cool little city whiskey company is actually I don’t know if there’s like a downtown area
Jen Carroll 3:10
where we we were just gravitating towards breweries and
Annalisa Hilliard 3:13
yeah, Travers city is kind of what I feel like is a little bit on the outskirts of town not far like
Jen Carroll 3:20
Yeah, I was gonna say yeah, I wasn’t
Annalisa Hilliard 3:22
but really cool vibe. Yeah, they have lots of merch. And they have a couple different whiskies. Obviously the cherry
Jen Carroll 3:32
they had a lot of different whiskies actually we
Annalisa Hilliard 3:34
the rye we tried the regular yep the like Black Label special. Hmm. There might have been one more but anyway, really good whiskey.
Jen Carroll 3:44
Annalisa Hilliard 3:45
and I feel like they’re pretty reasonably priced compared to like some of the Kentucky ones we’ve had.
Jen Carroll 3:51
Yeah, I was gonna say you know here in Ohio the we’ve we’ve already in the past done a shout out to Western Reserve in Cleveland is definitely in Traverse City whiskey, co I’d say are on par with one another excellent, excellent spirits there. So let’s move on to our small business shout out and today it is going to be
Annalisa Hilliard 4:14
Whitefeather Meats in Creston, Ohio.
Jen Carroll 4:16
I know little tiny Creston, Ohio I think I feel like the the store there that is as big as the town like,
Annalisa Hilliard 4:24
Yeah, probably. Probably like the number one employer in Creston
Jen Carroll 4:29
Of all five people who live there. Okay. Sorry. If you live in Creston, we apologize. A little Ohio town, but yeah, we feel pretty we feel that getting locally sourced meat whenever possible is is actually very important.
Annalisa Hilliard 4:44
After like reading and hearing about meatpacking plants across the United States and how employees are treated and the conditions they work in. Yeah, yeah. It’s it’s hard to continue to support that.
Jen Carroll 4:58
So you know, it If you’re listening to this and you don’t live anywhere near Creston, Ohio, we’re sorry, because the white feather meats are exceptional, but you probably can find hopefully someplace close to you a similar kind of a similar kind of place because they process and then sell all their own meats. Yeah, so good stuff. I think they’re online, I think they’re really popular as something like the bearded butchers or something like that they have a big YouTube channel. So if you’re into that
Annalisa Hilliard 5:29
If you’re into bearded butchers.Who isn’t? Right?
Jen Carroll 5:35
Right. I mean, he talked about meat, it’s the it’s the channel to be on. Alright, well, let’s, let’s hop back to marketing, the whole reason that we actually do this podcast, again, to reiterate, in, you know, in the opinion of the Data Dames, if you want to be competitive online in 2021, got to up your game and user experience content and awareness. So our first reason about this is multiple ranking factors are now tied to user experience. And they were before I mean, it’s never user experience, I think has always been in the algorithms. But the importance of user experience ranking factors have increased.
Annalisa Hilliard 6:23
Google Search Console has added a core web vitals report that has to do with issues on content on mobile and site response time, and how the layout of the page loads. It definitely is one of the things they’ve talked about being added to the algorithm in 2021.
Jen Carroll 6:46
So what you know, when when you think about on page experience, you know, user experience being positive, do we have like, some specific areas to to be aware of that we want, you know, listeners to think about?
Annalisa Hilliard 7:01
Yeah, I mean, I think you will probably want to work with your digital marketing team and or developer on this, because it’s more on the technical side of things. I mean, they’re visibly noticeable, like, like I was saying, the layout shifts, and kind of how the page loads, and what content shows at each part of the load. And there’s tools and stuff that you can use to kind of test those things. But it’s not necessarily something that would just like jump out and be like, oh,
Jen Carroll 7:31
Annalisa Hilliard 7:32
Jen Carroll 7:32
Well, is there I thinking, you know, we have a client that has a website, the desktop experience, as it currently stands is not the best. The experience on mobile, interestingly enough, is a little better. How does the desktop I mean, I know mobile is mobile is first, right?
Annalisa Hilliard 7:55
Yeah, Google really looks at your mobile site to kind of rank to rank it used to be the algorithm was based on a desktop. Now, it’s based on the mobile experience. And I mean, obviously, you want to have a good experience across devices, on page experience usability.
Jen Carroll 8:11
Well, in that case, like with the the particular client, I’m thinking of like, there’s like, all these side menus. And then like, these little, you know, on desktop, there’s like, so just like extra boxes, and just all kinds of things that make the page difficult to read. It doesn’t render as well. So that part of Yeah, okay. Well, that was that was a simple answer. Yes. That is what she’s talking about.
Annalisa Hilliard 8:38
Rendering and loading are kind of synonymous, I guess.
Jen Carroll 8:41
Okay. Well, the second area where we’re talking about upping your game in online marketing in 2021 has to do with content. So search engines are better than ever at determining searcher intent. So your content needs to be in depth and of high quality, can you just very quickly Annalisa, I know you’re like the intent Guru, oh, I shouldn’t have said guru. Oh, she’s given me. If only you could see the look she just gave me. Tell us a little bit about intent.
Annalisa Hilliard 9:15
Intent has to do with what people are actually looking for when they type a certain keyword into Google. And the best way to find out what people’s intent is, is to actually do a search in Google for a specific keyword and see what type of content is presented in the results.
Jen Carroll 9:36
Alright, so Google’s machine learning as gotten quite good at determining intent. I think it’s interesting, this idea of the importance of long form content only because I think the perception is people just want sound bites people just give me the facts. Just just make this you know, quick and painless. I don’t want like 50 paragraphs to read. So what’s kind of what’s going on there? The the long form content versus is that what people really want, or
Annalisa Hilliard 10:09
There’s a lot of testing that’s been done long form versus short bytes of content. And with long form, obviously, you get more in depth with things. And that’s really what Google and other search engines are looking for, what’s gonna actually give the visitor enough information and also kind of tie in other like similar related type content. Instead of only talking about bicycles in general, like talking about types of bicycles, and benefits and drawbacks of each type, and maybe different kinds of riding that you can do like, mountain bike versus a road bike, and things like that. So kind of going more in depth than just, you know,
Jen Carroll 11:03
“What is a bicycle?”
Annalisa Hilliard 11:04
Talking at a high, or writing at a high level.
Jen Carroll 11:07
Yeah, define define what a bicycle is. Obviously, I think that, you know, the long form content, Google probably could pull a lot of different results from just one, you know, from just one piece of content to appeal.
Annalisa Hilliard 11:21
Yeah, the algorithm is getting better at or not the algorithm. But yeah, I mean, the search results are getting better in the machine learning process to pull out like sections of content. So it used to be that, Oh, you don’t want to, like target too many keywords on a page, because then the search engines are confused about what what the page is really about, or, you know, then you maybe like, each term like cannibalizes, the other terms like and they’re saying that they’re getting advanced enough that they’re able to pull out sections and rank sections differently.
Jen Carroll 11:57
So this is kind of, like a weird side question. Just because, you know, I’m a writer, I’ve been writing for 20, some 20 plus years, you know, I happen to of course, believe that no computer can write as well as a human being. But I know that there are some tools and other things that are coming out that are suggesting that essentially you you give this tool or program a topic and it can write content, that’s good. And we don’t really, you know, need the human touch as much as we used to do you have any? Do you have any?
Annalisa Hilliard 12:30
I’d say that’s bologna.
Jen Carroll 12:32
That was a great answer!
Annalisa Hilliard 12:33
No, I mean, honestly, no tool is going to be able to get to the level of technical writing that certain industries would need.
Jen Carroll 12:44
Okay, that’s a good point.
Annalisa Hilliard 12:45
And even if it’s not, even if it’s not a super technical industry, I would argue that a lot of times the content that you get from a tool needs a lot of massaging from like an actual human being to to sound more natural and to come off in a way that actually gives the visitor and the reader value.
Jen Carroll 13:06
And I mean, I think to add to that, I would say you know, we talk a lot in marketing and honestly in writing just in general about voice, I’m pretty sure a tool is always going to have the same voice. It doesn’t have like at least at this point in history doesn’t really have the capability of of creating a voice and a tone in content yet so you’re gonna get some pretty generic stuff. And I think this speaks to something that comes up a lot in our industry again, the idea okay, digital marketing things are fast and you need to be fast or this idea of speed. But the dirty little secret in digital marketing is that it actually takes a lot of time to create an optimize good content quality content, it’s not a fast process. You know, I think it’s it’s really unfair when I guess it’s misleading to me when I see tools that say they will do everything kind of for you like
Annalisa Hilliard 14:08
how does a tool or machine have the authority on on a subject that you have? I mean, if it’s your business or your industry and you’ve been in the business or industry for you know, years and years like how how is a machine going to write to that level of knowledge? Right?
Jen Carroll 14:25
Well even if you don’t think you’re a good writer, the knowledge that’s in your head, right as like a you know, an industry leader or whatever is is valuable, even if you end up not being the the actual writer of your of the content. Your knowledge is priceless, and not something that can be duplicated. So anyway, I’m sorry, I digress there. We were going to talk a little bit in this this point about the need for content to be in depth and of high quality. So we’re going to talk a little bit of real briefly about eat signals E-A-T, And that really kind of speaks to what we’ve already shared a verse real quick only. So what is E-A-T stand for? Expertise,-?
Annalisa Hilliard 15:08
Jen Carroll 15:10
and trustworthiness. Okay. So keep your “eat” signals in mind. And when you’re thinking about quality, you really want to satisfy that user intent, provide detailed and informative content that’s, you know, as much as possible appealing to the eye now, I have like a favorite quote from I can’t remember the name of the marketer, but an unbound he, like was quoting an unbound study, and he just like, paraphrased and said, hey, it’s the words that sell shit, not the design, the design is there to support the words in selling. So yes, your content should have eye appeal. But the the words itself, the words themselves are very important. Not obviously should be SEO friendly, and voice search friendly as well, you need to think about sharing, I hesitate the word to use the word aggressively because some people don’t know when to stop, you know, in terms of being aggressive, but but definitely be sharing your content. And then, the last piece is structured data. And I don’t know if all of our listeners would know what structured data is, but that’s in the HTML code.
Annalisa Hilliard 16:21
Yeah, it’s pulling out different pieces and types of content to call attention to it and tell search crawlers exactly what that content is about. So when you do a, like, a good example would be like, if you search for a recipe online, in search results, you’ll actually get recipes pulled in. And that is done with structured data.
Jen Carroll 16:43
Wouldn’t you use structured data for addresses and phone numbers and things?
Annalisa Hilliard 16:47
Yeah, there’s, I mean, if you go to schema.org, there’s like, like, it’s like a dictionary, basically, of structured data. So structured data is actually something that also like kind of crosses over or is what what is used in featured snippets. So again, if you do a search for like, bicycle, like a question, if you have a question that you typed in the search, you’ll get like, sometimes you’ll get depending on the search, you’ll get like a paragraph of content pulled into search. And another form of that is people doing voice searches more. Using their home assistance, or, like Siri or whatever, like so, I think that structured data is, is is used to help those devices and those whatever there.
Jen Carroll 17:30
Yeah, yeah, that makes sense.
Annalisa Hilliard 17:32
So but actually, Google recently has dropped the number of structured data that they used to I forget what the percentage of searches used to bring, like features snippets in there, they actually have cut back on the number of featured snippet searches that returned featured snippets, because people were starting to game with, like everything, right, like everything, and probably, even outside of digital marketing. But like, you know, an algorithm specifically when you’re trying to rank, there’s a lot of gaming that goes on. And so usually Google rolls something out, and then people find a way to, like, take advantage of the system. And then the content isn’t quality. And so Google cuts back.
Jen Carroll 18:14
That kind of goes back to what I was talking about with content a little bit like, yeah, it’s, you know, obviously, it’s very, it’s machine learning, it’s an it’s artificial intelligence, but immediately the human, the human element, there is going to try to find a way around it. So our third point today with being competitive in 2021 in online marketing is and remember, we said user experience content. And finally, the concept of awareness, which obviously has been at the heart of, and when I mean, awareness, I do mean, you know, awareness of your company awareness of your brand awareness of your products and services. And that’s like, been at the heart of marketing and advertising forever. So it’s not like it’s new, but it’s taking on a bigger presence now going forward. And that’s because big tech companies like Google, Facebook, and others are striving harder to stop users from leaving their platforms as part of that, you know, if you share some content or something like that, and they you know, you click on the link you’ll notice that you actually never leave a lot of times you actually never leave their search results you actually don’t leave Facebook or or even Instagram or whatever. So
Annalisa Hilliard 19:28
Yeah, just like the the featured snippets I was telling you about in in Google search results, you know why they started doing that wasn’t necessarily to like benefit the the person writing the content is to benefit the person that’s actually doing the search. So that-
Jen Carroll 19:43
And to benefit Google right?
Annalisa Hilliard 19:45
Right, in return that benefits Google.
Jen Carroll 19:47
Yep. And keeps them and keeps you in the search results. So that’s why you need brand awareness in general because as fewer people are being are leaving Facebook, fewer people are leaving Google search results. It’s you know, we’ve talked about this before, it’s not news. But zero click searches continue to increase. And the way to combat zero click searches is with brand searches, meaning people who are aware of you and they sit down in front of their device, and they type in your brand name, so they can come and find you.
Annalisa Hilliard 20:20
Or they skip the search engine all together and just come to your site directly.
Jen Carroll 20:24
Yeah. So other reasons, actually, in our last podcast, we spent the entire podcast talking about G-A 4, and Google rolling it out because of because of data privacy. So increased data privacy is also another reason for you to to work on brand awareness, because it’s going to be well, I, we made a lot of points in the last podcast about why things aren’t going to change that much. But there there is some changes with your ability to target people on an individual level as as much as you have maybe in the past. And if you want to speak to that.
Annalisa Hilliard 20:59
No, I think that’s-
Jen Carroll 21:00
Go back to our last podcast, that’s what she wants to say.
Annalisa Hilliard 21:02
No, no, I mean, I think you covered it pretty well, there in a summary type way, we definitely have more that we talked about in the in the last podcast, but.
Jen Carroll 21:10
Yeah, and by the way, just a quick note here, we’ll do our best to make sure that all of the information we do reference in our podcasts ends up in our show notes. So check out the transcript and some show notes. But anyway, back to brand awareness. So that another important piece of that is, is building your earned audience. So that audience that you own for example, in email marketing, you know, where people have given you permission to market to them,
Annalisa Hilliard 21:37
If your site has a, like a user log in like a membership or something where they, they log into your site to access a specific thing.
Jen Carroll 21:48
And that goes to that, I mean, that speaks directly to your brand offering something that is meaningful to to the user, you know, something that they’re willing to login for willing to subscribe to an email for, whatever. So the importance of
Annalisa Hilliard 22:04
Yeah, I’ll say to that, I mean, I feel like email marketing has exploded in the last couple of years. And so now people are kind of to that saturation point, great point where they’re like, oh, man, I know myself, like, I’m not gonna give out my my email, unless it’s something I really, really want, or something I really, really care about, or something that is really valuable. Yeah, because I get bombarded with emails all the time. And I just have to set boundaries for what I subscribe to.
Jen Carroll 22:32
I agree. 100% agree, we’ve got to be it goes, goes back to point number two content and something, you know, something that’s worthy of their time and effort or like specials and deals if you know if that’s the kind of business that you’re in, but it’s got to be valuable bottom line.
Annalisa Hilliard 22:49
I’d say that ties into the last point I want to make in this section and using traditional marketing and sales in addition to your digital key, probably something that
Jen Carroll 22:58
Yeah, the last the kind of the last thing I wanted to we wanted to mention is you know, the rising importance of digital PR in other traditional Oh, well, I guess digital PR being traditional is kind of an oxymoron but you know making renewed efforts to have your content published in other places with other you know, whether it’s business partners that you have in the business world or traditional newspapers or online newspapers or even having your content mentioned in podcasts so you know, doing podcasts interviews, all those kinds of things still have value and I feel like are even increasing in value now as we look at this this need for increasing your brand awareness. So I guess just in summary today to be competitive, online in 2021, we Data Dames think the the key game changers are user experience content and awareness. So that brings us to our final segment. What are we learning? What’s bringing us joy? And so I want to in this segment today, I want to give a shout out to a longtime friend of mine, Shelley Johnson. She is a professor at Georgetown College in Kentucky. So not Georgetown University, but Georgetown College. She is a professor of philosophy. And she writes prolifically at a blog called Love is Stronger. Actually, her website is Shelly p as in Pruitt, thank you, shellypjohnson.com. So you can find her there. I don’t think so.
Annalisa Hilliard 24:44
We can’t possibly give a website. We’re gonna have we can’t actually do one correctly.
Jen Carroll 24:50
I know we were gonna have to get better at this like writing these websites down. We’ll have it in the show notes. I promise it will. There’ll be a link to Shelly’s site but she Does a phenomenal job talking about body confidence which interestingly enough, she she reminds me of Brene Brown. But instead of coming at it from a sociology angle she comes at it from from philosophy but her writing is wonderful. I promise it’s not anything like reading ancient philosophers or anything like that though she loves them. But body confidence, kindness to to yourself resilience. Yes, that’s those are some really, really key points that she that she writes about. And her articles are very encouraging. So Shelly Johnson, shellypjohnson.com. Annalisa, what’s bringing you joy?
Annalisa Hilliard 25:46
So I would have to say that my dog, Zola. She’s constantly bringing me joy, but just come up on her second gotcha-anniversary.
Jen Carroll 25:59
She’s a rescue.
Annalisa Hilliard 26:00
She is a rescue. I got her from canine lifeline. caninelifeline.org they’re out of Cleveland. I do know that one because I go to that website all the time.
Jen Carroll 26:10
Yes, she does.
Annalisa Hilliard 26:11
To look at puppies and dogs that are up for adoption because they’re cute. No, Zola’s just a lot of fun. She, she’s anxious. She’s an anxious dog. But she just she brings me a lot of joy. And especially in a year we can’t we just came through with the pandemic. Having a companion like her has been really great.
Jen Carroll 26:35
Cheers for Zola.
Annalisa Hilliard 26:36
We’ve we’ve shared a lot of couch time. And she’s fun to take out on walks and runs and hikes and she loves going to the doggie Park whenever we get a chance. And she’s super super fast.
Jen Carroll 26:51
Oh, yeah, like lightning. She should be on one of those agility dog competitions. And I have I have a dog also named Lewis and he is a purebred chocolate lab and he’s Yeah, I don’t think I’d recommend that purebred dog experience however,
Annalisa Hilliard 27:07
or the male dog experience.
Jen Carroll 27:10
However, he is overall chill, which is I feel pretty blessed for a chocolate lab owner to have kind of a chill chocolate lab. Yeah, he. I can I can say that he brings me joy. Also, he’s sometimes kind of a butthead, but good old Lewis, also aka Moose.
Annalisa Hilliard 27:33
A digital marketing professional since 2011, Annalisa is a technical SEO with a Google Analytics certification and a passion for data. When she’s not helping clients improve their website performance, she’s off on a hike, riding her bike (affectionately named Newton), or getting lost in a good book, article, or podcast with a cup of locally roasted coffee or craft IPA in hand.
Jen Carroll writes. She excels at making complicated things understandable, telling a compelling story, and developing manageable plans to achieve big ideas. She’s the content marketing and social media advising half of the dynamic Data Dames duo.