How To

Inspirational Digital Marketing Insights Straight From SearchLove

By Jesse Leimgruber

Average marketers produce average results. You, I’m guessing, don’t want to be average. You want to be better, you want to be remarkable. Being remarkable means you need to use damn good strategies…without even thinking about it…day in and day out.

See, everything you produce – every landing page you create, every infographic you distribute, every email you send, every blog post you write, every tweet you type – begins and ends with a strategy. Grind away on your marketing skills and those pieces of marketing content will only get better and more widely shared.

Instead of trying to just get better by trial and error, I decided to cheat a bit. As everyone mingled, overlooking the beautiful San Diego shores, with drinks in hand, I feverishly typed notes directly from the experts in a rare series of “off-the-mic” discussions after SearchLove, by Distilled. I did the work to compile these strategies, and now I’m giving them all to you. Want to see what the experts said? Follow me…

Insights From SearchLove

Warning: These 4 Digital Marketing Tactics Will Sound Stupid

Before all else, let’s get one thing straight: you don’t “deserve” to have your content ranking in Google. They owe you nothing. Got that?

Good. Now let’s stop worrying about rankings and talk about what really matters: strategies.

I figured there was nobody better to boil down the takeaways from SearchLove than Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz. Sitting by the fire, he shamelessly proclaimed that “SEO isn’t just SEO anymore. You can’t be good at SEO without investing in Brand, Press & PR, Content, Social, Outreach.”

[Tweet “SEO isn’t just SEO anymore. You need to invest in Brand, PR, Content, Social, & Outreach”]

Strategies are shifting to high quality, PR-Like strategies. Strategies are shifting to high quality, PR-Like strategies. @DesignerAndres

1. Creative Content (Interactive & Video)

I’m talking about real discussion drivers, video production, interactive content, things that you want to show your friend. There are over 60,000 blog posts published every single day. The blog post you write tomorrow isn’t going to suddenly take over the web, but creative content just might.

“I pay attention to advertising companies and data journalism, not technical SEO”, said Mark Johnstone, VP of Creative at Distilled. “You need to tell stories.”

“How long is it going to take to get 770 links from guest posting,” Johnstone provocatively asked. “You and I will long be dead by the time you get 770 links from guest posting,” he chuckled as he answered his own question. On top of the time constraints of link building, he also noted that the quality of coverage gained interactive content is far superior.

Despite these realities, almost all SEO companies remain focused on outdated link building and guest posting.

Not convinced yet?  

Let’s look at the image above. It drove 1.8 million page visits, garnered 103k ‘likes’ from its feature on Huffington Post and over 100k likes on the original URL, and had more than 200k total Facebook engagements. Sorry, but link building and guest posts just aren’t going to do that.

How can you create this type of content?

Here’s what the experts advise:

    • “Make sure your next hire is a video producer” — Chris Savage
    • “Try to be very empathetic. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience, identify weightier problems.” — Rand Fishkin
    • “Pick one thing, from one presenter – and do THAT well.” — Wil Reynolds

2. Influencer Marketing

While dynamite content is a must,  it is not enough to drive explosive traffic alone. According to Nielsen, 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family more than all other forms of marketing.

The experts know this which is why they say an influencer marketing strategy is absolutely crucial for solid marketing. As John Bertino, an instructor from University of San Diego, pointed out – the greatest content wins come from building relationships with the biggest influencers in your space.

[Tweet “The greatest content wins come from building relationships with the biggest influencers in your space – @JohnBertino”]

When you spend 100 hours crafting a piece of great content, what are you hoping for? You’re probably hoping that someone with 250,000 twitter followers will pick up your piece and share it, right? Stop hoping and start strategically building relationships with influencers.

It might be as easy as just “paying them,” as Adria Saracino, Head of Content Strategy at Distilled, noted. These influencers drive tens of thousands of clicks, but nobody is paying them. For a few hundred dollars, you can literally push a post to go viral.

6 Steps to 100,000 Views This Week:

1. “Ask your audience what type of content they want.” – Wil Reynolds

2. Use BuzzSumo or Topsy to identify a prospect list of influencers.

3. Write a custom outreach E-mail to influencers that would like to promote it.

4. Build relationships so they engage with you 5. Pay them to promote your content. (Or make them like you enough that they’ll do it for free.)

6. Track your results. If the influencer worked well, use them again. If not, use another.

Alternatively, you can use an influencer marketing platform. This article on Sandstorm Digital outlines some options. Of course, if you give me a call and mention this article, I’ll let you use our platform for free.

3. Analyze and Test Everything

Pay-Per-Click isn’t going away anytime soon. BUT, competition removes profits. It’s a classic concept in economics. If your conversion rate is 2% and your product costs $100, that means you get $200 in sales from 100 clicks. Thus, you can spend up to $2 per click.

Guess what? Your competitor can spend up to $2 per click too.

How do you still make profit in a world of competition? “Step back and think about the business, in real life terms” says John Gagnon, from Bing. “Search marketers stare at the data and don’t make a connection with the business, most people are the opposite”

You need to do one of the following:

  • Increase your conversion rate
  • Increase your average cost per order

Of course, “Numbers can lie,” John added. “If you look at just the numbers, you’re missing the whole picture” You need to use data. If you don’t, you’ll be the guy that gets beat by the competitor.

Where else do you need to track the data?

  • Influencer Marketing Campaigns – Figure out which influencers send the most conversions.
  • Email Marketing – Split test everything.
  • Content Marketing – Determine the best outreach headline

It really struck me when John explained that we will never have enough data; it’s impossible to be perfect. We can only be less wrong.

[Tweet “It’s impossible to be perfect, we can only be less wrong – @jmgagnon”]

4. Reinvent Your E-mail Marketing Strategy… Now.

E-mail marketing, old school tactic, right? Maybe. Do you still check your E-mail? Yea, I thought so. Grace Ng from UXCEO said “I’m glad she opened up the whole black box of E-mail”, referring to Justine Jordan’s presentation.

I’ll highlight what you need to know:

  • You’re wasting half your list by not optimizing for mobile. “A year ago, I would’ve said that mobile is a big deal, Right now, if you’re not paying attention to mobile, you’re just not paying attention,” Justine highlighted.
  • Fix your pretext. Everyone reads that first. (See image below)
  • Use “bulletproof buttons” Don’t use images for buttons. Many devices will not render images.

Even huge brands are forgetting to fix their E-mail Pre-Text.Even huge brands are forgetting to fix their e-mail pre-text

Justine was extremely candid and helpful after her presentation. I remember her mentioning that she “saw an opportunity to be a leader” in the e-mail marketing space. Going to school for graphic design, she liked that you could track E-mail marketing, something that’s hard for visual content. Still, she was surprised that over 30% of marketers don’t even know their open rate considering this was her main reason for entering the space.

She also mentioned that “You can get subscriber exhaustion pretty quickly by over mailing, it depends on the expectations you set” and “You don’t want to dilute your own power if you’re offering sales all the time.”

In a Fast Moving Industry, SearchLove is Ahead

So what? If you talk to most SEO companies, they’ll explain that guest blogging, infographic distribution, and better keyword research are the best strategies. To some extent, they are. They still work, but they won’t soon. Take it from me. I ignored the predictions at Distilled’s LinkLove 3 years ago and paid the price.

In 2011, my brother and I scraped together what cash we had to attend LinkLove Boston. At 17 years old, I was just getting started with entrepreneurship, and the idea that I could generate sales out of thin air through SEO astonished me. Our own e-commerce site, Rage Hats, started to generate over $1000/day – almost exclusively from Google.

I dove head first into SEO and with the profits from Rage Hats and knowledge from LinkLove, my brother and I opened the digital marketing agency, Rank Executives. However, we soon learned that SEO wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns as we first believed.

LinkLove’s Prediction

I thought LinkLove was supposed to be focused on link building. I was wrong. At the time, before Penguin hit, the SEO industry focused on buying links, manipulating the Google algorithm, and submitting your site to various directories. Instead of teaching these typical tactics, LinkLove preached content marketing, outreaching for links, and infographic distribution. Rand Fishkin even titled his presentation “&#*$ Linkbuilding, Content Marketing FTW!” 

At the time, this seemed ridiculous to me. I wanted to know how to buy links! Then Penguin hit me and it hit me hard. On April 24th, I realized that LinkLove wasn’t ridiculous after all when RageHats got a nasty penalty. We started burning cash just to keep the doors open. It was bad.

I went from being extremely profitable to burning almost all of the cash we had made. Moving away from link building after penguin was tough and there were times when we were just scraping by.

Luckily we not only recovered but prospered after slowly implementing the strategies we had previously cast aside from LinkLove. My brother and I now manage 25 people and recently raised $1.8M in Venture Capital for influencer marketing side-project-turned-startup, NeoReach.

The New Prediction

So here we are, three years later, and the situation before us is something so similar, it’s uncanny. At SearchLove, we’re not learning tactics for search. Not even close. To stand out from the crowd and drive real traffic to your site, you need to dedicate yourself to building trust and relationships with your audience.

If I learned one thing from the experts at SearchLove, it’s that creative content, influencer marketing, relationship building and better data tracking are the future – not SEO.

A good marketer needs to do everything and as Michael Kin of iPullRank explained, “Everything works better when everything works together.”

The Best of SearchLove via Twitter

Still want more?  To help you dial into the most important takeaways of SearchLove, I’ve compiled the tweets that highlight the best parts of my conversations with Rand and others.

Search Love Speakers Selfie of the SearchLove Speakers 

Some Tweets Highlighting Each Speaker:

John Gagnon

Simon Penson

Adria Saracino

Chris Savage

Justine Jordan

Adam Monago

Krista Seiden

Mark Johnstone

Wil Reynolds

Dana DiTomaso

Mike Pantoliano

Mike King

Lisa Gerber

Grace Ng

Jon Wuebben

Rand Fishkin




If you’re like me, you’re always finding and testing new ways to boost your growth and outsmart the competition. If that’s the case, be sure look into my most effective growth strategy – NeoReach. As I promised, if you contact me and mention this article, the first run will be on the house!

This article was written by Jesse Leimgruber

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