Jeff Romero is a digital marketing strategist and search engine optimization expert with years of experience growing online traffic and revenue. As the co-founder of Octiv Digital, he and his team help companies develop and execute digital marketing strategy, leveraging web design, conversion optimization, SEO and data analytics.
Q: Jeff, can you tell our readers a little about your professional background and how you’ve seen proper digital marketing campaigns deliver strong results, especially in this time when Covid is hampering many traditional brick-and-mortar businesses?
A: I got my start in the industry by obtaining degrees in Marketing and Information Systems, then used my training to help local businesses with SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. I then took my knowledge and experience to e-commerce brands that catered to national audiences. Today, I prefer to be back in the little pond working with small to midsize businesses at our agency, Octiv Digital.
The businesses that are the most successful with digital marketing are the early adopters of new technologies and strategies. This past year saw many businesses turn to online strategies, and those who quickly made the change are now prospering. SEO and digital marketing tend to be a zero-sum game where you always need to be thinking ahead to new technologies and strategies or else your competitors will be gaining an advantage on you.
Q: Why is it so important for companies to have a well-planned digital marketing campaign? How does a well-designed website, paid search, SEO and social media fit together relative to the marketing funnel of awareness, engagement, conversion and advocacy?
A: Business owners tend to think that one digital marketing strategy operates in a silo without considering how all things work together to achieve results. When we break down the digital marketing process, we’re really just trying to answer a person’s questions and help them solve a problem with a product or service. You need a website to be able to present your solution to their problem and a search engine marketing (SEO / PPC) program to be able to show them that you have a solution to their problem. Once you solve these two issues with great content and your website’s experience, you then leverage analytics tools to further understand questions your visitors have and turn them into long-term customers with email and social media marketing strategies. Some channels will play a bigger role than others, but it’s important to plan out each channel and understand how they work together.
Q: What are the key steps to creating highly effective digital marketing campaigns and can you share some of your “secrets’’ for success?
A: The secret to a successful digital marketing campaign is threefold: understand your product, identify your target audience and deliver on an execution plan. One area in which business owners can struggle is being able to properly define their product. Too much time is spent identifying and communicating the features of a product or service, when in reality the benefits are what connect with the consumer. A good marketing partner can, and should, help define these points and bridge the gap.
To the second point, there are many useful tools to help business owners understand their audience. Google provides its services (Google Analytics, Google Search Console) for free. These are a great way to identify who your customers are, where they are from, how they are finding your brand, and a variety of other data points to help when making marketing decisions. For more in-depth analysis, most marketing agencies subscribe to other paid tools that can help dissect this data even further to help make better informed choices.
Lastly, taking your product and audience data into consideration, it’s time to put together the bones of your marketing plan. Your customer data is key to identifying which channels to focus on (social media, search engine, paid advertising) and which can reasonably provide the biggest returns on investment. Most importantly, once you have a strategy, it’s time to set measurable goals and define what metrics will determine success: Are you looking for increased sales revenue? Are you focused on getting customers to sign up for a newsletter and provide contact information? Maybe you’re looking for increased brick-and-mortar visits. These are the questions that must be answered so you can effectively gauge the success of a campaign. With these in place, you can make tweaks based on informed data and analytics.
Q: What are some current digital marketing trends that businesses and marketing teams should be aware of? How has digital marketing and social media marketing changed in the last five years?
A: A big trend we have seen as of late is just how crowded the space is getting, especially with the onset of the pandemic. Many business owners took a step back during this time to see what they were doing online and how they could improve, thus leading to new web designs, more social media campaigns and a much more competitive landscape in Google.
For any business owner who has not redesigned their website in the last five years, is not active in social media networks (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube) or is not paying attention to Google, they’re destined to be left behind. Business owners need to understand that digital marketing isn’t just a phase, and it’s not going to stop growing. Businesses need to enable themselves to work in several different online marketing channels and develop content that will really connect with their audiences.
Another trend we have noticed that is specific to SEO deals with what is called “zero-click searches.” This occurs when Google serves content to answer a searcher’s question directly in the result page and the searcher interacts with Google rather than clicking through to a website. For this reason, it’s important for brands to own their search engine result page, take advantage of Google tools–like Google My Business–and have great website content that will display directly in Google.
Lastly, businesses should not sleep on TikTok. Although it’s aimed at a younger demographic, it’s an emerging channel that business owners should have a presence on. TikTok allows for quick-hitting video content that has a huge reach with a constantly growing user base.
Q: What are some of the common missteps you see companies make when they try to implement a digital marketing campaign?
A: Everyone wants results fast, but the reality is that any marketing strategy takes time to develop and introduce to online customers. Additionally, due to the extent digital marketing has grown in the last few years, you have to be prepared with a budget to be competitive. From SEO to social media campaigns, to competing using Google Ads, more businesses are online now and you need to have a solid budget to be competitive. Unfortunately, having a $200 budget for digital marketing won’t cut it.
For this same budgetary reason, we see a lot of business owners try to DIY for their own digital marketing. While this may work for a few marketers posting to an intuitive platform like Facebook or Instagram, often businesses don’t understand how to fully leverage and get the most out of the services. Other tactics like SEO, pay-per-click advertising and a strong marketing strategy are not so easy to implement and may actually be detrimental to a business if not executed correctly.
Finally, we see a lot of businesses overlook their investment in content. Website copy and content for social media is paramount to defining a business and its services. Creating the same web copy and graphics that every other business owner uses does not lend itself to a long-term growth plan.
Q: What are the advantages of working with a digital marketing agency like Octiv Digital, and how should a business or marketing team determine when to use an agency or do the work internally?
A: Without a solid understanding of marketing and technology, business owners could end up spending a lot of time and money on things that don’t drive any results. This is the exact reason why I hire an electrician. I’m no expert and it would take me quite a bit of time to learn how to install new electrical outlets in my house without getting electrocuted, not to mention the investment in tools and materials that I don’t have an additional use for. The same is true for digital marketing–hire an expert and spend time doing what you do best for your business. By working with an agency, you get access to expertise, expensive sophisticated tools and valuable time back to focus on and improve strategy and profitability. With that said, agency partners do require that businesses budget for a monthly retainer but offer the flexibility that permanent employees cannot.
Finally, when deciding whether to partner with a digital marketing freelancer or agency, be wary of so-called experts and gurus who offer “quick fixes” and “guaranteed results.” Growth marketing requires expertise, good tools and grit. Out-growing your competition is not easy. Agencies promising easy solutions are most likely scams or are using shortcuts and ‘black hat’ tactics that can severely backfire for their clients. For example, improper SEO methods may be able to produce a quick temporary boost in your visibility, but these can and often do lead to penalizations by Google later on, which in most cases are near impossible to recover from. Make sure you do your due diligence when hiring an agency–ask for case studies, portfolio examples, references, etc., to make sure your agency acts with integrity on your behalf.
Q: Thank you so much for your time, Jeff. Do you have any other advice for companies looking to improve digital traffic and revenue growth?
A: If you are a business owner without a digital marketing strategy, get started today. There are very few businesses that can survive without a good website and digital presence, and the space is only getting more competitive. If you are struggling with growing your traffic and revenue, it may be worthwhile to contact a marketing agency for a consultation. In most cases, they can help identify pain points, recommend fixes for long-term results and significantly improve your internal team’s digital marketing expertise.
Check out https://www.octivdigital.com/ for more information.