Everything I Know about Marketing I learned from Google

Olivier Lemaignen, Kodak Gallery

Olivier Lemaignen
Director of Marketing
Kodak Gallery
1/10/10

Which of my lessons resonates with you the most and why?

Let the data decide. Like any relatively new industry (check out social marketing as a reference), search marketing is a breeding ground for data-less opinions. The lack of data creates a void that two groups of people love to take advantage of:

1) Those who help push the industry forward through thought leadership, exploration and the methodical testing of hypotheses and…

2) Those who leverage the lack of empirical data to pretend they have all the answers. And boy, there are lots of people in this category.

Many questions were raised over the years. Should you bid on your brand terms? Is there cannibalization between PPC [pay-per-click] and SEO [search engine optimization]? Are images of products better at converting visitors than shots of happy people? Do you call QuickBooks “small business financial management software” or “accounting software?” Getting out of the polemic is as simple as setting up a test and getting real data.

Lesson #7 is “Act Like Content.” This is something Intuit has done well with all the small business resources and tools it has created. In fact, Quicken has a page 1 Google listing for “small business tools.” How did Intuit decide what themes/niches to create content around?

Initially, Intuit developed a lot of content in the context of Quicken’s “finance center” in order to add value to Quicken customers. The intent was altruistic. We were simply building on what Intuit’s success is based on: focus on understanding the needs of our customers and meeting these needs better than anyone else.

Later on, in the Small Business Division, we started building SMB [small-medium business]-oriented content in order to fill content gaps on our site. We would identify relevant keywords for which we wanted to rank higher, created the corresponding content, and made it broadly available. In addition to creating content around keywords, we focused on treating relevant small business topics, such as how to start a home business, maintaining work-life balance, etc. We grouped all this content under the umbrella of “Intuit Small Business” and you can find it here.

What strategies did Quicken deploy to achieve this and other organic listings?

For Intuit overall, we built a small team of SEO experts who connected with and trained other teams, executed on optimization efforts and integrated SEO best practices into web development steps, press releases, etc.

Did Intuit have a team of people focused on link-building for SEO?

We had a team focused on SEO and link-building was one of the tactics we used to complement our content and achieve high rankings.

Lesson #8 is “Test Everything.” Clearly, this is something SEM professionals know all too well. What does it take to create a test-and-learn culture?

1. Discipline
2. Enthusiasm
3. Pressure

What types of testing are you doing at Kodak Gallery?

We look at every outbound email as an opportunity to learn something and improve performance. The way we learn is by testing. Hypotheses can come from anywhere. We don’t pretend to know everything. Support reps talk to customers more than we do. Who’s to say that can’t help define what to test next? It once again comes down to a mixture of marketing experience and listening to customers.

[With our Website,] ranging from experience to cross-sell to offer positioning, every aspect of improving conversion and online experience is being tested.

Lesson #18 is “The More Shelf-Space the Better.” Intuit had many business units that likely competed for the same keywords — eg, “small business tools.” How was this competition handled?

When I came into the Online Acquisition leadership role, the competition was not “handled.” Every business unit was going after the keywords they wanted, regardless of the impact of bidding each other up and increasing costs for the company overall (it was at a time of straight auctions.) The competition was fiercest around “QuickBooks” brand terms because every product line felt it was a relevant term for them to own.

We first stemmed the tide of outbidding ourselves by establishing a keyword governance around the use of our main brand and its related keywords. We then tested often to determine which keywords performed better when only one business bid on them versus multiple businesses. It was surprising that the answer was not always that bidding against ourselves had the worse outcome.

Was the goal to get as many listings as possible for each keyword?

We tested that too. In some cases, going for the shelf space play paid out and in others it didn’t…

How have you (or your companies) used insights gleamed from Google to inform creative and/or media strategy?

Here’s a good story for you. A few years back, a Marketing Director at Intuit (name withheld to protect the guilty) insisted on optimizing the home page of QuickBooks.com for the term “Small Business Financial Management Software” rather than “Accounting Software”, because she wanted the product line to be known as the former rather than the latter. A quick check into Google’s search volume was sufficient to convince the organization that optimizing content around “accounting software” was the right thing to do — not because the term sounds cool, but because lots of people search for it. So, you could choose to optimize the page for S.B.F.M.S. (and all 4 people searching for that term would be sure to find us) or you could gain exposure to the hundreds of thousands of small businesses looking for — I hate to say it — accounting software. That is the term we then used on the site, in direct mail, TV, etc.

The moral of the story is that search is a powerful and under-utilized source of customer insights. And listening to customers is how Intuit became a $3+ billion dollar company. There’s no reason why this mindset couldn’t be applied to search marketing. On the contrary: considering searchers a) are hand-raisers who b) have indicated their interest for your products and services, and c) whose actions can be tracked and quantified, why wouldn’t you leverage insights gleaned from them? As a marketer focused on delivering ROI [return on investment] and measurable outcomes, I prefer placing my budgetary bets based on what people DO versus what they SAY they’ll do (e.g., surveys and focus groups — the other major source of customer insights.)

What skills did you learn during your time in SEM that prepared you for your current role?

There’s an opportunity to gather customer insights every time you come in contact with a customer, and customers, through their actions, are telling you what they are raising their hands for.

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