Megan Sullivan-Jenks, Director of Marketing, Choozle: Let’s start with the basics. In a nutshell, what are organic marketing channels and how do they work?
Chuck Aikens, Founder, Volume Nine: Organic channels are generally considered to be digital marketing that includes media spend or advertising dollars. In the industry, this often includes search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, social media, influencer marketing, content development, and so on.
Each organic marketing channel works a little bit differently and, for each channel, there are different platforms and networks that work within them. In social media marketing, for example, we recommend very different strategies between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The organic marketing landscape can get very complicated quickly because there are so many channels, platforms, and strategies.
However, the one thing all of these channels have in common is that most are based on algorithms that affect how your content shows up.
MSJ: How do search engines determine relevance and popularity for organic content?
CA: The truth is, no one really knows. If you ask 100 search engine experts, you might get 100 different answers. In fact, Google engineers aren’t even 100 percent sure how their artificial intelligence technology affects the algorithms used to determine relevance and popularity.
However, there is a general consensus that brand, backlinks, and content are major components in determining which website pages end up ranking on a search engine. Quality is a huge factor, as well. Algorithm and search engine companies are investing billions to ensure that they recognize high-quality content, links, and websites when crawling and indexing the web.
MSJ: How important is it that organic marketing efforts are implemented into the overall marketing strategy?
CA: It has become increasingly difficult to build an online brand, earn quality backlinks, and develop unique content, mostly due to the increase in online business presence. If you want to grow your brand, have a strong website, and produce valuable content, you usually need to invest in paid advertising campaigns to promote your products, amplify your content, and introduce your brand to new customers.
Social media advertising and display advertising provide excellent opportunities to push a brand message or strategy out to a specific target audience before they type it into a search engine. Email marketing and retargeting campaigns help you capture and re-engage potential customers who initially visit a website page or check out one of your products. All of this builds momentum for better results overall.
MSJ: How well do organic strategies support paid efforts, such as programmatic advertising?
CA: Organic strategies usually target a specific audience with specific branded content. The goal is to think about how the content will show up for your audience, whether it is an Instagram post by an influencer, a search result, or on a Facebook news feed.
This type of strategic targeting plays very well with paid efforts like programmatic advertising. That’s because these campaigns usually target a specific audience, project a specific message, and present content like a landing or product page when clicked.
MSJ: Why should businesses keep up with paid efforts, even with a #1 organic ranking?
CA: Having a #1 organic ranking is great if you have it. Studies have shown that brands that have both a paid search listing and an organic ranking get more clicks collectively because the user sees the brand multiple times.
Holding to this logic, it could be worthwhile to have a brand listing in multiple spots on search results pages like Shopping Feeds, News, Videos, and Maps—if those opportunities are available.
MSJ: What are some changes to SEO that have had an impact on organic marketing strategies?
CA: There have been so many changes to SEO over the years, and they have had a massive impact on organic marketing strategies. Google has stated over the years that they process hundreds and hundreds of algorithm changes per year, in addition to the larger algorithm updates that are more noticeable and announced.
But the main goal of a search engine is to show the best websites, best brands, and best content at the top result. This way, users keep coming back again and again. So, if you focus on having a great website, delivering on your brand promise, and producing great content, SEO will be easier than you’d expect. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship between your website and the search engines, so all you need to do is make it easy for them to crawl your site.
MSJ: What are some best practices for pairing organic and paid strategies to achieve the best results?
CA: To get the best results out of both organic and paid strategies, you should start by figuring what you are trying to do, who you want to reach, and what you want them to do. From there, you can decide what role will be played by organic and paid strategies.
If you’re trying to reach a new audience with an innovative new product, you might use more of an organic strategy that builds brand awareness and introduces new customers to your product. If you’re marketing a more developed product in a competitive marketplace, you might need to have a more aggressive paid strategy to directly capture market share while also building brand awareness.
Both channels should have aggressive tactics for search related to the brand and all of your products. Many companies allow competitors and marketplaces like Amazon to outrank and outbid them on brand and product-related keyword searches. Focusing on both paid and organic strategies can resolve this and get your website, product, or service listed in those top spots.
Chuck Aikens is the founder of Volume Nine, a Denver-based digital marketing agency. V9 helps clients build their brand, increase their traffic, and generate more sales with content marketing, SEO, and social media services. He is also the father of two incredible kids and a pretend scratch golfer.