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10 Digital Marketing Fundamentals Every SEO Pro Should Know

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10 Digital Marketing Fundamentals Every SEO Pro Should Know


Marketing budgets as a percentage of company revenue fell from 11% to 6.4% in 2021, the lowest proportion allocated to marketing in the history of Gartner’s Annual CMO Spend Survey.

For SEO professionals and marketing organization leaders trying to fund growth and recovery by doing more with less, revisiting your budget and available resources ahead of 2022 is essential.

It’s always good practice to allocate a portion of the budget to innovating and testing new ideas. But that part of the budget may shrink as marketers look for tried and proven digital marketing strategies and tactics to maximize performance this year.

In this column, we’ll explore 10 fundamental areas of digital marketing knowledge and opportunities you may want to tap into (as you plan for the months and years ahead).

1. Understanding Your Digital Presence – All Of It

Sure, you have a good handle on your owned media. After all, these are the pieces of content, listings and profiles, websites, and other assets you created yourself.

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And you had better know where and when your brand is appearing online in paid placements.

But earned media can be tricky. If you aren’t actively monitoring for brand mentions, relevant social content, online reviews, and inbound links, do you really have a clear picture of your web presence as a whole?

“Earned” isn’t only what you actively sought out to build. Social listening, search insights, and reputation monitoring help you inventory and monitor your web presence as a whole.

2. The Fundamentals Of How Search Engines Work

SEO has evolved from a single digital marketing channel into the business intelligence nerve center of the organization.

Having a firm grasp of how search engines work will help you and your team not only optimize content for discovery but also deepen your understanding of how people search, learn, and consume content, as well.

Developing an appreciation for the intricacies of search engine crawling and indexing will guide you in structuring websites and pages for maximum visibility.

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Knowing how search algorithms rank content – and what the algorithm cannot do – can help you better optimize content and more quickly diagnose issues when your analytics point to them.

Don’t forget that Google isn’t the only search engine game in town, too.

3. Digital User Experience And Customer Journeys

“Build it and they will come” may have worked in Field of Dreams but it just doesn’t fly in digital marketing.

Succeeding in attracting an audience requires that you have a deep, meaningful understanding of who those people are and what problems you solve for them.

Google knows it, too – its algorithm updates are increasingly focused on improving the experiences people are having online and removing friction in each customer’s journey.

Today’s consumer understands that the sacrifice of privacy inherent to online tracking is a value exchange. They expect personalized experiences in return.

Across devices, sessions, and platforms, customers expect seamless interactions and experiences from start to finish.

This holistic view across the customer lifecycle will be table stakes going forward.

4. The Fundamentals Of Competitor Analysis

The art and science of competitor analysis are evolving; in the online space, competitors may not be who you think.

Yes, you’re competing for “airtime” with other businesses that sell products and services like yours.

But today, companies are competing against media publications, social networks and forums, map pack business listings, video and photo assets, and more in increasingly rich and diverse search results.

There are an increasing number of potential touchpoints for competitors, as well – podcast and video ads, push notifications from geofencing, influencer marketing, and augmented reality in physical spaces among them.

It’s essential that you have a clear view of who is getting in front of your customers and how. Not so you can replicate their efforts – that’s no way to stand out.

Competitor analysis will inform budget allocation to the content types, ad networks, and campaigns that will keep your brand top of mind and positioned ahead of the pack in every possible channel.

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5. Content And Digital Marketing

Content is so integral to marketing’s success that we’re now seeing marketing agencies and brands acquire their own content studios.

Two recent examples of this trend are MSQ’s acquisition of creative production studio Brave Spark and Made Thought’s being scooped up by WPP.

You may not be in a position to build or buy an entire in-house studio. The size of your organization and the scope of your content needs will guide the best production strategy.

For some, this means bringing writers, editors, videographers, photographers, and other creatives in-house.

Others choose to augment in-house marketing teams with an agency or freelance creatives – or even to turn production over entirely to external contractors.

What matters most is not how it comes together but that your brand has the people, processes, and tools in place to create and promote optimized content at the scale your audience’s demand requires.

6. Online Advertising

Hard-won, long-lasting organic search results are valuable but most digital marketing strategies have an element of paid promotion, too.

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There’s no shortage of options on the paid side, from display and SEM to native ads, social media advertising, out-of-home (OOH) and digital out-of-home (DOOH), and beyond.

Expanding your knowledge of online advertising fundamentals means understanding:

  • Paid media pricing models such as CPM or CPC.
  • The advertising platforms and tactics available in your space.
  • Different types of ad creative including text, video, and imagery.
  • Advances in ad technologies, such as Smart Bidding.
  • Privacy issues and their impact on the quantity and quality of data available to you.
  • Changing consumer behaviors and the impact this has on what resonates in the ad copy.

Staying current on what’s happening in the ever-evolving paid media landscape is essential for all digital marketers – not only those directly responsible for campaign management.

For SEO pros, email marketers, content marketers, and the CMOs who drive strategy, developing a deeper understanding of paid media can help you make better use of it for complementing and augmenting all types of campaigns.

7. Social Media

Social media is still a great channel for getting found and engaging potential customers.

Business features vary by platform but at the very least, your brand should claim all available profiles and listings. If you are less active on some, use the description or attributes to point prospects to connect on your more active channels.

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Some forget that Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other networks each have search functions of their own that consumers can use to find relevant businesses, too.

On social, consumers are looking for brands to be authentic and responsive. They may be reading reviews on Facebook or niche social networks before converting, so monitoring for and responding to new reviews is key.

Have workflows and permissions in place to ensure front-line social marketers are empowered to engage but there are brand protections in place. Have clearly defined customer service and issue escalation processes available to ensure each interaction is as positive and useful as possible.

8. The Fundamentals Of Analytics

The Coronavirus pandemic taught many a marketing team about the risks of relying solely on historic data to guide future performance.

Having access to real-time (or as near real-time as possible) analytics is essential in a world where technological innovations, financial and socioeconomic factors, and more can change the business landscape in the blink of an eye.

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Again, this is an area where you may not be entirely proficient – and that’s okay. You do not need to achieve mastery in Google Analytics 4 to put it to work for your organization.

Rather, you should have a base understanding of what analytics platforms are available, which types of data deliver the most valuable insights, and what types of professionals can best drive your analytical processes.

This awareness will help you build a team and select the tools you’ll use to fuel the next fundamental area of digital marketing on our list: business intelligence.

9. Activating Data As Business Intelligence

As consumer touchpoints increase in volume and frequency, marketing leaders are finding that disconnected point solutions just don’t cut it anymore.

Having access to descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive analysis inside a single, user-friendly dashboard drives the types of insights and optimizations that truly move the needle.

Organizations must be able to look beyond themselves in order to identify new opportunities and money being left on the table. Customer behavior, competitive analysis, real-time search insights, and macroeconomic trends all fuel business decision-making.

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And in the current environment, it’s next to impossible to analyze that data at any sort of scale (let alone activating it via analysis) at any sort of scale.

Which brings us to our final point: intelligent automation.

10. Programmatic, Machine Learning, And Automation

Automated media buying is not new but growing rapidly, and programmatic ad spend is expected to top $100 billion in 2022.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence are making organic media more exciting, as well, as we move beyond predictive analytics and recommended optimizations to actually having technology assist in personalizing content in real-time.

AR/VR is creating deeper connections between customers and brands and delivering more seamless, immersive experiences.

In fact, we’re on the cusp of wide stream adoption of the metaverse, that untapped virtual universe in which we’ll be able to bring elements of our physical world. The implications for marketing are not yet known, and the anticipation is palpable.

Whether your business is using intelligent automation in your business processes, improving ad targeting and ROI with programmatic, or looking to create an entirely new virtual world for customers, staying current on emerging digital marketing technologies will serve you well.

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SEO As The Leader In Digital Transformation in 2022

As the bridge between IT, marketing, and sales and the arbiters of all things data, SEO professionals are well-positioned to lead their organizations through digital transformation in 2022.

Whether your focus is technical SEO, content optimizations, link building, or local – or whatever size organization you work with, be it small business to enterprise – having a holistic understanding of all digital marketing channels and tactics positions you to lead going forward.

If you’re still looking for opportunities to expand your knowledge, check out these digital marketing courses and this list of digital marketing certificate programs to get you started.

More resources:


Featured Image: WHYFRAME/Shutterstock





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Google Top Stories Topics Sections On Desktop

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Google Top Stories Topics Sections On Desktop


Google Search is now grouping some of its Top Stories sections for some queries by topics. This was working on mobile for a while but is now reportedly working for the desktop Top Stories Google Search results.

Here is a screenshot for a query on [biden] where Google Search on desktop is showing a topic section for abortion articles and a topic section for the US military in Europe. You can click on the image to enlarge or check it out yourself for that query.

click for full size

Yes, the layout is now new, it is from December 2021 but the topics on desktop search is new according to Shalom Goodman, who is a news SEO and would know this.

He shared more screenshots on Twitter:

It makes sense to group some queries by topics for the Top Stories section.

Also, I wasn’t sure if this was new, but the “Topics In News” section on the right is supposedly new:

Forum discussion at Twitter.





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64.2% Of Sites Use WordPress

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64.2% Of Sites Use WordPress


WordPress continues to dominate the content management systems (CMS) market and is currently used by 64.2% of websites that have a CMS, according to data from W3Techs.com.

Shopify is a distant second for June 2022 and accounts for 6.3% of the CMS market.

Wix, Squarespace, and Joomla round out the top five with less than 3.5% market share each.

CMS Market Share June 2022 is available to reprint with attribution; see Creative Commons license for details.

W3Techs notes that 33.1% of websites do not use any of the content management systems they monitor.

WordPress is therefore used by 43% of all websites, and 64.2% of those with an identifiable CMS.

WordPress Plans To Continue Working On Security, Stability

WordPress shows no signs of slowing down and is currently about five years into a ten-year project that involves rewriting its entire codebase.

In a recent interview, Josepha Haden Chomphosy, Executive Director of WordPress, told SEJ,

“…the next year, as with all of the years in a project like that, is making sure we are still as stable and capable as a CMS as people have come to expect while also still pushing forward with a newer more modern way to manage your content online.”

WordPress rolled out version change Arturo 6.0 this month and within two weeks, 36.2% of WP sites had updated to it.

Roger Montti reported that WordPress shared a proposal for a plugin checker that would improve security and site performance by proactively vetting plugins, as well.

Shopify Enters B2B Marketplace With June Update

Shopify released its Summer ’22 Edition in June, adding more than 100 new features for users.

A new feature simply and aptly called “B2B” will connect Shopify Plus merchants with wholesalers and offer integrations with NetSuite, Brightpearl, Acumatica, and others for a more seamless experience.

See Brian Frederick’s coverage here to learn more.

Wix Publishes Structured Data Guide For SEO Pros

Wix, in third place for CMS market share this month, released “Wix Structured Data Guide: How To Use Standard & Custom Markup” in June.

Contributing author Mordy Oberstein, Head of SEO Branding at Wix, shared his comprehensive guide to implementing structured data on Wix here at Search Engine Journal.

“In fewer than three years, Wix went from supporting little by way of structured data to offering SEO pros and site owners the ability to do nearly whatever they want with relative ease,” Oberstein wrote.

He also noted that due to recent platform updates, any content elsewhere on the internet around this topic is now out of date.

See his guide above to learn more about applying structured data to your Wix site.

Stay tuned for next month’s CMS Market Share Monthly report.

Related reading:


Featured image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal
Data source: W3Techs.com, Usage statistics of content management systems, as of June 27, 2002.





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When Your SEO Competitors Don’t Match What You Know

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When Your SEO Competitors Don't Match What You Know


You know your competitors, and you’re not going to let some damned SEO tool tell you different!

Hey, I’ll give you the first part, but there are a lot of reasons that the results from a tool like True Competitor might not match your expectations, and that could be a good thing.

I’m going to dig into five of those reasons:

  1. You’re living in the past

  2. You’ve hit a brick wall

  3. You can’t see the trees

  4. You’re stuck in one tree

  5. We’re just plain wrong

First, the toughest one to hear — the world is changing, and you’re not changing with it.

1. You’re living in the past

Look, I know Big Wally at Big Wally’s Widget World said your Grandma’s meatloaf was “just okay, I guess” at the church potluck in ‘87, but you need to move on. Even if you’re not quite-so-literally stuck in the past, you may be operating on an outdated sense of who your competitors are. Especially online, the competitive landscape can change quickly, and it’s worth re-evaluating from time to time.

2. You’ve hit a brick wall

Quite literally — you’ve run headlong into your own brick-and-mortar wall. As a business with physical locations, your competitors with physical locations are absolutely important, but from a search perspective, they may not represent who you’re actually competing with online.

Take, for example, McDonald’s — you might expect the competition to include Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, and other fast food chains with physical restaurants. Meanwhile, here are the second through fourth results from True Competitor:

While DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats don’t have traditional, physical locations, these are the places where McDonald’s online customers go to order, and they represent a significant amount of organic SERP real estate. From an SEO standpoint, this is reality.

3. You can’t see the trees

You can see the whole forest from where you’re standing, and that’s great, but are you missing the diversity and distinctiveness of the trees?

This is easier to show than tell. Let’s take a look at big box retailer, Target. True Competitor returns the following top three:

No big surprises here, and no one should be shocked that this list includes not only brick-and-mortar competitors, but online retail juggernauts like Amazon. Let’s take a deeper look, though (the following are competitors #8, #7, and #22 in our current data):

Target isn’t just up against the whole-forest, big box retailers — they also have to contend with niche competition. Their competitors in the video game space include not only brick-and-mortar retailers like GameStop, but competitor-partners like Sony and Nintendo (which both sell hardware and software directly online).

Not every grove of trees is going to have the same needs and growing conditions. Your competitive landscape could have dozens of ecosystems, and each of them requires unique research and likely a unique strategy.

4. You’re stuck in one tree

On the other hand, you could be stuck in just one tree. Let’s take Ford Motor Company as an example. Savvy marketers at Ford know they’re not just up against legacy automakers like Chevrolet and Toyota, but up-and-coming competitors like Tesla and Rivian.

That niche is incredibly important, but let’s take a look at what the SERPs are telling us:

These are Ford’s #1, #2, and #5 competitors, and they aren’t automakers — they’re automotive content producers. Does this mean that Chevy and Tesla aren’t Ford’s competitors? Of course not. It means that those automakers are infrequently appearing in SERPs alongside Ford. Ford is competing with mentions of their own products (makes and models) in leading online publications.

5. We’re just plain wrong

Hey, it happens — I’m not here to claim that we’re perfect. SERP-based competitive analysis has a couple of limitations. First, as discussed, SERP analysis doesn’t always reflect the brick-and-mortar world. From an SEO perspective, that’s fine (if they’re not ranking, we’re not competing with them for search share), but there are other essential pieces to the puzzle.

Second, our SERP-based analysis is based on national results and does not reflect regional or hyperlocal competition. Some regional businesses do have national competitors, and that’s worth knowing, but localized perspectives are important as well.

Maybe it’s a good thing…

What if a tool like True Competitor only returned information that you already knew? I guess you could pat yourself on the back and move on with life, but what did you learn? To me, the entire point of SERP-based competitive analysis is to challenge your expectations and your point of view. If the results don’t match what you expect, that mismatch represents opportunity.

More likely than not, it doesn’t mean you’re wrong (unless you’ve let vanity and personal history get the best of you) — it means that you’re missing a perspective or a niche that could be important. If you can see that missing perspective as money left on the table, then you’ve got a good chance to pick it up and walk away with a bit more in your pocket.


The Competitive Analysis Suite is now available to all Moz Pro customers, and we’d love to hear your feedback via the ‘Make a Suggestion’ button in the app.

Sign up for a free trial to access the Competitive Research Suite!

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