Why is SEO so Undervalued?

Greg Jarboe joins Matt to talk about the “undervaluing” of SEO.  Both long-time experts see search engines providing the bulk of visits to websites through analytics. Yet, despite the evidence, companies are spending more and applying more resources to social media and new unproven platforms! Even with the data that shows the value of investing in search engine optimization, why do so many companies dismiss it in favor of other channels?

Transcript

[00:00:00] Greg Jarboe: If you think about it, newspapers and magazines were being distributed in a way where you reached a lot of people with the same message at the same time. Social media comes along and says, “I’m going to reach some people. And if the message is interesting enough, they’ll share it with other people. And if it’s really interesting enough, they’ll share it with other people.”

And that’s what makes it social. That’s a different model. That is a different paradigm. And as a result, yes, it is possible to be successful in that world, and heaven knows I’ve done it. But it is not a mass medium. You need to focus on creating the kind of content that is shareable.

[00:00:57] Bumper Intro-Outro: Welcome to Endless Coffee Cup, a regular discussion of marketing news, culture, and media for our complex digital lifestyle. Join Matt Bailey as he engages in conversation to find insights beyond the latest headlines and deeper understanding for those involved in marketing. Grab a cup of coffee, have a seat, and thanks for joining.

[00:01:24] Matt Bailey: Well, hello, dear listener and welcome wherever you may be. I have just been amazed at how many new listeners we’ve had over the past few months, and not only that, where everyone is listening from. Uh, we are truly going worldwide here at the Endless Coffee Cup, so regardless of what you’re drinking, welcome and thank you for listening.

And today, those of you that have been listening for a while, this might be familiar to you. I’ve got Greg Jarboe back with me here. Greg, thanks for joining us again.

[00:01:58] Greg Jarboe: Matt, it’s always good to come back and spar with you. And, um, I know we only went 10 rounds last time, but I’m ready. I’m ready for another round.

[00:02:10] Matt Bailey: Great, great. Well, the reason why I called you is, I’ve been going through some articles here lately about digital marketing priorities and you know, you and I met I think in the early two thousands at the search engine, uh, search engine marketing, search engine optimization conferences. So, so both of us kind of have our roots in that.

And also a couple of months ago, you wrote an article about why there are so few vice-presidents of search, and I thought it was a great article because it fits with what I’ve been seeing is that it seems to me that search as a marketing channel is completely undervalued. And despite everyone wanting to say they’re, they’re data-centric and, and I’ll, I’ll, yeah.

So I’ll give you this example. I was in a training call with a marketing department and I even had an analyst say, you know, even though social doesn’t make a big impact in the analytics, we still can’t not do it. And, and I’m just kind of looking like, so you’re saying the data’s not there, but yet you’re choosing to make the investment. And I understand there might be some tangential things or something like that, but that means in the absence of data that supports your conclusion, you’re still going to do it anyway. So why the emphasis on data-centricity?

But I, you know, when I’m looking at anyone’s analytics, search by far, and not just bringing new customers, but it is a tool for existing customers when you see the return visits. I, so I had to call up my good friend, Greg, and say, “Greg, are you seeing the same thing?” and, “What the heck is going on?”

[00:04:13] Greg Jarboe: Oh, I’m seeing it, I’m seeing it. I lament the fact. Uh, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll share the, the key data that was in that article, “Why there are so Few Vice-presidents of Search Engine Optimization.” It turns out according to, let’s say BrightEdge research, and there’s other research out there, but that was the one I cited in my, uh, in my post.

Um, 53% of the so-called trackable traffic to the average website comes from organic search. Now, what is trackable traffic? Well, that doesn’t count direct traffic because a lot of people can’t figure out how to, you know, uh, allocate that, you know, if somebody just types in your URL, how did that…?

It turns out a whole lot of the so-called direct traffic actually is SEO traffic that Google Analytics, uh, had trouble categorizing, so anytime they have a slight hiccup, they just dump it into direct. But, okay.

[00:05:13] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:05:14] Greg Jarboe: Not getting down that rabbit hole. Let’s just, just take a long look at, at the fact that 53% of the traffic that you can track comes from search. It turns out, um, only about, oh, 5% comes from social. Now, if you look at the budgets in most organizations, I would argue that they are probably the reverse.

[00:05:40] Matt Bailey: Right. That’s what I see.

[00:05:41] Greg Jarboe: And that’s, that’s because social is what our good friend, Avinash Kaushik, likes to call, “A faith-based initiative.” Do not confuse me with the facts. I know what I believe. And somewhere out there under that pile of, do you have to bleep this out now? Um, uh, horse, pony manure, social has some value, right? I mean, Facebook told me it did. Uh, yeah. Right. Uh huh. And meanwhile, the organic traffic? “Oh, well that’s a set it and forget it. We set it 15 years ago. Why? We’re supposed to go back and do something?”

[00:06:23] Matt Bailey: Right. Right.

[00:06:24] Greg Jarboe: And so, one of the problems is social is the not so bright, shiny object, although frankly, there are new, bright, shiny objects in the social sphere, like everyone’s now trying to figure it out, “Tik Tok! How do I do Tik Tok?”

And the answer is, “Uh, Why? What does it do for you? What does social do for you?”

“I dunno, but everyone else is doing it. I’m going to do it too.”

And the, and the answer is, “Uh, okay. Yeah, I’m, I’m all for experimenting and finding out new things that may work. But at the end of the day, um, this, um, SEO, this organic search stuff is paying your salary and also paying the salary of five other people who aren’t in your department, but they’re wasting the company’s money down in the, uh, social media group.

Okay, fine. You, you wanna, uh, harvest in one place and invest in another, a little of it, a little of that makes sense, but not on a 5 to 1 ratio. That’s, that’s crazy. That is absurd. That’s counter, that’s counterproductive. You are shooting yourself in the foot. You’re stupid.”

Now. Now, why are so many people stupid? Cause this is, this is the interesting, you know, thing. And what has happened is, things have shifted over the years. And, um, you and I know that this industry is not the industry that we used to talk about 18 years ago. Alright?

[00:07:56] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:07:57] Greg Jarboe: It is radically different. The problem is most organizational structures were set in stone 18 years ago. And excuse me, the SEO people at that time, often, not always, but often reported into IT, not marketing because, “Oh, that has something to do with web servers, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah. We have a web master, uh, who is going to, uh, create some brochureware, put it on the website, it’s static forever, and so yeah, yeah. We should optimize it once, and oh, I know. Let’s use, uh, keyword meta-tags. Yeah, yeah. Uh, AltaVista says that that’s the best practice.”

And so they, they think they optimize their website, you know, back in 2002 and they’re done. Nothing more needs to change, right? Well, pardon me? Alta Vista doesn’t even exist anymore. Okay, Google, which ate AltaVista’s lunch in 2002, and I watched this happen. At the beginning of the year AltaVista was number one.

[00:09:11] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:09:12] Greg Jarboe: By the end of the year, Google was number one. Well, Google not only went from, you know, being an, all of a sudden ran to being number one, it then went on to take, pardon me, north of 90% of the search traffic in the United States.

[00:09:24] Matt Bailey: Yeah. Yep.

[00:09:25] Greg Jarboe: Uh, even higher than that in many countries around the world. And, okay, so, uh, okay. But it’s search traffic, right? It’s, it’s, excuse me, you haven’t watched Google evolve over the years? Uh, I mean, you know, things change. The problem is organizational structures have not changed with it. Nobody wants to create a reorg every time Google has an algorithm change.

[00:10:00] So along came the Panda Update, or the Penguin Update, or the, you name it. There was not a equivalent reorg in most organizations, and so SEO is still buried down in the basement with the rest of the IT people, and oh, by the way, they’re overworked, and understaffed, and certainly not interested in going back and reoptimizing anything.

So, oh, please don’t tell them about the, uh, you know, uh, the latest, uh, core web vitals. It’s like, “Oh man. That’s, that’s, that’s work. That’s work.” Meanwhile, organic search is generating half of your revenue, half of your leads, half of your traffic, and you’re leaving it on autopilot from the old days? God bless you. Good luck. God bless you. Good luck.

Now. Okay. So social came along and promised the moon and everyone jumped on the bandwagon. And because everyone jumped on the bag, bandwagon, anyone who was late to the bandwagon, jumped on it and, and scrambled to catch up. And what they don’t realize is that the promise of social hasn’t really paid off.

And trust, trust me, I’ve been doing social. I, I, I got there early.

[00:11:11] Matt Bailey: Mhm. Oh, yeah.

[00:11:13] Greg Jarboe: I, I, I’ve written books, uh, about one of, uh, the big social media, which is YouTube, and although many people don’t consider it social. There’s Facebook, and there’s Twitter, and there’s Instagram, and there’s Tik Tok and it’s like, yeah. And how many of them have video these days? And they’re all trying to copy YouTube, but you don’t count YouTube, you know, as social media? Don’t get me started.

Okay. But the net-net was, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s fun. It’s interesting. It, uh, requires your right brain, uh, cause you’ve gotta be creative and, and come up with content and you’ve got fun, mushy metrics like engagement. Yeah. It’s, all the money went there.

Now. What happened? Well, the bait and switch, the memo that nobody got is, basically when social media marketing suddenly realized people were making so much content, nobody could see it all, and so somewhere around 2014, um, Facebook said, “You know, we’re going to have to create an algorithm and only show you some of the content that your friends and other people that you’re following are creating in a day.”

And by the way, uh, initially they confessed,” Um, you may only see 20% of the content that somebody creates that you used to like, but you know, that’s how our algorithm works.” Today the average…

[00:12:41] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:12:42] Greg Jarboe: …Facebook reach is somewhere around 5% of all the people who you, you know, you followed over the years. 95% does not see the content that you’re creating. And why didn’t anyone figure it out while they were using the metrics that Facebook gave you? Big warning. It’s dangerous when you start believing the hype.

And the biggest metric that, uh, faked people out was how many, you know, fans I have, or then they, how many likes do I have? Or if you’re on Twitter, how many followers do I have? Because those are big numbers. And they keep going up year after year after year. And every marketer loves big numbers that keep going up year after year in good times and bad.

What they don’t realize is while the followers and likes and, and fans were going up, the reach of those fans was going down faster because more content was being created and the algorithms were doing what the algorithms are supposed to do, only show the most interesting stuff to you. And at the net-net 95% doesn’t get seen 5% does. And what’s the 5% that gets seen?

Interestingly enough, the most extreme. And, and Russian trolls figured it out. I can’t believe that, uh, corporate marketing departments haven’t, because we’re all still trying to create “socially acceptable brand safe messages” when we’re having our lunch eaten by, you know, kids in Macedonia who are, uh, creating, making stuff up! Okay. Net-net!

[00:14:32] Matt Bailey: Yeah, you, I think, I think I hit a nerve, Greg. Wow. This is, which, hey, I’m with you. I am with you. But, uh, yeah, this is, uh, obviously a very passionate subject, I think for both of us.

[00:14:44] Greg Jarboe: So, so search, search, search is, oh, actually this is actually Biblical.

[00:14:51] Matt Bailey: Ok.

[00:14:52] Greg Jarboe: Search is the son, is the son who wasn’t the prodigal.

[00:14:56] Matt Bailey: Ah, yes.

[00:14:57] Greg Jarboe: I’m sitting here, plowing the field, bringing in the harvest, and the kid that runs off and is a ne’er do well, comes home and you’re going to shower him with gifts? It’s like, yeah, it goes back that far. So most organizations are dysfunctional.

[00:15:14] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:15:16] Greg Jarboe: And the reason I decided to write the “Why Aren’t There More, uh, VPs of Search,” is a way of underscoring the fact that in many organizations search is in the wrong department, it started off in IT because it seemed technical, and you know, 15, 20 years ago it was technical, by and large. So that was the right place to put it then.

Over the years, particularly after the Panda Update, it’s all about your content, and pardon me, you can’t fake links anymore. Uh, you got to earn the links and how do you earn links? Well, with really good content. So it goes back to content again, and all of a sudden the success metrics in SEO shifted out of the technical IT department realm into the marketing realm. But the SEO people didn’t shift with it.

[00:16:06] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:16:06] Greg Jarboe: With a few exceptions. There are, there are exceptions, but most organizations still have SEO in the wrong place. Now, meanwhile, all the people who are wasting the company’s money on social are justifying their existence using a bogus metric that gets more bogus every year, and the executives they report to don’t know the difference.

The numbers, the numbers seem big. They seem to be going up. I guess this is good. If we haven’t seen the results yet, it’s probably because we haven’t figured out how to read, uh, Google Analytics yet.

[00:16:44] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:16:44] Greg Jarboe: So, you and I…

[00:16:46] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:16:47] Greg Jarboe: …not only know SEO, we also know social media marketing, we also know content marketing, we also know how to read digital analytics and we can triangulate and say, “Excuse me, sir, um, you’re screwed up. You’re putting your money in the wrong place.”

[00:17:05] Matt Bailey: Yeah. It is absolutely amazing to me. And, and you said something that it really triggered something I’ve been saying ever since I started in analytics and that’s that big numbers lie. And as much as the executive team loves big numbers and the more big numbers you put on a report that seems to do well, but they always lie.

They never really tell the underlying story of what’s going on. And it made me remember a, uh, that was something that was brought up at one point with Facebook, where they claimed to have more users on Facebook in the U.S. than the actual population of the U.S. And it was off by millions. And Facebook wouldn’t allow a third party to come in and verify their claim of how many user numbers we had.

So, you know, we, we throw that into the mix where you can easily, you know, fool Facebook apparently.

[00:18:08] Greg Jarboe: Right.

[00:18:08] Matt Bailey: Um, with what’s going on.

[00:18:10] Greg Jarboe: Well, no, no, no. It’s, it’s, it’s not, it’s not “fool,” it’s, it’s um, you know.

[00:18:15] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:18:15] Greg Jarboe: By the way, it wasn’t just the U.S. it was also the UK and it was a number of other countries.

[00:18:20] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:18:20] Greg Jarboe: But it also turns out to be countries where Russian trolls set up extensive operations to basically sabotage Western democracies.

[00:18:32] Matt Bailey: Mhm.

[00:18:32] Greg Jarboe: And, oh, by the way, Facebook was delighted because there was a lot of activity, “Look at all that engagement!” That they were hooked on, on those numbers. And meanwhile, it was only the skeptics who said, “Excuse me, how could you have more Facebook accounts than there is an adult population?”

[00:18:51] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:18:51] Greg Jarboe: That’s cause there were a lot of fake accounts. And even after the fake accounts got occasionally found and occasionally some small percentage of them would get booted off, they would reconstitute themselves, uh, you know, the next week as a new fake account and, you know, they were back. So, so yeah, watch out for the big numbers. Uh, there’s a lot of snake oil being peddled there. I just finished reading a book called “An Ugly Truth.”

[00:19:22] Matt Bailey: Oh yes.

[00:19:23] Greg Jarboe: And it’s about Facebook, particularly over the last five years, it’s written by two New York times reporters and they literally document the wars that were being fought inside the company, as well as between the company and, and various governing bodies.

[00:19:39] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:19:39] Greg Jarboe: Uh, over the fact that they knew that there were people setting up bogus accounts, but their business model was such that, you know, we don’t want to have people question our big numbers.

[00:19:54] Matt Bailey: Right. And it gets to what you said, you called it activity metrics. And I like that because I have heard over and over from people in marketing and people, especially people in social media, I have a need to validate what I’m doing. I need to justify the time we’re putting into this.

[00:20:00] And so even the words they choose, they know that there is a lack of provable business objectives being met in this activity and they’re seeking data to validate it. And of course, they come up with the platform metrics.

[00:20:31] Greg Jarboe: And sometimes it’s even worse than that because, how do I say this? I’ve won a couple of awards over the years, um, and, uh, what I do that is just, I didn’t think it was that unique or different or award-winning worthy, but okay. One of the things that I do is I try to track all the way down to where the cash register rings.

[00:20:54] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:20:55] Greg Jarboe: So instead of reporting that, you know, I brought in, you know, 8,000 new visitors to your website and they generated 600 new leads. What I get down to us is, oh, by the way, we generated 38 new graduate students for your program. And each one of them paid an average of about $38,000 to enroll. And so that’s about $1.4 million in tuition revenue for your university.

[00:21:23] Matt Bailey: Yeah. Yep.

[00:21:24] Greg Jarboe: Now, those are small numbers. 38, only 38? That’s the number you’re going to celebrate? I said, “No, it’s not 38. It’s 38 times 38,000 per person.”

[00:21:34] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:21:34] Greg Jarboe: That’s the number. And, and marketers freak out because in order to get to the real big number that the, Dean, you know, is excited about because it’s money, it’s like I, I’ve got to go through this reduction of traffic to leads, to, uh, applications, to acceptances, to enrollment. And oh, by the way, they don’t graduate for a couple of years. Um, and so the revenue doesn’t actually get counted until after they graduate. The net-net is, pardon me, there’s the value.

[00:22:13] Matt Bailey: Right. Yeah.

[00:22:14] Greg Jarboe: Of what we’re doing, but it requires you to measure, and, uh, oh, by the way, guess what? SEO does very well, by the way, not only in bringing in traffic and, but this is the fun thing, bringing in more qualified traffic than your ads.

[00:22:30] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:22:32] Greg Jarboe: That convert at a higher ratio…

[00:22:34] Matt Bailey: Mhm.

[00:22:35] Greg Jarboe: …and when you then compare the amount of money that you spent on the SEO to the revenue that you can put in the bank, it’s one of the most cost effective bang for the buck parts of your marketing mix. There you have it.

[00:22:51] Matt Bailey: Always has been.

[00:22:52] Greg Jarboe: And oh, by the way, I can, I can demonstrate this to a skeptic because we also ran, we also ran the ad campaign. So, hey, if it was the advertising…

[00:23:01] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:23:01] Greg Jarboe: …I’d take credit for that too. Guess what? It wasn’t the advertising!

[00:23:05] Matt Bailey: Mhm. Well, and to me, it’s one of the easiest reports to read in analytics is a channel report. And it doesn’t take much to look and see number one, who’s sending the most traffic…

[00:23:17] Greg Jarboe: No, no, no, no, no.

[00:23:18] Matt Bailey: …And then, yeah. And then look at the bounce rates, look at how long they stay. And I’m just looking at top level, just the top level.

[00:23:26] Greg Jarboe: I mean, no, no, but here’s, here’s what, here’s what most of my clients have to go through when they look at their first channel report.

[00:23:35] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:23:37] Greg Jarboe: They, they are using the default data…

[00:23:40] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:23:40] Greg Jarboe: …that Google analytics sets up, which, oh, by the way, nobody realizes gives all the credit,100% of the credit, to the last click.

[00:23:51] Matt Bailey: Exactly. Yeah. Last click.

[00:23:53] Greg Jarboe: And the last click by and large is like, you know, who knows, the 12th visit to the site and, oh, by the way, by the time that somebody has come back to the site, that often they bookmark the page. And so they come in direct. And guess what, that’s one of the reasons why direct gets so much credit because it’s often the last click. Meanwhile…

[00:24:16] Matt Bailey: And then, and then Greg, I will say, “look at what our branding is doing because people know who we are and how to find us, because our direct is up the charts.”

That’s what I’ve heard so many times is, when we see direct it’s because of our branding, not realizing there is a direct relationship, if you look at a first click attribution that you see your search and paid search off the charts on a first click, uh, and then you can make that line and show them, look, they found you this way.

Um, but I’ve also seen even paid search on a last click does really well, because…

[00:24:54] Greg Jarboe: Yeah.

[00:24:54] Matt Bailey: …some people that’s just the way they want to go find it. But yeah, to your point, absolutely.

[00:24:59] Greg Jarboe: We’ve been using Avinash’s model, cause there’s one you can download for free from the Google Analytics, um, uh, Gallery and he gives 40% of the credit to the last click because the last click does lead to the sale, it deserves some, it just doesn’t deserve 100%. He gives 10% to the first click and he then divides 40% to all the clicks in between.

Because what you’ll find is that the first click might actually be a social click. “I’m going to come visit your site for the first time. I’m not ready to do business with you. I’m not ready to buy anything. I may just be checking out a little more information about that thing that you posted. Okay, fine. I’m out of here. All I did was visit. No conversions. But the second time that I come back, I may do a search now.”

[00:25:51] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:25:51] Greg Jarboe: And so, uh, again, that customer journey, it is different for different people and it comes in different orders, but you need to come up with a model that begins to give, uh, different touch points, different amounts of credit.

And Avinash’s model does that. One of the other things it does is the default setting in Google analytics is 30 days to a conversion.

[00:26:15] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:26:15] Greg Jarboe: Well, that’s fine if you’re an e-commerce site.

[00:26:17] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:26:18] Greg Jarboe: Or, you know, you’re selling a $9.98 product, but you can open it up to at least 90 days. Right. And again, I got some clients where the sales cycle is longer than that, but okay, fine. You can open it up to 90 days. You get different data that, that way.

[00:26:33] Matt Bailey: Yep.

[00:26:34] Greg Jarboe: And oh, by the way, their, their other formulas that you need to question, reconsider, in other words, do not use Google analytics out of the box. And oh, by the way, talk to me about how you set your goals.

[00:26:51] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:26:52] Greg Jarboe: Because those are your conversions. And again, I see a lot of people, if they have set goals, most have not, if they have set goals, the only goal they have is, uh, revenue and an e-commerce site. They, they get that part.

[00:27:06] Matt Bailey: Yep.

[00:27:07] Greg Jarboe: There is no sense of micro conversions. There is no sense of estimating the value of a micro conversion.

[00:27:15] Matt Bailey: Yep.

[00:27:15] Greg Jarboe: There is no sense of the overall economic value. “All, all I’m going to do is focus on revenue, revenue, revenue.” And so even the few people who are measuring money, which is important, are missing filling the pipeline for not this month’s sales, but maybe next month’s or the month after that. I mean, pardon me? That pipeline has value too. So net-net, if we’re measuring the wrong things, it begins to explain why organizations are so dysfunctional.

[00:27:46] Matt Bailey: Uh, one of the things I see constantly overlooked is the lack of adding a goal value to a subscriber. You know, I’m telling people, you know, I’d put that at $10 to $20 because let’s, not that I’d recommend it, but how much would it cost for you to buy a highly engaged, someone who wants to know more about you. Not a third-party list, but also when you send an email out, what’s your revenue per email?

So you start to get a sense of the, the value that this is. Place a, a, you know, an agreed upon value that you can do that. And all of a sudden you start to see what’s driving these because that’s an early conversion point. That’s not even a micro conversion.

[00:28:30] Greg Jarboe: Yeah, I mean, think how bizarre this behavior is. I’m going to raise my hand and I’m going to say, “Please, please spam me.”

[00:28:37] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:28:37] Greg Jarboe: “I would like to get more email from you.” I mean, is that sick behavior? Yeah. The only way to cure those people is to sell them the product.

[00:28:46] Matt Bailey: Yep. Send them stuff. Nurture them into a customer.

[00:28:53] Greg Jarboe: So again, why are there not any vice-presidents of SEO or search or whatever you want to call it? It’s because, uh, we do not really yet estimate the true value of what it is doing, and the reason we aren’t estimating the true value is because our metrics are screwed up. And most SEOs, unfortunately, uh, still are reporting things like ranking or average position, or uh.

[00:29:27] Matt Bailey: I see this show up. Oh, Greg, did you see, so in May of 2021, the ANA, Association for National Advertisers put out a report called KPIs, I think “KPIs That Matter.” And in one column, the respondents to the survey listed the most important KPIs. And, and I was happy to see this. There was ROI, ROAS, uh, those types of things, but then they asked them, what are your most used KPIs?

[00:30:00] Number five, page views. I, I’m like, that’s not a KPI.

[00:30:09] Greg Jarboe: Well, it is if your company is a media company and you’re…

[00:30:13] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:30:13] Greg Jarboe: …selling advertising on your website, I have worked with media clients where a page view was a monetizable metric.

[00:30:22] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:30:22] Greg Jarboe: But for B2B companies, it’s like…

[00:30:26] Matt Bailey: No.

[00:30:26] Greg Jarboe: …what, huh?

[00:30:27] Matt Bailey: Yeah, and even then, for a publisher, a page view is not even a KPI, that’s the goal. That’s, that’s what I want people to do. But number one, Greg, was CPM.

[00:30:37] Greg Jarboe: Yeah.

[00:30:37] Matt Bailey: CPM was listed as a number one KPI. And again, I’m like, that’s not a KPI. That’s a, that’s a…

[00:30:44] Greg Jarboe: So, I’m going to share two words with you. And it is a summary. No, no, no. They’re not dirty words. If you want, later on, I can share the dirty words. Uh, the two words that I try to use to explain to people that I’m either teaching or working with, you know, the difference between metrics and KPIs is metrics are way too often outputs and KPIs have to be outcomes.

And if you don’t know the difference between outputs and outcomes, you’re going to waste your time spinning your wheels, doing a lot of stuff that generates numbers, and “Aren’t these numbers good?” And the answer is, “Where’s the money? Show me the outcome.” I’ve done this for people who are still using, oh, I hate to say this, gross rating points as a metric.

And it’s like, my father was the director of marketing at Oldsmobile back in the 1980s. He asked his ad agency, “how many GRPs do I need to sell a car?” And he was asking the right question and his agency couldn’t answer it because they were measuring outputs, not outcomes.

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[00:33:36] Matt Bailey: And that’s the biggest thing, I think KPIs have become completely misunderstood. I mean, there are words in marketing that I think over the past 20 years have completely lost meaning. Engagement is one of those. It’s been used, overused, no one knows what engagement means. I like to joke it used to mean a commitment. Now it, it just means someone clicks something.

The next one is KPIs. I don’t think people truly understand what a KPI is, how it’s to be used. I like to tell people it’s like a, a light on your car’s dashboard. It means that something needs attention, and that attention usually results in a better running car. And if you ignore it, something’s going to break. And so, you have to connect, what is the resulting action from that KPI? And I like how Avinash says, it has to have that direct line of sight back to a business objective.

If it doesn’t, it’s a metric.

[00:34:35] Greg Jarboe: Well, and, and, and here’s then what most people are either afraid of, or have no clue about, which is, “I don’t want to give the boss bad news.”

[00:34:45] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:34:46] Greg Jarboe: So if I’m measuring what matters, and that means that’s a KPI, heaven forbid there might be a month where sales are down. I don’t want to be the one who reports that.

So they come up with a bogus metrics where the numbers are always bigger and bigger every year, even if the sales are going down. And so there’s no connection between, uh, time spent doing busy work and actual useful outcomes for the organization.

[00:35:19] Matt Bailey: And that’s something I have heard that all these junk charts, graphs, tables, they justify how busy I am. And that’s where I think where most marketers are locked in at this point is I, I don’t know how to read the data, but I have to justify this time. And that’s what leads to 60 slide decks of copy and pasted charts and graphs and tables. And I like to tell people, it, it, it does not show that you have any analysis skill.

It shows that you have amazing copy and paste skill. And that’s not what I want to see. I want to see the analysis. I want to see what you think is happening, but instead it shows up as, “Look how busy I am.”

[00:36:08] Greg Jarboe: And so now, now, now let me go back to whose fault is that? It gets back to why there are no, um, VPs of SEO. If your top management hasn’t a clue, and it is a faith-based initiative, how do I measure, you know, uh, you’re good? And the answer is you only, uh, supply reports that I, A. can’t understand, but B. seem to look good. Um, and I, I wouldn’t understand a KPI from a metric. Pardon me? All that hap, I grew up in the 20th century.

They didn’t teach me that stuff in college. Well, guess what? I grew up in the 20th century, too. They didn’t teach me that stuff in college either. Uh, I had to learn it the hard way.

[00:36:54] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:36:55] Greg Jarboe: Working for clients that sometimes it works, sometimes it didn’t, but guess what? Every time we measured the right thing, we knew what to do next.

And, and that’s what people were afraid of. They’re afraid of the learning curve. You, you mean I could, I could actually benefit from a mistake? Yeah. What did you learn? What are you going to do differently tomorrow? Because that’s the important thing. And most organizations haven’t created a culture where it’s okay to report bad news, as long as you’ve got an idea of what you need to do next.

[00:37:28] Matt Bailey: Well, and you, you bring up a great point and it’s an education problem. You know, not just the 20th century education, 21st century education, every session I teach, I ask how many people are in marketing? Raise your hand. How many of you in marketing have ever received formal education as to how to use analytics?

None. Maybe one will show up, but it comes to find out they’re from a completely different area and they have landed in, in marketing. But there has been no, and, and even talking to a university a few months ago, they’re creating an analytics major, but yet there’s no web analytics. They have higher level analytics, and I’m trying to say that if you have marketers going through here, they just need the basics. But we have a big education problem.

[00:38:17] Greg Jarboe: We have a huge education problem. So, I don’t know if you have to bleep this out or not, but I’m going to tell you a story. I’m going to name names.

[00:38:26] Matt Bailey: Oh.

[00:38:26] Greg Jarboe: I know. This is what makes this story dangerous.

So once upon a time, um, maybe 15 years ago, uh, one of my clients was, uh, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. And the Wharton School, by the way, was the world’s first business school. So there was a business school at which they decided to call the Wharton School, uh, long before there was a Harvard Business School and the folks at Wharton, I remember helping them celebrate their 125th anniversary, and that was 10 years ago.

So they’ve been around for a long time. Got it. Great. So, uh, the dean called me on the carpet after I’d been working with them for a couple of months. And he said, “There is a search term I want to rank #1 for, and you’ve been working for months and I’m not ranked #1 for it yet.”

And I said, “Well, it would’ve helped if you had told me what the search term was.” And he said, “Well, it’s ‘business school.’ We’re the world’s oldest business school. We should rank #1 for that.”

And I said, “Well, as a matter of fact, I’ve been tracking our progress. When we started, you were ranked #101 for that term. Today, you ranked #2. Now I know I’ve only been working for a few months, but you know, the people ahead of you are the Harvard Business School, and because they have ‘business school’ in their name,”

[00:39:56] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:39:57] Greg Jarboe: “It’s not shocking that they rank higher for you for the term ‘business school’ than the Wharton School where there’s no business in your name. Uh, you may know that you’re the world’s oldest business school, but you know, that’s not even on the website. Okay. You know it, we need to communicate that. But, okay.”

[00:40:00] And he said, “Well, you’re fired because you sh, you should have figured that out.” And I said, well, I said, I said, “No, no, that’s okay. I, I understand. And I suppose anything I say at this point is going to sound defensive or, you know, whatever. So I’ll tell you what you should do, sir. You should bring in a neutral third party who you trust to tell you that going from #101 to #2 is not bad progress so far. And, and, and, oh, by the way, if, now that I know that you really, really, really want to rank, well, #1 for ‘business school,’ there’s some changes that I’m going to need to make to your website to even have a shot at that.”

[00:40:57] Matt Bailey: Yep.

[00:40:58] Greg Jarboe: He said, “Okay, who, who, who do you recommend?” I said, “Bring in your professor of search.” He said, “We don’t have a professor of search.” I said, “Exactly. So guess what? I’m the expert. And I’ll tell you, going as far as we’ve gone in this short of time is phenomenal. And instill, until you start teaching search at the Wharton School, you are not a 21st century business school.”

[00:41:37] Matt Bailey: Love it.

[00:41:37] Greg Jarboe: “You’re a 20th century business school. In fact, you’re a 19th century…”

[00:41:41] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:41:41] Greg Jarboe: “…business school, that would like to still be around on the 21st century.”

[00:41:50] Matt Bailey: That is amazing.

[00:41:51] Greg Jarboe: By the way, I did not get fired. And by the way, a few months later, we did rank briefly for ‘business school’ until Harvard noticed and, um, put more effort.

[00:42:02] Matt Bailey: Yep. Yep.

[00:42:03] Greg Jarboe: But here was the thing that paid my salary. I discovered that ranking #2, or #1 for business school didn’t put as many butts in seats as ranking for the term ‘MBA admissions,’ because when somebody is looking for ‘MBA admissions,’ guess what they’re ready to do?

[00:42:27] Matt Bailey: Yup. Further down the sales cycle. Absolutely.

[00:42:30] Greg Jarboe: And the Dean didn’t want to hear about that. “That’s, you know, that’s another term, I’m not fixated on that term.” It’s like, “Pardon me, that’s the money term.”

[00:42:37] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:42:38] Greg Jarboe: “Pardon me, we’ve been measuring progress here. That leads to more students coming in, signing up, and paying your exorbitant tuition to learn 19th century marketing in the 21st century.”

[00:42:55] Matt Bailey: Wow. Wow.

[00:42:57] Greg Jarboe: Now, I’m sure I’ve just offended everyone at the Wharton School. The good news is, they’re not a client anymore. But the bad news is they’ll probably come after me. So I apologize in advance to whatever lawyer is now, you know. But pardon me, this is all the truth. This happened.

[00:43:15] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:43:16] Greg Jarboe: I can document it. I’ve got the reports. So, you know, let’s, let’s talk about the truth.

[00:43:21] Matt Bailey: I think any SEO that’s been in the business for more than 10 years has had that kind of experience, that the client wants to rank for a vanity term, and it’s not the term that’s bringing in the money. And so, yeah, again, this comes back to an education issue and I think that’s a great example that even at a business school, if you’re not learning about search and, and you know, I was just doing some quick research just to find out, you know, how do I talk about this when I’m talking to people about social and search?

And one of the things I found is, you know, as an example, Facebook has an estimated 2.8 billion monthly active users. Monthly active users, 2.8 billion. However, there are over 3.8 billion, almost 4, I think they’re estimating, it’s going to go over 5 billion this year, searches per day on Google. And that’s just on Google.

And so you compare a monthly active user to more than double the amount of searches per day, just the numbers alone show that more people are using search more often and using it as a tool to find information. And so to me, it just seems to be like a, don’t tell me the facts. Don’t tell me the facts. People will find us here. Uh, and they’re taking a much, much smaller target and putting faith in it.

[00:44:54] Greg Jarboe: Well, and, and, and then, so let’s, let’s go in and ask the question, “Why?” Because that’s another important lesson and this is why there are no professors of search, which is also why there are so few, uh, vice-presidents of search.

Okay? It’s yeah, it, you’re right. It is a systemic problem. But the net-net is that, the reason we can’t get to where we need to go is because there was a paradigm shift and you and I take the paradigm shift for granted because paradigms shift all the time in our business. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. Fine. Whatever. Most professors kill, would kill, um, have certainly maimed, uh, in order to get tenure. And their tenure, uh, is preciously guarded because it’s supposed to protect academic freedom and independence of thought and all the good things that tenure were supposed to give you.

[00:45:50] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:45:51] Greg Jarboe: But unfortunately, they got their tenure in the 20th century based on what they had learned about television. And most, you know, marketing professors are still teaching as if we were in a mass media society. And social media came along and understood that in order to be successful, they had to look like a mass medium, which is why Facebook, uh, talks about their 2.8 billion users. And the answer is, have you tried to reach 2.8 billion users lately?

You know, that, that’s actually, actually not how it works. It is not a mass medium by any stretch of the imagination. But because the paradigm is familiar to people who are into broadcast, and whether I’m broadcasting on television, or I’m broadcasting on radio, or if you think about it, even, uh, newsreels at the movie theater, or newspapers and magazines were being distributed in a way where you reached a lot of people with the same message at the same time.

Social media comes along and says, “I’m going to reach some people, and if the message is interesting enough, they’ll share it with other people. And if it’s really interesting enough, they’ll share it with other people.” That’s what makes it social. That’s a different model. That is a different paradigm. And as a result, yes, it is possible to be successful in that world.

And heaven knows I’ve done it, but it is not a mass medium. You need to focus on creating the kind of content that is shareable. How do I know this? Well, Russian trolls figured it out. Instead of creating a dull, boring content, they fabricated lies that were shareable.

[00:47:40] Matt Bailey: Yep.

[00:47:40] Greg Jarboe: And if a Russian troll can do it in St. Petersburg, why a university in, in Philadelphia, or, uh, a corporation that’s based in Detroit, or fill in the blank, hasn’t figured it out? It’s like, pardon me? It is a new medium. It is a new way of doing things. Search, interestingly enough, search reverses the old model.

[00:48:07] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:48:07] Greg Jarboe: Because the old model was a broadcast model, it pushed information at people. Search does things in reverse, people decide what they want to look for.

[00:48:17] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:48:18] Greg Jarboe: It’s like the inmates are running the asylum? It’s like, yeah, yeah. Guess what? That’s a different model too. And so again, the reason there are no professors of search, or professors of, uh, digital analytics, or, uh, professors of social media marketing who understand how social is different than broadcast media, um, is because they got their tenure in the late 20th century and they’re hanging on.

And there are probably a lot of adjunct professors, a lot of associate professors who do get it, but the old guard hasn’t died off yet. It’s going to take a generation before you begin teaching the right stuff, um, uh, in most of higher education. There are exceptions, and you and I know of some of them, but there aren’t enough exceptions yet.

[00:49:12] Matt Bailey: Well, and they’re being relegated to that adjunct role, and, uh, even, I think I saw a posting as well for a, uh, professor and it was of digital marketing. And again, it requires a PhD. I’m like, but…

[00:49:29] Greg Jarboe: Right.

[00:49:29] Matt Bailey: …anyone who knows this stuff, why would they go get a PhD? I mean, I I’m, I’m kind of looking at, you know, based on my age, why would I ever put myself through that and prevent myself from really enjoying life and doing what I love.

[00:50:00] And, and, and so until the, I think the university system even figures out that we can’t run this same way, and we can’t get the most up-to-date greatest people, if we’re putting these absolutely antiquated requirements in front of them.

[00:50:05] Greg Jarboe: Right. But, “We’re maintaining our high standards.”

[00:50:08] Matt Bailey: Oh, absolutely.

[00:50:09] Greg Jarboe: And the answer is, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re maintaining your high 19th century standards. Excuse me, nobody is taking the choo choo train to work anymore. Ok?”

[00:50:21] Matt Bailey: Oh, okay. We’re going to wrap this up here, but Greg, I have one more thing I want to, I want to throw out to you. One more thing.

[00:50:29] Greg Jarboe: Uh-oh.

[00:50:29] Matt Bailey: And I think this is something that people completely overlook. And that is, when I think about search, that means I am investing in my website, I am investing in my content and my media production, and the value there is that anything I produce and put on my site is an owned asset.

It’s mine. Anything, and, and people went through this with Facebook about five years ago. They’re building, they’re building, they’re building, and all of a sudden Facebook says, “Ah, we’re going to cut back your organic reach.” And, and this is what I tell them. Anytime you are building content on a third-party platform, you don’t own it. And they can change their terms of service tomorrow. They could change, and you have to pay for access because you don’t own anything there.

But when you’re investing in your own content, your own blog, your own video, your, you know, your media and it’s being published on your site, I think people completely overlook that view of their content, that, “This is an owned asset that I can use whatever way I want, and by the way, it’s producing amazing amounts of relevant visitors that are converting.”

[00:51:53] Greg Jarboe: Yeah, and you’re, you’re right. And part of that is because there is a model out there that says there is owned, there is earned, there is paid. And so, “Anything that isn’t paid, uh, is probably owned unless I earned it. And how do I earn it again?” Well, they’ve forgotten how to do that.

Now. Um, one of the things, and this is the reason why it’s called SEO PR, is I’m an old PR guy.

[00:52:20] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:52:20] Greg Jarboe: And we learned how to earn our coverage, okay, in, in the 20th century. And what I found in the 21st century, and this is sort of what put our little firm on the map, is we learned how to optimize press releases that aren’t on your website, they’re going out over, you know, Business Wire, PR Newswire, GlobeNewswire, you name it. They’re going out over a wire service and sometimes, maybe, possibly if the story’s interesting enough, you know? Yeah, yeah. We figured this out before the Russian trolls.

If the story is interesting enough, then mainstream media might pick it up, do a story about it, and it’s earned media. Now, again, I try to work with a lot of PR departments, and I will tell you that, uh, if you think SEO is frustrating, you, you haven’t met a PR department yet. You know, “That’s not what they taught us when I was a communications major in the 20th century.”

The answer is, “Yeah, I know it didn’t teach me that either. I used to do it the old way.”

[00:53:25] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:53:26] Greg Jarboe: I’m old enough to remember the old way. I learned that. Guess what? It doesn’t work that way anymore. And here’s the new news, roughly 25% of the journalists who were employed 15 years ago are unemployed today.

[00:53:43] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:53:44] Greg Jarboe: Out of work. And it’s not like they moved on to another medium. That includes digital journalists. In other words, there are literally fewer journalists today than there were 15 years ago, and that’s based on the, uh, pew research. So, how many PR departments, uh, had 15% cutbacks? None.

[00:54:04] Matt Bailey: Nope.

[00:54:05] Greg Jarboe: Because you’re busier than ever cranking out more stuff. And the answer is, that’s fine. You got fewer people to pitch it to. And I come along and I say, “By the way, there is a way that you can optimize the content that you used to pitch to journalists so that it can also be found by your perspective customers when they do a news search. And no, it’s not on your website, although frankly, you can archive your old press releases on your website, and that’s not a bad idea.”

But even for disposable content, like a press release, you, we’ve generated monetary results.

[00:54:46] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:54:46] Greg Jarboe: Money in the bank.

[00:54:48] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:54:48] Greg Jarboe: We did this with Southwest Airlines. We optimized 4 press releases for Southwest Airlines, generated $2.5 million in ticket sales, and when the COO said, “Oh, how do you know that this came from your press releases?”

We said, “Cause we put tracking links in it that are unique to the press release, so they don’t exist anywhere else. Nobody could guess this and come quote directly to your site and buy tickets. Oh, by the way, we kept the people who bought the tickets in a separate database, we compared it to your installed base of customers, two thirds of these people have never flown Southwest Airlines before in their life. Oh, by the way, they bought tickets for two round trip.”

[00:55:30] Matt Bailey: Brilliant. Wonderful.

[00:55:33] Greg Jarboe: But you literally have to go to that painful way of proving that yeah, yeah, yeah. You can optimize stuff that’s on your website. That’s what most of us do. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You can optimize stuff on your blog. But guess what? You can also earn media by optimizing other content, and that’s not round off error, $2.5 million paid for the PR department and then some. And we, we did that, actually, we did that over 14 months, so it’s more than an annual budget, but that is, you know, you measure the right thing, you can begin doing the right stuff.

[00:56:13] Matt Bailey: I love it, because what you talked about, so, you know, I brought up your websites and owned asset. The more you invest, the more you optimize, the more you see the results. You’re taking, you know, the other part of SEO, you know, another active part of SEO, and that is probably, I love to argue with people about link building because from the PR aspect, there’s no better way of building links, and you, you know, and getting results, monetizable results out of it.

So that’s the other part of SEO, and then what you described there is also a hefty knowledge of analytics. Because without that, it’s just busy work. And from both sides, you know, optimization, as well as PR and building those links, that analytics prowess combined with SEO knowledge, I think that’s what we’re missing in a lot of organizations and that’s what we need to see a lot more of.

[00:57:08] Greg Jarboe: Yes, yes, yes. And that’s why people should be listening to this podcast because they will learn stuff here they didn’t learn in college that they’re unfortunately not hearing at industry conferences these days, because those are all gone virtual and they’re all talking about, um, core web vitals and it’s like, yeah, yeah, yeah. Got it.

[00:57:29] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:57:29] Greg Jarboe: Right. Uh, plumbing. Okay?

[00:57:33] Matt Bailey: Well, and most of the time, that’s the platform. I have no control over the platform. Uh, I, yeah.

[00:57:39] Greg Jarboe: Yeah. And pardon me if you do it, how much more revenue will I get this month?

[00:57:45] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:57:45] Greg Jarboe: That’s the question. If you spend a lot of time improving your “core vitals,” you know, show me the money.

[00:57:53] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:57:53] Greg Jarboe: What did, how did it pay off? If you improve your organic search results or your conversion ratios, cool. But if you’re not measuring that, then it’s busy work on steroids.

[00:58:06] Matt Bailey: Absolutely. Absolutely. I’ve seen that a lot. And people were complaining about the rankings and you know, when that’s something we’ve experienced for years, people talk about rankings, but I got to tell you this story.

So I was in a boardroom and on their, on the corner of the board, it was visitors last month, visitors the month prior. And they were concerned because visitors are going down. And I asked them, “Well, how about your leads?”

“Oh, they’re going up.”

“Good. How about your sales?”

“Oh, those are going up, too. But these visitor counts are what we’re concerned about.”

And I had to explain to them that, you do realize there’s not a direct correlation between visits and leads and sales. It was, it was like I just spoke a different language at that point, because I think that was just a natural correlation that people make. And I’m trying to explain to them that part of this is we’re getting the right visitors, as well as making the website easier to use. And, uh, it’s just, again, it comes back to that education piece, a lot of assumptions, more equals better.

[00:59:09] Greg Jarboe: Right. Or, it’s still the sales funnel, right? And the more I get in on the top, the more that will trickle down to the bottom. Well, um, pard, pardon me, the old sales funnel was invented in the 1920s. The world doesn’t work that way anymore.

[00:59:25] Matt Bailey: No. No.

[00:59:25] Greg Jarboe: Okay? At best, at best the customer journey is, it looks like somebody wandering through a corn maze. Okay?

[00:59:34] Matt Bailey: It makes no sense at all, but oh, wow. Greg, hey, it has been, I, I miss sitting and talking with you and, uh, you know, over a cup of coffee and it’s been a joy.

[00:59:45] Greg Jarboe: We used to do this at industry conferences.

[00:59:47] Matt Bailey: Yeah.

[00:59:48] Greg Jarboe: You know, we’d do it five times a year. This was good stuff.

[00:59:50] Matt Bailey: That’s why I started the podcast is because I miss, I miss having those times, and this is as close as we can get to it right now.

[00:59:57] Greg Jarboe: Oh, okay. Alright. Okay. Fair enough. Fair enough.

[01:00:00] Matt Bailey: So, Greg, hey, thank you so much for your time this morning. I really appreciate you, uh, coming on the podcast.

[01:00:06] Greg Jarboe: Thank you, Matt for having me back. I know, um, uh, I have to earn my way back. So, next time I’ll try to come up with something even more provocative, and I will name even newer names, but, um, you know, there you have it.

[01:00:19] Matt Bailey: Alright, Greg. Thank you. Listener, hey, I hope this has been an enjoyable podcast. You’ve gotten to, uh, peer in on a, on a fun discussion between two old friends about SEO. And I hope this has been educational and helpful, especially if you’re the one in there flying the flag and advocating for SEO within your organization.

Greg, as always, thank you. And dear listener, thank you for tuning in to the Endless Coffee Cup. I hope to see you again on a future episode.

Featured Guest:

Greg Jarboe

CEO & Co-Founder, SEO-PR

LinkedIn: Greg Jarboe | LinkedIn

Twitter: Greg Jarboe | Twitter

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