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The Value of Testing

For all of the clamor surrounding it, and all of the changes it’s experienced in the last few years, the reality is that the digital marketing space is still in its infancy. As such, there are a number of inconsistencies, hazards, and (for lack of a better word) mistakes being made on a regular basis by digital marketers, blunting the effectiveness of otherwise-viable campaigns. But perhaps the most grievous thing I’ve seen is good talent being stretched well past the point of its capacity.

In a way, it makes sense. Digital marketing requires something of a jack-of-all trades skill set, and working within an industry that is constantly changing and adapting, those marketers who are best able to fill a variety of roles are the ones that thrive. However, even those marketers with the deepest bag of tricks probably don’t have a bottomless well of stamina, and when they force themselves to burn too brightly, they burn out all the more quickly.

When burnout occurs, marketers often find themselves unconsciously cutting corners, and when this happens, bad digital marketing decisions are generally the result—not from lack of talent or skill, but because of how few hours there are in a day. To put it simply, when you overwork your marketers, you end up skimping on data. And when you skimp on data, you get bad results.

The Bigger they Are, the Harder They Crawl

My eyes were opened to the dangers of burnout while attending the Share 15 digital marketing conference this last year. While there, I had the opportunity to meet many talented marketers who led teams for some very prominent organizations (including certain Fortune 500 companies). But while I was impressed with their levels of experience, I was astonished at how remarkably small many of the teams were—usually fewer than five members. These individuals were each filling so many roles, that they often found themselves having to focus on the quantity of tasks needing to be done, without being able to give each task the quality effort it deserved. Even more surprising is that this problem seems to become counterintuitively more pronounced as a company grows—the bigger the organization, the bigger the stress on these few individuals responsible for its digital marketing efforts, and the less time available for implementing data-driven solutions.

Data, Data Everywhere, Nor any Byte to Use to Make Informed Decisions

In a perfect world, we as marketers and business owners would have no problem running tests and gathering data, enabling ourselves to make informed decisions, and ensuring that we have the confidence to move forward. Data is not difficult to find. In fact, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day, and that number is only going to grow as technology becomes more and more ubiquitous. But even though the amount of available data is constantly increasing, the amount of time available for capturing, analyzing, and acting upon that data remains constant. As such, this is not a perfect world, and when faced with looming deadlines and restless clients, we sometimes find ourselves hastily having to act, without being able to make time for adequate preparation. But while this may mean happier clients and fewer missed deadlines in the short term, the long term damage that this does to an organization cannot be overstressed. After all, data-gathering and preparation are the foundation of any process, and when that foundation isn’t given the proper attention it needs, then everything that’s built on it falls apart.

There’s no Accounting for SERPs

To make this issue even more difficult, one needs only look at the search engine ranking pages (SERPs) that marketers use in gauging the success of their campaigns. The marketing neophyte would likely assume that the factors at play in determining SERP results are consistent from one keyword to the next. But the reality is that Google’s ranking algorithms are much more complex than that, and tend to respond to digital marketing efforts in ways that are often difficult to anticipate. What does that mean for us? Well, it means that there is no single tried-and-true method, no magical equation, and no secret recipe that can be used to always ensure that a keyword makes it to the front page. Instead, every keyword must be approached as something completely unique. And to do that with any level of effectiveness takes an in-depth understanding of the associated data.

Deus 97x Machina

At 97th Floor, we know that data is more than just the background noise of the digital universe; it’s the very fabric of marketing success, which is why we invest a significant portion of our time into data mining—scouring the web, identifying and quantifying valuable keywords, and testing those keywords to help better understand their effectiveness. But while these data-focused processes have certainly paid off for us as a company, we feel like there’s so much more that we could be doing.

Enter 97x.

97x is the new research and development department at 97th Floor, and is focused on pursuing answers to those digital marketing questions that keep you up at night. This department is designed to feed even greater insight into our decisions, resulting in the kind of data-driven solutions that make for unshakable business-foundations.

Our clients shouldn’t have to see data as mystifying or incomprehensible; they deserve to be able to understand exactly how and why digital information is affecting their business, by having access to the same advantages that come from having a dedicated, superior in-house team of professionals, but without having to invest the time or manpower that go along with it. Basically, they can keep the small, multi-talented teams that they prefer, without having to sacrifice on data. This is the future that 97x offers.

Chump Change?

I am reminded of a point that was made by Dr. Pete Meyers at the 2015 Mozcon digital marketing conference while discussing the issue of Google Authorship.

Google Authorship was a short-lived experiment, by which Google was able to attribute authorship to online content, and to help influence page click through rates. And while some digital marketers predicted that Google Authorship would ultimately be abandoned, there were some who dedicated themselves towards understanding and utilizing Google Authorship in their marketing efforts, much to the derision of the aforementioned naysayers. And, when Google Authorship was eventually discontinued in 2014, those same naysayers were quick to say ‘I told you so.’

But in his discussion, Dr. Pete said something that really stuck with me, and that has even become something of a mantra for my team: He asked, “Who’s the chump?”

When all was said and done, the people who leveraged authorship made increased revenue over a few years, while those who scoffed at them ended up with nothing but their misguided smugness to show for it. And what was the investment on the end of those who leveraged Google Authorship? Not much; it honestly took very little time to get oneself positioned for authorship. So, in the end, who was the chump—the marketer who tested authorship and increased revenue, or the naysayer who never took action at all? To 97x, the answer is obvious.

97x will always be the first to invest in new digital trends, bringing our in-depth understanding, experience-honed capabilities, and unquenchable thirst for data awareness into play for our clients, even if we end up looking like chumps in the process. Because, in the end, data is what makes the digital world go ‘round—it’s only fitting that it power digital marketing, too.

Josh Moody

Josh Moody is the Director of R&D at 97th Floor.

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