Congratulations. We’ve (almost!) made it through another year. If you’ve been on the internet at least once in the last, oh, three weeks, you know that December is a time for year-end-lists and other assorted forms of naval gazing. This year especially. And I get it. As we enter 2020—a year that sounds so intrinsically futuristic—it’s tough not to wax poetic. However, instead of making predictions about the state of marketing in the coming year, I’d like to muse about automation and humanity (*steps on soapbox*) and why these themes matter to our clients.
The specter of automation is by no means a new topic. As this Atlantic article from 2015 claims, humanity has been predicting the rise of machines for centuries. Most recently, apprehensions of automation have manifested in the form of universal basic income, or, the idea that subsidies should be distributed nationally as reprisal for displaced workers. But the truth is that machines have been improving human tasks for hundreds of years. We’ve just gotten numb to the resulting aftermath. Scribes were displaced by the invention of the printing press in 1439. 19th-century weavers and knitters were impacted by the mechanized loom. Hell, factory workers have felt, and continue to feel, the global industrial complex’s emphasis on efficiency.
However, because we’re so far removed from these historical perspectives, I’d argue that we view them in a macroeconomic lens. Instead of eulogizing specific factory workers that have lost their jobs, what’s remembered are the large-scale outcomes afforded by these innovations. Fortune favors the bold. That’s why everyone from Johannes Gutenberg to Elon Musk are household names. And automation has been the core of the human experience for centuries. But maybe it’s high time to slow down for a second and consider its broader impacts.
It’s easy to be pessimistic about technology, given today’s socioeconomic climate. In his 2018 book entitled New Dark Age, James Bridle muses on the mystique of automation and argues that a perpetual misunderstanding of emerging technologies will lead to this titular dark age. He claims that a feeble-minded acceptance of technology as a value-added tool is simplistic and base. However, despite its particularly morose title, the book isn’t all doom and gloom. Instead, it’s a call-to-action to examine not only how computers work—but how and why they do what they do. In the context of digital marketing, this means thinking about how advertising platforms like Google, Bing, LinkedIn, and Facebook, and more interact with users and businesses.
At Workshop Digital, we live and breathe these ideas. SEO analysts are forced to alter course when Google updates its algorithms; paid media analysts must stay on top of automated bidding and testing updates. While there are some secrets that Google continues to withhold (it is a business after all; divulging every last secret would be akin to the company giving away its proverbial secret sauce), it’s also possible to interact with elements of automation in a helpful way. Because at the end of the day, the goal of leveraging Google—at least in the context of search marketing—is to make it easier for users to locate and enjoy your content.
We believe it’s our responsibility to explain the digital world in terms that everyone can grasp—in 2020 and beyond. In doing so, we empower our clients to understand complex tools and platforms. I’d also argue that people crave humanity in their digital experiences—now, more than ever. This may be a knee-jerk reaction stemming from some of the sentiments described above. Therefore, from content development to client interactions, bringing humanity into daily operations is at the core of the Workshop experience.
Here are just a few ways that we bring humanity back into digital marketing.
Exceeding Goals Through Active Account Management
In an article from 2018, Search Engine Land reviews several components of paid search that Google Ads now automates. Smart Campaigns, for example, provide small businesses with automated targeting and goals-based bidding capabilities. Goal-optimized shopping campaigns can automatically run product and remarketing ads on the Google Display Network using data and predictive analysis to achieve maximum sales value. And automated bidding finds Google analyzing auction-time signals to predict the likelihood of conversions.
As these examples illustrate, Google can help businesses automate certain aspects of their paid advertising strategy. It can be argued that this is inherently a good thing, as it saves businesses money and helps ensure their efforts pay off. However, while Google has its abilities to predict and project, having a human touch is indispensable. Understanding the nuances of automated tasks helps provide brands with a more holistic understanding of the advertising experience.
While Google may successfully leverage machine learning features across Smart Campaigns, it’s tough to gain oversight across a multifaceted marketing campaign without humans. Sure, Google will almost certainly meet your goals with the budgets you’ve established. But working with an agency helps ensure your accounts are actively managed so you exceed your goals to grow your business. Ultimately, driving success is more than setting and forgetting an account. It takes nuanced iteration and analysis. And this is driven by inherently human qualities like creativity, empathy, and strategic thinking.
Catering Content Around the End-User
In the early days of SEO copywriting and website design, an emphasis was placed on creating content around the needs of Google and other search engines. Were robots crawling the right pages? Were they receiving the right content? Were keywords being catered around the needs of the algorithms? What this resulted in was an excess of content that came off as robotic.
This outdated method of thinking has been replaced with a more strategic approach to content creation. These days, you must create high-value content centered around the end user: on your webpages and behind the scenes. For example, on-page SEO should be catered around the needs of your customers. Answer user questions and incorporate front-end and back-end best practices—including site architecture and HTML components—into your strategy. But it’s also important to engineer your strategy around both your end user and the search engines. Technical SEO is all about ensuring your site is organized and that pages are linked in a logical way. Because if you can’t find content in the first place, it doesn’t matter how good it is.
As we’ve reiterated numerous times, Google rewards content that displays expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness(also as EAT). Basically, Google awards high-quality pages that serve a purpose and accomplish its goals. This is done by writing authoritatively about topics, citing your sources, focusing on specific goals, and being transparent about your intent. In other words, Google favors content that’s honest, transparent—and human.
Leveraging Tools to Make the Most of 2020
In the digital marketing sphere, automation is not so much a harbinger of a dark age as it is an opportunity to engage with technologies that can potentially improve your business efforts. As marketers and business owners, we should take this as a call to arms. In 2020 and beyond, the internet will continue to be rife with nefarious players. But if we strive to make sense of the tools at our disposal, we can continue to elevate our business objectives.