Monday, October 21, 2013

Requirements Analysis for Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing (SEO, Optimization, whatever you call it) is not a ‘packaged diet’. You have to work with a strategist to get the right things done.

Like Software Development process, Requirements Analysis is the first step in Digital Marketing; it should be. If you are preparing Digital Marketing Strategy for your own product, your company or a client, you have to define the goals very clearly and then map the goals to definite action items.

I always had problems with SEO Packages. Even when it was predictive on how to rank in Google, I never believed that a premade SEO Plan can be helpful. What works for Jack might not work for Jill! I always asked my clients “What do you want to achieve with your website?” The answer determines what to be done for the client.

I remember speaking to an entrepreneur who just formed a startup; they were selling discount medicine cards in Canada. “We want to rank in the first page of Google”, they said. “Why?”, I asked. They had no answer. I helped them to find the reasons – “Probably, you need leads, you need visitors to your website?” They agreed. “Then why don’t you start with PPC and as the organic traffic increases, you can reduce your PPC budget and focus more on organic growth.” Organic growth does not come overnight.

A person with abilities to identify the business requirements should work with the client to understand what they want. And then, come up with the right Digital Marketing Strategy to achieve the targets in next 3 months, 6 months or 1 year. Often the requirements are mentioned in client’s own term – the analyst has to translate them into technical term and map each of the requirements to specific action items.

Here is a use case that explains what I said above.

Assume someone wants to generate leads through website. They want the visitors to fill out a small form and that’s it. The website is new and the company is targeting 1000 monthly signups in a year.

That’s the requirements written in English. Now, you have to interpret in your own language – something like this:

  1. The website needs more visits
  2. The visitors must fill out the form 

If I translate the requirements to technical term; it will look like:

  1. Generate traffic
  2. Enhance usability
  3. Optimize for higher conversions

Then we need to set action items that will help achieve the goals:

1. Generate traffic: There can be two avenues; organic and paid. Sketch a plan to get the website indexed and keep improving ranks in search engines. You need to focus on both on-page and off-page stuff. PPC can help to generate traffic from day one. No matter how old your website is. However, you might need to create landing pages.

There has to be a daily, weekly and monthly list of deliverables. Regular monitoring will help you identify whether the progress is up to the mark.

2. User experience is important; Google prefers the websites that offer good user experience (I am sure Google has its own way of measuring it). This is a continuous process and you can always make it better – monitor user behavior, collect data and make changes based on them. There are tools that help you implement the best practices.

3. Conversion optimization is a vast subject; based on your Sales process, you have to formulate the right conversion optimization strategy. For the example we are considering, placement of the form, message around the form, font, color of the font etc. can lead to higher conversion. The optimization process for Organic and Paid traffic will be different.

There will be a list action items under these three categories. A strategist will make the list depending up on the present condition of the website and then move forward.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lata Am

There are things which are so obvious that you do not need to mention them always. And even if it is not written anywhere, people should not have any difficulty to understand (unless they are robots).

Let me share a story.

Me and my brother used to take English classes after school. Our teacher was a convent educated lady; while teaching English she used to give us lessons on discipline, etiquettes, lifestyle and all. She was a great teacher indeed, a bit short tempered though.

There was a boy in our class, Mithun, who used to do mistakes every now and then. We were learning Present Continuous Tense that day. After explaining the chapter, Aunty asked us to translate a sentence from Bengali to English:

Aunty: Lata bhaat khachchhe.

We wrote: Lata is eating rice.
Mithun wrote: Lata eats rice.

Aunty tried to explain with another example; and the conversation with Mithun went something like this:

Aunty: ami bhaat khachchhi 
Mithun: I am eating rice.
Aunty: Lata bhaat khachchhe
Mithun: Lata am eating rice.

Enough. Aunty could not hold anger any more – started shouting – “Lata am? Lata am? Hmm? Lata AAAM?”

When Aunty gave the other example, I was almost sure that Mithun would make this mistake. Maybe Aunty expected Mithun to have common sense!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Product Companies Prefer In-house Digital Marketing Team. Question Mark.

SEOMoz dropped SEO to be Moz! Does it indicate that time has come for all to drop SEO? A big question mark indeed!
According to me, SEO has evolved and become something more than link building. SEO was never about link building; and this time, Google has made sure that the fact goes deeper into people’s mind – that’s it.
So Digital Marketing is the right word to use. Now, the question is: Whether product companies (including startups) prefer in-house digital marketing team or not? Some may; some may not – let me share my experience of interacting with some CEOs who head tech startups.
Darker Side of Outsourcing the Digital Marketing Department
  1. How can the agency understand my product? Someone who does not know about my product, can never market it. 
  2. Even if someone at the agency spends some time to learn about my product, what is the guarantee that person will not leave? (When asked that the same thing might happen for in-house team also, they said they would develop parallel knowledge leaders). 
  3. Most of the agencies are not honest and do tricks to boost rank (to fool clients) which might have adverse effect on the website in the longer run. 
  4. After 6 months if the agency does not deliver – who will lose money? We. 
  5. We just don’t want to outsource – we hate the word ‘outsource’! We would rather build a team! 
Brighter Side of Outsourcing the Digital Marketing Department
(mostly my inputs)
  1. You get started immediately – no need to build a team to get leads online. 
  2. Select an ethical agency and you are done – there are plenty of ways of finding competent digital marketing agencies. 
  3. Have someone in your team who understand digital marketing and can coordinate with the agency. Let this person become the knowledge leader from your side (domain knowledge and marketing knowledge). Outsource the execution part – lesser pressure on you. 
  4. Team building is expensive and time consuming. It is very difficult to get talented resources in this field who will work for a product startup (in case). 
  5. If the in-house team does not perform you will be in a greater mess; so let the activities be handled by those who know it (make sure they know it). 
So equal votes on both the sides. Actually, if you go out and check, you will find both types of product companies – those who outsource and those who do not outsource. However, there is a gap; and agencies can take the call and bridge the gap.
What do you think?

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Senior SEO Consultant Candidate – A Real Story

Why this story. Being a Senior SEO Consultant and Strategist, I keep getting a lot of CVs from people who are looking for jobs in SEO, PPC, Content Writing etc. Recently I received a CV, in which the candidate ‘claimed’ to be a Senior SEO Consultant and explained that how good he was at On-page, Link Building, Article submission etc. Is this what we expect from a Senior SEO Consultant Candidate?

FYI, I am endorsed for a lot of skills, which are not directly related to SEO.

[Flashback] May 2, 2005 - Started my career in SEO

May 2, 2005 - I joined my first SEO job at a Kolkata based product company. Vikas Kedia of Stanford was the CEO. Shimul, a great friend and very knowledgeable person, and Biplab joined us on the same day. Anirudh (co-founder of joined us few days later; I think after a week or so. After so many years, I am still in touch with Shimul and Anirudh – we often get together to organize events in Kolkata. I was lucky to get Aji as my mentor there. Needless to mention that I am still in touch with Aji heavily (we work at TechShu together).

Back in 2005 we started with very basic things; the concept of contextual and natural link was coming up then. However, it was Aji who taught us why SEO is more than SEO! Surprisingly, many SEO consultants cannot imagine this even now.

As you grow with time, your responsibilities keep changing. A junior SEO consultant candidate is more into execution; on the other hand, a senior SEO consultant candidate is more in to planning and strategy making. At the same time, it is the job of senior people to get things done. That’s where I am now.

Junior Vs. Senior SEO Consultant Candidate

Most of the junior candidates usually think that it is easy to become the boss. However, as you move to a senior position, you realize that it is much simpler to follow instructions rather than giving instructions. A senior SEO consultant candidate has to come up with strategy, communicate with the clients, work with the team to make them understand what to be done, train the team members if required and finally get the things done on time maintaining the right quality!

And things become tougher when the success of the project depends on the people who are not in your direct control. For example, as a senior SEO consultant you might need to work on various aspects of SEO and Digital Marketing such as Content, Design, Social Media, Development etc. Now, those departments are often distributed under several heads and experts. You can send requisition, but you cannot control the team.

But nothing is impossible; as a junior SEO consultant needs to learn how to execute, a senior SEO consultant candidate should learn how to get things done. Now, you have to learn something which is not directly related to SEO. Here comes the knowledge of management!

As a senior SEO candidate, it is expected that you will be an expert in all the parts of SEO and Digital Marketing. Your profile, your portfolio would be the evidence. But how can one judge that you are a good manager too?

[Coming back to present] A senior SEO consultant candidate should be a good manager

Managing a team is not all about giving instructions and getting things done – it is about how you get it done keeping the team spirit bright, on time and adhering to quality. Some management knowledge would be of real help here.

SEO and Digital Marketing has always been my strength, to be honest. My thorough experience of PPC has helped me get the Googles AdWords Certification as well. However, the thing that I should learn to become a complete senior SEO consultant candidate is the management tricks. To solve this problem, I have recently started following the Open Courseware of MIT, Harvard and other reputed schools. I am also reading a lot of books (special thanks to Aji) to learn how it works at management level. I am sure, that some day, I will make it there too.

Role of a senior SEO consultant candidate – My perception

Here is what I think (written from the perspective of a service based digital marketing or SEO agency).

  1. Understand what your client needs – they might tell you that they need SEO, but probably PPC is the best channel for them – so explain it to them. Even to do SEO, you have to understand client’s business properly. You can’t be just SEO anymore and Rand confirms that
  2. SEO is essential for all – organizations that are looking for Sales, Growth or Branding – SEO is essential for all of them. This should be properly communicated to the client
  3. Next is keyword research and competitive analysis. While doing keyword research, it is important to find the intent associated with the keywords. For example, an ecommerce website will only be benefitted if it targets keywords with buying intent, not research intent. 
  4. SEO audit, or a through health check of the website is very much essential (assuming the client has a website, if the client is developing a new website to do SEO, as a senior SEO consultant candidate, you must get involved in the development process). There are 75+ parameters that need to be checked. 
  5. Gone are the days of bulk content writing and link building. This is the era of creativity (thanks to Google’s updates). With content, you have to come up with a great strategy. Something that will be helpful for the readers. Then links will come automatically and that is what Google expects you to do.
  6. Local SEO is another important part; for small, local businesses such as restaurants, spas, salons etc. local SEO can be of great help. And through Google Places optimization, websites might make it to the first page of Google smoothly.
  7. Social signals – this is another important part of SEO these days. Social signals such as comments, likes, shares etc. help search engines get clue on how good the content is. Obviously strong social signal goes in your favor. 
  8. Responsive Design – I would make it a part of SEO. A lot of people are searching web from mobile devices; this would help you to tap them.
  9. Track and measure – as a senior SEO consultant you have to constantly track your activities, measure ROI and understand which activity is giving you the best result. A brief understanding of Google Analytics is compulsory. One strategy might not work for all – unless you test, you cannot identify what will work for who. 
  10. Get things done – the strategy that you prepare for the clients should be executed. A lot of SEO consultants are good at strategy level, but unless you execute your plan, it is of no use. So you have to build a team and train them on how to do things. How to map their activities to the client’s goal. 
  11. Finally, a senior SEO consultant candidate should be in constant touch with the clients, educate them, help them understand the process of SEO. This will help the organization in the longer run. 
  12. Follow SEO communities and experts to upgrade your knowledge constantly.

(Feel free to comment below if you think I have missed anything)

Therefore, friends, who claim themselves to be Senior SEO consultant candidate, think before adding this title before your name. Years of experience does not make you senior; it’s your knowledge that makes you senior. 

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Rural Innovation Awards by Sahaj, SREI Venture Initiative

Sahaj e-Village has been working to make information and knowledge reach all corners of the country. To recognize the innovators who are working hard to develop the rural India, Sahaj has come up with Rural Innovation Awards programme.

This is a great opportunity for the entrepreneurs, students, SMEs or anybody working in Technology for Development field. As mentioned on Sahaj's website, a lot of great innovations never won any award, nor did the innovators get any recognition. Invention of wheel, pencil, compass etc. were great achievement - these groundbreaking innovations never won any award. But innovators of today's India can get recognition - Sahaj Rural Innovation Awards is a platform for them.

Winners will get cash prizes. According to me, money is secondary here - the inspiration, visibility such events offer is much more than cash prize. Money matters; but innovators who dream something big and working hard to change the rural India, need immense support from society. And Sahaj's event is all about that.

My best wishes for Sahaj; look forward to know about some great stories of innovation from all across the country!

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Good Luck Tamil Nadu

India based multi-city startup accelerator, GSF has partnered with Chennai Angels and to begin its fourth investment cycle in Chennai from April 2013. The GSF Accelerator programme was started by Rajesh Sawhney, Former Reliance Entertainment President & Founder of GSF Superangels. GSF Superangels provides seed funding to the promising Indian startups.
To boost the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Chennai, GSF will select 4 most promising startups from Tamil Nadu for its nine-week long acceleration programme. Each of the selected startups will receive funding of $28,000 initially, along with mentorship and support from GSF’s angel network. Applications for 2013 batch will be accepted from middle of March. GSF will also recruit 4 Chennai based entrepreneurs in residence who will support the entire process.
Chennai Angels, an angel group from South India will provide mentorship and capital to the startups selected by GSF. India focused matrimony portal will provide co-location space and similar services.
By expanding to Chennai, GSF takes a step forward to secure strong presence in the major tech hubs of the country – Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai. “Chennai has grown rapidly in the last couple of years as a leading technology hub in India and with GSF’s presence, Chennai’s integration with the global startup ecosystem will accelerate in the coming years”, said Rajesh Sawhney, Founder of GSF Superangels.
“With the mentorship and strength of the local angels and GSF networks we believe that entrepreneurs will be provided with stronger tools to succeed well beyond our regional and national borders in a more accelerated and successful manner,” said Sameer Mehta of Chennai Angels. Founder and CEO of, Murugavel Janakirama commented, “Happy to associate with GSF which I strongly believe would add momentum to the start up ecosystem in Chennai.”
With a network of 17 entrepreneurs in residence from all over the world and 20 founders and investors, GSF’s primary focus is on tech, mobile and cloud space. But they are flexible; they can shift focus to other areas if there is something very exciting. Applicants will be evaluated on the basis of three factors – founders, market opportunity and innovation.
In 2012, GSF Superangels funded three companies – Autowale, Biosense and They are keen to fund five companies among all those who showcased in GSF 2012. Let’s see who all crack it this year; and good luck Tamil Nadu!