Five Martech and SEO Challenges Facing the CMO in 2021

Martech and SEO go hand in hand. But, the expectations of marketing technology are fundamentally changing. The evolving role of the CMO coupled with the growing need for serious investment in SEO and greater efficiency are all combining to suggest that 2021 will see huge disruption, even as we (hopefully) return to some form of normality.

At our recent DeepCrawl Live event, we showed delegates how to navigate a digital-first landscape, optimize their website for the future, and reimagine their approach to customer experience. But we also discussed the enormous challenges facing the CMOs. Here are some of my key takeaways.

Cmos Will Have to Make a Compelling Business Case for Investment in SEO 

DeepCrawl’s Digital Future report revealed that the top challenge experienced by respondents is the reality that SEO is still not treated as a high enough priority in their organization. Nearly half (46%) of respondents claimed to have faced this, inevitably linking to the challenge that SEO is seen as ‘free’, and so does not win budget (24%).

Ben Legg, former COO of Google Europe and Author of ‘Marketing for CEOs – Death or Glory in the Digital Age’, advised brands on how to make the business case for investment in SEO. He compared it to the investment that might be made into paid-for traffic. “How much traffic does SEO deliver for me?” asked Legg. “And if I had to pay $1 each, how much money would that get? Simplistically, that’s the value, because the alternative, if you have no SEO strategy is to buy all your traffic.”

Marketers Need to Get Real About Their SEO Performance Gap

An impressive 89% of respondents in the Digital Future Report claimed that their organization’s response to COVID-19 has been at least somewhat effective. Despite this confidence, there continues to be a wide performance gap, with not enough being done to raise the strategic importance of search.

Only 13% report that respondent organizations’ current SEO efforts are ‘very effective’ in meeting marketing goals, while just 8% of respondents labeled their organizations’ ability to calculate the return on investment from SEO as excellent.

If You Don’t Personalize You Won’t Get Cut-Through

The customer expects everything to be tailored, so every experience should be highly personalized.

We need to find ways to distinguish between the communication preferences of customers to gain a deeper understanding of how they perceive new information. Then we need to tailor our messages to these different types of information perceptions.

Think about semantics, design, tone of voice, narrative, language, images, and general moods that will best resonate with every individual customer.

As Nancy Rademaker, an expert in customer centricity, digital transformation, technology and culture, pointed out: “We as customers have literally put ourselves in the center of our own universes.”

Marketers Need to Be Prepared for the Shift From Big Data to Big Ops

Scott Brinker, the Godfather of marketing technology, suggested that there are around 20 million professional app developers in the world today, and by 2030 that may be closer to 45 million. The result is going to be “millions and millions” of apps. Brinker dubbed this “the great app explosion”, and the result will be a shift of focus towards managing data activation to deliver great experiences.

“Increasingly our challenge is how we apply automation and machine learning to leverage data for automated decision-making in a matter of milliseconds,” said Brinker. “And this gets us into really new territory. We’ve spent the past 10 years talking so much about big data and how we deal with the scale and complexity of all this data that’s being collected, stored and analyzed. But now, the challenge moving into this next decade is more about big ops. How do we scale and deal with the complexity of all these different apps, automation, AI, and so on that are all interacting with this data simultaneously?”

The CMO Can No Longer Be ‘Intelligent Lazy’

Against this backdrop of disappointing returns, the CEOs of many companies are giving consideration to what kind of Chief Marketing Officers would be more effective in the new normal – and what the perfect skillset is.

This thought process means that the role is fundamentally changing. Legg characterized the CMO of the past as ‘intelligent lazy’, in that they would focus on developing strategy but then outsource their plans to agencies.

But, companies are increasingly bringing more of their activation in-house, due to the need for integration with the company’s database and with tactical plans. “Any CMO that won’t roll up their sleeves and get stuff done fast is probably not the right person,” suggested Legg.