Personalisation has been a snazzy buzzword for a little while now. For the past few years, as automation technology improves, customers have begun to expect a certain level of personalisation when dealing with a company. Which means that digital marketers have jumped on that bandwagon with gusto. But have we been doing it discerningly? Are we making sure our personalisation strategies actually help our CRO efforts?

Being in the world of digital marketing means that there are new technology developments, new pieces of software, and new trends all the time. It’s up to us to keep up with them all, if we want to stay relevant and competitive. But it’s not enough to blindly follow the latest gizmo without any analytical thought or consideration. We have to make these developments work for us, not the other way around.

So how can we make sure our personalisation strategies help CRO?

What are you personalising?

Thanks to automation and AI, there are all kinds of things we can be personalising for our customers. But does that mean we should be? Hopefully you’ll all agree that the answer is no. Personalisation can be expensive, so it’s not something to roll out willy-nilly. Plus, if you’re doing it all over the place, you’re likely to start annoying your customers, rather than helping (and ultimately, converting) them.

It comes down to easing pain points. Every customer journey has some speed-bumps or potholes along the way. It’s up to you to find out what they are, and apply personalisation to resolve them. It could be something tiny, like UX tweaks on a form, or it could be something massive, like targeted ad campaigns based on browsing behaviour. Either way, you need to understand the issues your customers face and find a way to remove them.

It will come as no surprise to any seasoned digital marketer that this means three things: surveying your customers, speaking to customer service teams, and testing, testing, testing. The key thing is to focus on the end goal. You are always working towards increasing your conversion rate. While that may sound obvious, it’s easy to forget when you’ve got higher-ups breathing down your neck, demanding personalisation in the wrong places, for the wrong reasons.

Why are you personalising it?

Which brings us neatly onto the question of why. Are you only personalising things because your boss said so? If you are, you’re going to need to stop. With personalisation, the clue is in the name. If it isn’t closely tied to the individual customer (the person), then it isn’t working. Your boss is not the customer and chances are, they never will be. Don’t fall into the trap of personalising for the wrong person. It’s an expensive and time-consuming mistake to make.

Thankfully, if you put time and effort into deciding what you are personalising, you’ve probably got a good idea of why you’re doing it too. The important thing is to keep this reason uppermost in your mind throughout the project. Don’t ever lose sight of why you’re personalising this particular thing and don’t let anyone steer you off course.

Managing upwards is no easy task, whether it’s a client, or your own CEO. But when you’re the specialist, particularly in a field that is constantly changing, you’ve got to stand your ground. Talking in terms of facts and figures is always the best option. When egos and emotions get involved, it’s much harder to see the wood for the trees and do what’s best for the business. If you bring it back down to actual statistics and realistic projections, then that’s hard to argue with.

Can you fix a misguided strategy?

If you’re already some way down the path with a strategy that doesn’t know what it’s doing or why, then all is not lost. As with anything in this wonderful industry, nothing is set in stone, and there are always more things to try. But you have to be willing to draw a line under your actions so far, and dedicate yourself to doing this right. The best personalisation is going to be different for every niche, every sector and every business, but as long as you are doing it for the right reasons, that’s what matters.

The biggest challenge might be convincing your bosses, and that’s no mean feat. But if you can get them to give you a chance, the improved conversion rates and increased revenue will speak for you. Pick your battles and fight them hard. Personalisation is a powerful tool, but only if it’s based on solid research and decent testing.

Nothing in the world of digital marketing comes for free. It would be nice if it did, but unfortunately, things just aren’t that simple. There’s a cost associated with everything, and a huge part of digital marketing is balancing that cost against the revenue it could generate in the long run.

Social Media Marketing can sometimes seem like a cheap option. The accounts are all free, and posting can just be part of someone’s job, right? That’s certainly the attitude many companies have. But when you think like that, it’s easy to miss the true cost of Social Media Marketing.

The true cost: regular posting

Anyone who has mastered the basics of Social Media Marketing will know that you have to post regularly to have any chance of success. If you don’t, your competitors will get in front of your audience first, and algorithms will push you further and further down people’s feeds.

You could be forgiven for thinking that regular posting is easy. It’s just a little update or an image, right? That attitude is going to get you nowhere. This kind of thinking treats your Social Media Marketing as an afterthought, when really, it’s an essential part of your arsenal. Posting regularly isn’t going to be cheap, but it is going to be worth it.

Hidden cost: market research. To post regularly, you’ve got to post things your audience cares about. That means, you’ve got to understand your audience. You could certainly pay out for a market research company to step in and help, but you don’t have to. Instead, dedicate time and money to analysing your audience’s behaviour and their engagement, and speak to your customer service team. This will help you understand your audience’s needs, their triggers, and what they want from you, so that you can deliver.

Hidden cost: quality content. Simple text content just doesn’t cut it anymore. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you’re going to need images, graphics, videos and so on. All of those things take time and money to produce, whether you’re doing them in-house, or getting them from a third-party. You simply cannot scrimp on this – it’s the make or break of your social media efforts.

The true cost: user generated content

Another social media technique that’s often suggested is user generated content. If you’ve got an engaged audience, why not let them do some of the hard work for you? Re-posting content, asking for comments, polls and Q&As, and even competitions, are just a few of the ways that we’re advised to use UGC.

But is it as simple as that? Of course not. Nothing in digital marketing is that simple. There are costs associated with UGC too, and they aren’t all financial.

Hidden cost: managing UGC. No matter which approach you take with UGC, someone is going to have to take ownership of it. That could be monitoring hashtags and mentions to find things that are worth re-posting. It could be creating content from the results of a poll. Or it could be managing comments to make sure they don’t descend into chaos.

Because that’s the scary part of social media. What can start as a positive outpouring of love, can quickly become a nightmare. You’ve got to be prepared to reply to complaints and handle them, or to quash any arguments before they get out of hand. If you’re going down the UGC route, make sure you have the resources to manage it properly.

Hidden cost: unfavourable consequences. Sure, sometimes UGC is simple and innocent. You re-post something, you get some great engagement, you boost your community. Great. But sometimes things go wrong. It’s easy to fall foul of UGC. What if you re-post content from an individual who has some off-brand attitudes or connections? What if you accidentally share personal details such as usernames and handles?

These scenarios put fear into a marketer’s heart. They are the stuff of PR nightmares and can undo years of hard work in a flash. The cost of getting UGC wrong is too high to even think about. But you’ve got to know how bad it can get, because there’s nothing like a cautionary tale to make you do it right in the first place.

The true cost: influencer marketing

With the rise of social media, came the rise of influencers. So it’s no surprise that now is the time of influencer marketing. If there’s someone out there who ties into your brand values, and has a massive audience of their own, why wouldn’t you want to capitalise on that? And the beauty of social media is that there are influencers in every single niche.

To get influencer marketing right, you’ve got to have a proper strategy. This approach can have fantastic ROI, if you put the right structures and goals in place. But you also have to be wary of the true cost of influencer marketing.

Hidden cost: finding the right influencer. There are so many influencers these days. Even if your niche seems a little obscure, you’re still likely to find more influencers than you need. So you’ve got to make the right choices. Don’t be put off by showy numbers. Just last month an influencer with 2 million followers couldn’t even sell 36 t-shirts. This game is about quality, not quantity. An influencer with a few thousand engaged followers is going to be so much more valuable than someone with millions of casual followers.

You’ve also got to be sure that the person you collaborate with is reliable. If you’re contracting someone to post about your brand, you want them to come through and do it. You’ll be able to tell how professional and dedicated someone is by the way they communicate with you. If you don’t get the right responses and respect from an influencer, walk away from the situation. Better that you take longer to secure the right partnership, than jumping in too fast with someone who isn’t the right fit for your brand and your goals.

The bottom line

Have you spotted the theme? If you want to kill it with Social Media Marketing, you need to do your research. You can’t just come into this game half-cocked and expect it to pay off. Know your audience, know your brand, know your platform, and then keep doing more research. Digital marketing is a constant learning curve, so never stop educating yourself.

The other side of that research, is time. Good Social Media Marketing takes time, and time is money. Anyone who thinks social media can just be tacked onto someone else’s job, needs to have a think about what they really want out of their social media efforts. To do this right, you’ve got to respect it, and give it the resources it requires.

When you keep paying attention, keep learning, and dedicate time to Social Media Marketing, the true cost doesn’t matter, because you make your money back in spades. With strong Social Media Marketing marvellous things can happen. It’s down to you.

Depending on who you talk to, AI and automation are either the answer to all of our prayers, or a massive cause for concern. Are they going to solve every issue a marketer has ever faced? Or are they going to eventually steal our jobs? As is most often the case, the answer lies somewhere in between. If we use them properly, AI and automation can speed up manual processes and help us to be more effective and efficient. Plus, if we hone some of our other skills in the meantime, there’s no way we can be replaced entirely.

If AI and automation are going to be used to their full potential, it’s up to marketers to think holistically. We need to look at the whole life-cycle of our audiences and customers, because at every step of the journey, automation has a role to play.

Grabbing customers in the first place

One of the best things about automation is that it can do things humans could only dream of. Automated systems can suck in vast amounts of data from various sources, churn it all up and produce something useful and potentially lucrative. Something like a lookalike audience. I’m sure I don’t have to explain what a lookalike audience is, but all marketers know that they have their part to play in the grand scheme of our campaigns. Thanks to clever technology, we can find other people who could have an interest in our product or service and start marketing to them, before they’ve even begun their own journey with our brand.

The next step is to analyse your audience’s behaviour. AI and automation can predict consumer actions based on what else they’re doing online and what else they are purchasing. With that information you can make sure you advertise in the right places, serve the content they want to see, and put your products in front of them when they’re ready to buy. It means that you can be more deliberate about your marketing efforts, so that your time and money is well spent.

Now, let’s say your potential customer has shown so much interest that they’ve actually put a product into their cart and started the check-out process. Abandoned carts are a potential goldmine that AI and automation can help you tap into. The most common reasons for abandoned carts are glitches in the check out process, or the need to create an account. However, these are by no means the only things at play, so using automation to contact potential customers and find out why they didn’t buy, can be helpful as well as lucrative. AI and automation can help you go beyond the basic email that reminds the customer that they have something in their basket, and find out what stopped them from buying. You might be able to make improvements to your site that will have a real impact on your conversion rate.

Keeping customers happy

Once your customer has made a purchase, you want to keep them sweet. There’s a wealth of evidence that shows that getting customers to make repeat purchases is much more cost effective than constantly vying for new customers. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it’s nice that the stats back-up common sense. And it’s a long game. Atomic Reach have found that “The average repeat customer spends 67% more in 31 to 36 months with a business than zero to six months.” How many of us are giving our customers love and attention for that long? Not enough! So how do you use AI and automation to capitalise on that?

Customer service is a great way that AI and automation can save your bacon. No matter what niche your business is in, there is bound to be fierce competition. Outstanding customer service is essential to help you stand out from the crowd, but it’s also very time consuming to get right. Thankfully, automation can help. Customers are becoming increasingly familiar and comfortable with chatbots, which are entirely automated and run by artificial intelligence. They can deal with a vast amount of customer support, which saves valuable human time for the more complicated issues, while keeping your customers happy. Win win!

If you can keep them sweet, your previous customers can be a captive audience. You know they like what you do and there’s a chance they’ll want more of it. So how do you keep them keen? Staying in contact with customers requires a tactful balance. You want to stay forefront in their mind, but it’s got to be relevant. Yet again, AI and automation come to the rescue. They can crunch your product data compared with the customer’s purchasing history, so that you can email them with promotional messaging, product recommendations, and relevant content. Yet again, automation takes the drudgery out of marketing, so you can get on with the more exciting things.

The human element

As great as all of this automation is, there will always be a place for actual, real marketers. If nothing else, it’s up to us to test, test and test again. AI and automation are very clever, but they aren’t infallible, and we can’t just blindly believe that they are always doing everything right. Marketers are no strangers to testing their work, but it’s especially important for automation. Get familiar with your filters, scripts and so on, and keep on top of your automations.

Beyond that, there is a real human element to marketing, that artificial intelligence simply cannot replace. While automations take care of the time-consuming, repetitive tasks that often fill our days, we will be left to the bigger picture, and the more complex elements of marketing. Relationship-building, imagination and emotional intelligence are just a few of the attributes that robots can’t emulate just yet.

So as long as you keep innovating, stay creative and continue to build your network, you’ll be just fine.

Since the dawn of SEO, the rivalry has been fierce and the competition has been hot. The debate has raged on for centuries. (Ok, more like a couple of decades, but we’re going for gravitas here.) Even now, the battle between in-house SEOs and SEO agencies continues to grow.

All joking aside, there is, and seemingly always has been, competition between in-house SEOs and SEO agencies. Here at UnGagged, we know that a good SEO is a good SEO, wherever they work and whatever their background. But the internet is littered with articles trying to argue that one is definitely better than the other. Ostensibly, they’re designed to help companies make the right choice for their business, but more often than not they are thinly-veiled adverts for agencies. In some cases, not-so-thinly veiled.

One of the more high-profile examples to join the fray has been featured in Forbes, of all places. Just like the others, it claims to help business owners make the best choices for their own budgets, internal structures and requirements. However, also like many of the other articles out there, the underlying message is that agencies have more experience, more resources and generally more to give than an in-house SEO ever could have.

So, what is the difference between in-house and agency SEOs?

What these articles claim, seems to come down to this:

Good for…Bad for…
In-house SEOsIndustry knowledge
Having more controlMore regular updates
Expenses (salaries, sick pay, training, tool subscriptions)



SEO AgenciesExperience

Tools and resources

Up to the minute tactics

Industry knowledge

Lack of control

Communication flow

Of course, nothing is ever that simple. This snazzy table equates to six criteria: industry knowledge, control, communication, experience, resources, and expense. Now there is some logic to the way these have been allocated as pros and cons for each type of SEO, but that logic will only go so far. Because at the end of the day, it comes down to who is recruited. Anyone can fall on the right or wrong side of these criteria, whether they’ll be joining the company as an employee, or providing a service as a third-party contractor. It’s not actually about in-house versus agency, it’s about quality.

Where does that leave us, as SEOs trying to get jobs or clients? In the face of articles like this, should we all be celebrating the reign of the agency, or digging our heels in to prove the worth of in-house? I think that response misses the point. There’s a place for both. Some SEOs love agency working, others wouldn’t dream of giving up in-house gigs. Which begs the question, is there a real difference between working at an agency, and working as an in-house SEO?

How do the work environments compare?

Let’s move away from the claims that one approach is better for business purposes. Instead, let’s turn our focus to what it’s actually like to work at an agency or in-house. As an SEO, there are a completely different set of things to consider, and it comes down to the kind of work you want to do and the kind of environment you thrive in.

Agency work

At an agency there tends to be a little more variety in the projects that you’ll tackle. You might find that you’re assigned to a client on a relatively long-term basis. However, some clients are only in for one campaign and then they’re done. Plus, even if you do have a longer relationship with a client, the chances are they won’t be your only one. So if you like jumping in and out of different businesses and products, and you aren’t too concerned about their big-picture and overarching goals, agency work may be your bag.

Timescales also tend to be shorter and more strict at an agency. It comes with the territory of having multiple clients, not to mention the need to complete work in order to get paid. If you love a fast-paced work environment and need the pressure of a tight deadline to keep you motivated, then agency work could be for you.

When it comes to salaries, there is an assumption that agencies can pay more than in-house positions. They can command high fees for the work they do, and they can have various income streams depending on how many clients they have. However, this is an oversimplification. Some smaller or newer agencies aren’t likely to be in a position to pay top dollar, so don’t fall into that trap.

In-house work

It goes without saying that in-house SEOs will be working on the same business or product all the time. But that means they can have a broader scope to the projects they work on. They’ll be able to see the history of previous work and map out what’s on the horizon. Rather than dipping in and out of lots of different things, in-house work requires a longer-term investment. It can be very satisfying if you like to follow things through and keep experimenting as the results and challenges come in.

You might also find that in-house SEO work has less time pressure associated with it. Organisations that are large enough to have their own SEO team tend to also have lots of processes and procedures in place too. If you prefer to have more time to explore every avenue and really get into the weeds with a project, in-house work might offer you a more satisfying experience than the changeability of agency work.

While you may believe that in-house SEOs earn less than agency SEOs, we’ve already mentioned that this isn’t always the case. Plus, in-house work can afford more stability. The success of the company isn’t based solely on keeping clients happy, there are other things at play and other structures in place. For some people that’s a real comfort, and could be a large reason for choosing in-house positions over agency roles.

It all comes down to finding work that suits you. You’re never going to sway a business one way or the other if they’ve decided they want agency or in-house SEOs. You’ve got to focus on what is within your control: deciding what work environment you need. Then it’s up to you to make yourself indispensable to that kind of employer. When it comes to finding work in this industry, it’s a matter of skills and abilities, and recognising what makes a good SEO.

Well, what does make a good SEO?

As in any job, there are soft skills and hard skills that every SEO should have. Some of these skills are universal for every job and if you have to be told that you need to have a strong work ethic and to get along well with others, then I’m concerned for your career future. But skills like curiosity and adaptability are a little more unique to the world of SEO. As is an analytical mind and aptitude with certain tools. And what about coding and knowing how to perform really good research?

There are a ton of skills that are unique to our industry, which is exactly why it’s so successful, so lucrative and so much fun to be a part of. One thing that differentiates digital marketing from other industries, is the fact that it’s constantly changing. Anyone who is worth their salt in this business is doing one thing above all else: keeping up with the changes. People who don’t like change and want to stick to the same tactics day-in and day-out, don’t get very far in this industry.

The most important thing you can do as an SEO is to keep your eyes on the horizon. Keep learning, keep pushing and keep challenging the status quo. If you don’t, you’re going to get left behind, whether you are in-house or agency based. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with your work, even if you love what you do. We’ve all been there and I’m sure we’ll all end up there a few more times in our careers. That’s why it’s so important to read newsletters and articles, attend events, and give yourself as many sources of inspiration as possible. You simply can’t continue to be innovative, if you close yourself off. To stay successful in this game, you’ve got to stay curious.


By Lizzie McCauley, UnGagged

Upcoming Conference: UnGagged Los Angeles 2019