Sam Hurley talks latest digital marketing trends

Sam Hurley_Interview
I know you’ve grown used to seeing analytical content on my blog; and yes, infographics are intelligent AND fun, but I’ve decided it’s time for something different (as dignified as numbers, but still fun, and with more of a human touch). From now on, I will be encouraging you to hang out with my friends, who are also digital marketing ninjas with a tremendous amount of inspiration and industry insight. Today, I’m happy to introduce you all to Sam Hurley. He’s more than just a marketer; he’s a growth hacker. He was kind enough to give us food for thought regarding priorities, problems, and predictions for digital marketing. Keep reading to learn more about the latest digital marketing trends and his experience.

Tell us a bit your background and how you found out that you’re so deeply attached to the digital marketing community

Sam: When I first began work in marketing and actually generated revenue for clients, I knew I’d found my passion. I’ve always been interested in computers, too. The combination of these interests ignited something inside and this makes everyday at work an absolute pleasure for me.

As my career progressed, I moved into SEO and digital, working for a mix of agencies and businesses in-house — which is where things became even more exciting! I’m forever conjuring new strategies to decipher and beat the search engine system (Google), ultimately gaining success for business owners and driving my own stuff at the same time. (Go check Sam’s latest project: OPTIM-EYEZ).

If you’re in this game, you have to breathe it! If you don’t, you’re gonna get left behind.

This being said, it’s important to become 100% tapped in to this fast-moving world of digital. That means constant reading, learning and self-improvement. I aim to achieve this each day and it really is a buzz.

I thrive on the people involved in all aspects of digital marketing, particularly the innovators and those who go against the grain. For me, these are the ones to watch. It pays to build relationships with these guys and relationships are another passion of mine. That’s why deep down, I know I was born to be in this game.

Do you agree that the currency of SEO is still a link?

Sam: Yes! It amazes me how needlessly complex many marketers depict SEO. Really, it’s not too difficult. Google works on logic, just like humans. For you to trust someone you don’t know, what does it take?

Recommendations.

Google works in exactly the same way. Yes, there are many other factors which proportionally contribute to natural visibility in search engines, but links are recommendations and just like in ‘real-life’, very trustworthy.

Forget the hype and overly-scientific speak. Ensure your website is easy to use, attractive, fast and updated. Couple this with great inbound links (recommendations) and technical structure = great rankings!

Unless Google mix things up completely in years to come, just remember for now that everything put out there as PR is meant to confuse and disorientate. The search engine isn’t as clever as they like to make out — SEO boils down to the same old tactics. Just tread carefully and be clever.

What are the most common reasons that the content produced for the digital marketing industry is so weak?

Sam: For exactly the reasons above. Links! The problem is, many continue to churn out low-quality content as ‘guest-posts’ due to the blindness caused by this perceived simplicity of link-equity. Just because the basis of SEO is: ‘links provide rankings’ doesn’t mean they can be placed on any old domain and hey presto, $$$$ ahead. Do your research before pursuing links.

A key component of this is simple ignorance or lack of education in Digital Marketing. The amount of self-proclaimed experts in the industry doesn’t help matters. How do business owners know who to trust when you can outsource SEO to India or the Philippines for $25 per month? [sigh]

In terms of profitable SEO, the bar is constantly set higher as we reach content saturation. Larger businesses have big bucks to spend on content marketing and the context which surrounds their links is similarly coveted. This is the sort of link we must aim to gain…earned, relevant and from great websites with age and authority.

This takes time and money.

Do you think that we still can expect to have unbiased content at events, and on the top blogs with the same level of popularity like Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Land and etc. have?

Sam: Unfortunately, I believe otherwise. In a world where links are bought and sold on some of the largest websites, it’s not surprising that the ratio of truthful, meaningful content to equity-focused material is most likely very low.

Note, I am not suggesting the particular news sites mentioned in the question buy or sell links. But long as links remain the primary currency of SEO, the situation will not change.

What are your thoughts about the reasons Twitter chose to discontinue providing Tweet count endpoint?

Sam: The same reason for everything…money. Twitter have been struggling over the last couple of years, forcing them to re-strategize in order to increase revenue. This pressure has led to many recent changes including removal of tweet counts (so they can sell this data instead of providing it for free), mass-prevention of scheduled/automated tweets (so businesses have to pay to get their content seen), a re-vamped analytical hub (more advertising options) and conversational ads (to encourage bigger-brand advertising).

In my opinion, the first two changes are highly unfair and their reasons for doing so; deceptive. Twitter claim the removal of total share counts is down to their core engineering and not anything to do with revenue. Reference the second change, the quick-fire nature of Twitter makes it completely counter-productive to manually post tweets.

When people get wind of such news, it’s exactly this sort of PR which destroys brands and Twitter aren’t really in the position to lose more users. It’s a great shame because I truly love the platform, but the introduction of such changes is pretty disheartening and highly frustrating. I’m sure, I’m not alone.

Loyalty and transparency is critical in this day and age. Brands shouldn’t rock those boats under any circumstance.

What are your predictions for Digital Marketing for 2016?

Sam: Everything is moving at incredible rates. Technology is evolving and the Internet of Things brings wearable tech to the forefront of brand marketing. I think this year will mean great change for marketers and many will get left behind purely because of budget and distance from new practices and devices.

Our fixation with data will continue and measurement of such will become highly advanced, closely connecting the dots to omni-channel marketing efforts.

Mobile and video content reaches it’s pinnacle, leading the way for intimate behavioral targeting.

This nature of targeting will take a whole new path, to the point where advertising becomes completely personalized and virtual reality means consumers will be able to touch and feel products (even services?!) as we are placed in the complex nurturing funnel of big-spending brands.

Unfortunately, the years to come will be pay to play. Everything’s saturated and to stand out, it’s gonna take heaps of paid spend. Be prepared!

 

If you have any thoughts, please, share them in the comments below. And in case anyone is wondering what the hell all this techno-babble means, here’s some great resources for your amusement:


 

Sam Hurley is a lateral-thinking digital marketer holding 6+ years’ experience, currently Head of Search Marketing at Midas Media and Founder of OPTIM-EYEZ, the go-to solution for Digital Marketing tips; helping business owners turn their website visitors into paying customers.

He has achieved success for both agency and client-side businesses from SME, national to international blue-chip organizations.

Catch him on Twitter for heaps of helpful tweets on entrepreneurship and marketing.