Starting at the Beginning, Again

by Casie Gillette  |  Published 9:00 AM, Thu May 29, 2014

On last week’s episode of Mad Men (no spoilers, I promise), Peggy asked Don what his process was. His response: “First I abuse the people whose help I need, and then I take a nap. Then I start at the beginning again.”

Don Draper Nap

The last line really resonated with me in that, so often, after we’ve been working on a site for a while, we have to go back and start from the beginning to continue the upward climb.

After all, businesses evolve, algorithms change, customer expectations shift, and it’s our job as online marketers to keep up with those trends and ensure our sites—and our client sites—are evolving as well.

What does this mean for online marketers?

It means going back and re-evaluating the basics. While we aren’t starting over completely, we are starting with a more knowledgeable set of eyes. Here are a few places to begin again.

Keyword Targets

One of the first things we research at the beginning of a program is keyword targets. We want to understand what words are used to describe the business, product, industry, etc., and then we figure out how to incorporate those into our site and messaging.

Are those keyword targets the same a year later? Two years? Maybe not.

A client we were working with for about eight months was doing pretty well. Organic traffic was improving, leads were improving, but neither at the level we hoped. When we went back to evaluate our strategy, we noticed that one of their branded phrases wasn’t performing at the level it should. More importantly, the branded phrase that we weren’t targeting actually had a much higher search volume than the non-branded phrase we were targeting.

We assumed a branded phrase would do just fine on its own. But with distributors and resellers also targeting it, that wasn’t the case. We shifted the focus to the branded phrase and saw results almost immediately.

In another example, a phrase we were targeting for client did really well at the onset of the program. Two years later, the results had shifted to show something completely different. The intent had changed, and that meant we had to adjust.

Old Content

I was at SMX West in March, and Ted Ives, of Coconut Headphones, gave me a great piece of advice on old content. He told me to go back and look at old blog content. If it’s no longer getting any traffic, repurpose it into a new piece and redirect the old post to the new one.

I love that concept!

We tend to write content, promote it, and then forget about it. Three years later, that content may not be helping you. The worst part is, it may be a really great post!

Take a look through your analytics over the past year and match it up against all your content. Once you’ve identified which pieces are no longer generating any traffic, figure out what else you can do with them. For example:

  • Write a better blog post
  • Create a presentation
  • Expand the post into a whitepaper or eBook

For a recent client, we did just that. We took a look at all their old infographics, blog posts, and articles, and came up with new ways to use them. While we didn’t take the old ones down, the new content is gaining more visibility and we didn’t have to come up with completely new topics.

New Content

It’s also important to re-evaluate your ongoing content strategy. Have your goals changed? Has the product or service changed? Similar to keyword targets, sometimes the content strategy we start out with was great, but a year down the line, adjustments need to be made.

We were working with a client for about a year. A blog had been created, it was generating a ton of traffic, and overall, it was seen as a success. However, we needed to take it to the next level and start making a bigger impact on the client’s leads.

We started writing more in-depth posts geared toward the decision makers, began adding related call-to-action banners at the end of each post, and shifted our strategy to include both traffic generating posts and lead generating posts. The client saw more leads and in turn, higher revenue.

It’s great to take a look back and see the success, but don’t forget to look forward to see where you want to go. Then adjust.

Link Building Strategy

Oh, the dreaded link building strategy! Penalties are being assessed, warnings are being sent out, Google is sending confusing messaging…what’s a person to do?

Well, if you are still trying to acquire links at mass scale, it’s definitely time to re-evaluate your link building strategy. If you are trying to acquire links for the sake of links…it’s also time re-evaluate.

Take a look at your current link building strategy and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do these links actually help my business?
  • Are these links driving relevant traffic?
  • Am I worried about being penalized?

The answers should be Yes, Yes, No, respectively.

We all need to shift our mindset from building links for the purpose of simply obtaining links to building links that help our business succeed. This means PR, partnerships, event marketing, social, etc. Real marketing that, in turn, drives links. For the record, I’m not saying don’t do any link building; I’m just saying be smart and focus less on the link and more on the value it brings.

Going Back to the Beginning

A great online marketing program will always be moving forward. While that often includes adding in new elements, it can also mean starting from the beginning.

When was the last time you evaluated your keywords or took a look at old content you have just sitting around? Today seems like a great day!


Casie Gillette is the Director of Online Marketing at KoMarketing, a B2B online marketing firm based in Boston, MA.

Casie has been in the industry for nine years, working on both the agency side and in-house. She's been responsible for developing and implementing online marketing strategies for startups, SMBs, and Fortune 500 companies.

Casie can be found speaking about search and social at various conferences throughout the year and writes for several marketing publications. She is enormously passionate about marketing and will freely admit to being a nerd for loving the Internet so much.