Martech Stacked Episode 6: How to bring all of your data into one visual platform - with Kevin Gibbons
2nd July 2020
Joining us for episode 6 is a man who founded his first marketing agency in the year 2006. He’s worked with brands such as Expedia, AutoTrader and Totaljobs, combining technical SEO, authority content and creative digital PR to help his clients achieve their organic performance goals - Kevin Gibbons from ReSignal.com.
#1: Google Data Studio: Bring all of your data together into one visual platform
#2: SEOmonitor: SEO platform for SEO agencies
#3: Gorkana: Media database & media monitoring
David Bain: Joining us for episode six is a man who founded his first marketing agency in the year 2006. He's worked with brands such as Expedia, Auto Trader and Total Jobs, combining technical SEO, authority content, and creative digital PR to help his clients achieve their organic performance goals. Welcome to MarTech Stacked, Kevin Gibbons.
Kevin Gibbons: Thanks David. In 2006, sounds like ages ago now.
David Bain: It does, doesn't it? I mean, I can remember working in digital in that year and it certainly seems like a long time ago. In fact, it was the year before the iPhone was launched. The iPhone was launched in 2007. So if you worked in digital before 2007, yeah, that makes you a dinosaur.
Kevin Gibbons: Exactly.
David Bain: Well, you can of course find Kevin over at resignal.com. So Kevin explain what your business does and how you use marketing technology to make it better.
Kevin Gibbons: Yeah, sure. So we're a digital marketing agency specializing predominantly in SEO and content marketing. We work with, I'd say a small group of medium to large brands, typically across the travel and retail and finance spaces. And we've evolved over the years in terms of what we're doing. And we're in a world that's very fast paced in terms of keeping on top of, certainly Google dictates a lot of the work that we're doing ourselves. And that means that we have to stay on top of our game.
Kevin Gibbons: So some of it is purely about education of how do we test and learn and experiment amongst ourselves. Some of it is more, how are we active in industry? And we understand what other people are doing. Are there any big announcements or changes that we need to be aware of? And in a lot of cases, it's how do we have the technology and the platforms to give us insights that allow us to then make informed decisions. And certainly when we're talking about clients where we're doing things at scale, that's where tools can really help up to pull out insights. Just manually, it wouldn't be an option, it'd just be too big a task. So there's a number of different tools that we would use from the perspective of how do we help clients, all the way from kind of the strategy and the insight led work that we would do, all the way through to implementation and even reporting.
David Bain: So you talked about keeping on top of the rate of change that is going on, that continues to go on. Do you find that the rate of change is even faster now than it used to be a couple of years ago?
Kevin Gibbons: It is. But interestingly, I just wrote, there's a chapter of a book that I wrote this morning, and this was a digital marketing book, which I wrote the SEO chapter. And my summary of this was everything's changed, but nothing has changed. And what I mean by this is we're so fast paced, just SEO wise, you can look at the Search Engine, Land Watch's, Journals, et cetera. And they'll always be 10, 15, 20 stories a day. There'll be updates from Google all the time. Lots of people will have opinions and theories, and ultimately I think the game has been, from an SEO perspective, of how do you keep an eye on everything that's happening, but also have this filter that says, okay, this thing is relevant for me, this information is useful. I'll bear it in mind in case that challenge comes up in the future, but you can't spend your life just keeping up to date with the news.
Kevin Gibbons: You have to do stuff as well. So it does change. What I mean by nothing's changed is it's more the reason why we do things. So when I started doing SEO, which actually originally in 2003, so definitely I'm a dinosaur, but the reason I did SEO back then was to make clients' websites more accessible to search engines and to help those clients to make more money from Google essentially. And actually probably be more different search engines at that point in time as well. But that's exactly the reason why we do it today and the core pillars behind how we operate. And this is similar to the Marketing Now book, is still very much technical SEO, onsite content and link reputation. And that, to me, hasn't changed since 2003, but the weighting behind it will have shifted how you do it, the tactics, the technologies, et cetera, is a completely different game.
David Bain: We can almost go round, go down a couple of different rabbit holes in terms of the conversation here. I started off actually in SEO a year after you, in 2004. And I'm really happy that I started off back then, because it's almost showed me SEO in it's very early stages. And it's got you to learn the whole history of how Google evolved and how SEO evolved as well.
David Bain: But also going back to what you're saying there, I completely agree. It's great to have principals at the center of your marketing activities and on which you make the decisions about your MarTech. And if you've got those core principles and core ways of doing things, and then you apply technology on top of that, you shouldn't be too worried about technology changing the way you do business. But let's focus in specifically on the technology that you're actually using at the moment, your top three pieces of MarTech. So starting off with number three, what are your top three tools in your current MarTech Stack and why?
Kevin Gibbons: I'm going to start with one, which is more digital PR led. So our team finds that they subscribe to the media database, Gorkana. And the reason why this is useful is because it's a very up to date database of journalists in the UK. And if you're doing outreach, you want to obviously have the right contacts that you're connecting with. And it sounds like in some ways, maybe it's a basic principle of what you're doing, but at the same time, the efficiencies in making sure that who you're talking to is the right contact. It saves a lot of time.
Kevin Gibbons: And so for our team to be able to use that piece of software and pull out the right information really helps. I think, like with anything in digital marketing, you have to combine different software together. There's very rarely an all in one SEO software suites or digital PR suite. It's how do you combine that together? So, although I would say I pick Gorkana from digital PR perspective, we also kind of couple that up with sort of Buzz Stream is a good example for having our own contacts. And we'll always have people in the team that have different preferences over different tools. It could be for email followups and plugins and stuff like that, that fits in as well. But yeah, I think for number three, Gorkana is a good one on the list for us.
David Bain: So you mentioned Buzz Stream, I've certainly used Buzz Stream before. I'm aware of Gorkana but I don't believe I've actually used it myself. Is this a tool that is only appropriate for digital PR agencies to use, or is it a tool that many other businesses actually would be wise for other businesses to actually consider using that tool as well?
Kevin Gibbons: I don't think you have to be a PR or a digital PR agency. That's probably the most common answer. I would... I'm sure if you segmented their customer base, there would be a large amount of agencies. But that said, if you're a brand that is looking to get media coverage, then that's something that should be explored. Actually, the other thing that there is a benefit of this outside of having the media database is you also have a press release function and also, a list of stories of what journalists are looking to write.
Kevin Gibbons: So sometimes it can be a case of, we know that journalists are looking for opinions on certain subjects. How do we match that up with our clients, if it's a good fit? And sometimes that's more kind of quotes within the media. So any brand that wants to get more coverage for themselves could potentially subscribe to a category of Gorkana and receive updates that are relevant to them.
David Bain: And is this the kind of subscription that is necessary to subscribe to for a fairly lengthy period of time to start to understand the software and get maximum use for it? Or is it the kind of software that you can subscribe to for, say, two or three months for a one off big media push?
Kevin Gibbons: We've used it for years. And I think the answer is probably along the lines of, you get more value out of it over time. I don't even know if there is an option to use that for, let's say you have a one off campaign. I'm sure they have maybe shorter term agreements and trials and things that you could do. And I think they have different package options from an individual through to a larger company and multi licensed. But I'd like to think that might be a way that you could try that for a campaign, but just because we've used this for a number of years now, I'm not even sure, particularly if that is an option or not, to be completely honest.
David Bain: So, that's Gorkana, tool number three. What's tool number two?
Kevin Gibbons: So tool number two for us is SEO Monitor, which we use a lot for the strategy phase of an SEO piece of work. So any new clients that comes on board with us is always... They always work with us from an SEO growth perspective. So they have a target and that target is how did they grow in typically organic revenue? It could be slightly different, but normally business related. And from our perspective, the first thing we want to know is if they have a target, is that achievable? If they don't have a target, what should that target and KPI be that they're working towards? And what we found is that SEO monitor has great marketplace analysis functionality. So we can say, this is your sweeter keywords that you really want to care about, and we can see how visible they are for those terms. And not just that, but we can see how competitors are performing.
Kevin Gibbons: So if we know they're number three in the market, for example, we would know who's number two, who's number one, how much estimated traffic do they have from those keywords? And then what would that look like if we were to close the gap? And if the answer is that will generate you hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of extra visits and revenue. And we know there's a very strong case that they should be doing SEO. If we know it's only a handful, then it might be a market where actually it's the numbers are too low, it doesn't make sense as a longer term investment to operate in as a key channel.
Kevin Gibbons: So for us, knowing that size of the opportunity is the initial starting point. And I do find within SEO, quite often, people would jump into the tactics very quickly and early, probably because it's more exciting, but from a business perspective, if you don't know the size of the opportunity, how would you know how much you should invest in the first place?
Kevin Gibbons: And SEO Monitor helps us to map that. It helps us to get buy in from clients in the early stages. And I'd say the other thing I like about this is it's not just a set it and forget it. So forecasts can be looked upon as a bit of a finger in the air. You're giving someone the answer that they want to see in order to sign something off. And I don't see it like that at all. I feel like we would like to pick an accurate forecast. And I'd say accurate is never 100% guaranteed. It can't be, but you need... I always like to talk in a sense of the right directional path. Whereas, if you're looking to get to, and then how can you measure that along the journey? So you can say at Q1 or end of Q1, where do you expect to be at the end of Q2 and Q3, end of 12 months, et cetera. And then you can measure that along the way and adjust course based on wherever you are at that point in time.
David Bain: So I know SEO Monitor a bit. I've used it a few times before, not very recently, but from what I remember, there is a section in there called Topic Explorer, that still exists, doesn't it? Topics Explorer inside SEO Monitor?
Kevin Gibbons: Yeah. It does.
David Bain: So that was marketed as something which really helped you, helped content marketers, decide what content to write about and I guess, look for headings and sections within your article that you can actually produce. And you talked a little bit about forecasting ROI of different campaigns. So how does SEO Monitor go about doing that? How does it actually give you a value for different rankings of different phrases? If indeed it does do that.
Kevin Gibbons: So you have keyword groups. And what I quite like about that is there's other tools on the market, which I find very good at showing overall visibility scores. So if you wanted to compare Amazon versus Argos, for example, in terms of overall visibility, there's a number of tools that you could say, "This is who's winning and losing." And obviously you can compare multiple. And what I like about SEO Monitor is because you essentially curate that keyword bucket, it's more focused. So Amazon is a good example. If you're a small retailer with it operating within one niche.
Kevin Gibbons: So there's a retailer I spoke to recently and they sell outdoor toys and outdoor games. And if you look at an overall visibility score of them versus Amazon, it's largely a waste of time because Amazon are going to be a thousand times bigger, if not more. However, for that niche in the market, Amazon are likely to be the number one for those group of keywords and knowing how they're performing for that specific niche is actually really valuable.
Kevin Gibbons: So what you do is you group things into topics or keyword groups, and then it's more measurable. So you can say rather than I want to improve the overall domains traffic by X percent, and that might be the longterm goal. You break things down and say, "Actually for key one, we're going to do a sprint. And it's specifically around this category of a website or these group of pages." And then you measure those alongside the overall visibility.
Kevin Gibbons: So for me, it's the functionality of being able to go more granular. And the more granular you go, the more measurable it is for your work. And we've used this for clients before, where we might be responsible for certain line of business, but there could be other lines of businesses within that company that maybe other agencies are focused on or it's in house or, well, they're just not getting attention. And then you can compare your work versus the site average and other categories. And it is just a very nice way to show this is what we worked on. This is what we didn't work on. Here's the difference. And certainly when you're trying to get buy in, you can then say this worked, let's do more of it. So I think the answer really is more the granularity.
David Bain: And in terms of the actual financial value of rankings, do you equate that to the same costs, clicks to the same costs, as you would have to pay for pay per click ads?
Kevin Gibbons: There's two ways to do it, yeah. So this is actually built into SEO Monitor, but you can look at equivalent media value, which is exactly that, if you were to increase traffic by using a round number, 100,000 visits, what would that cost in Google Ad Words if you were to pay for that traffic? The other way, which I would definitely advocate aiming towards is applying a conversion rates an average order value, or even an average lifetime customer value. And if you have that data, you can then turn traffic into estimated revenue. So, off the back of that traffic, how well is that performing? And again, you can measure it up from a PPC perspective, but the value you generate, in theory, should be more than the estimated media value in Google AdWords. Because if you're thinking of a PPC campaign, you would only run that campaign if it was making you profitable revenue.
Kevin Gibbons: So really there should be a margin between what you make versus what you spend in AdWords too. And I think the more you can make it accurate, likewise, there'll be points of diminishing returns where you're generating more traffic, but it's just, it doesn't have that intense, or it's not as targeted enough that it's not going to make you money. So although it might look nice on the Google Analytics graph of traffic, if it's just a spike of users that are bouncing back out of a website and then not longer-term becoming customers, then maybe that's not the right area to focus on as well.
David Bain: That was tool number two. What is tool number three? What is tool number one, rather, if we covered tool number three, number two and what's number one?
Kevin Gibbons: Yeah. So number one is almost every tool that we use, but combined into Google Data Studio as a platform. So the way... And I've had conversations with a number of people, I don't know if people on the show would know. So, Nick Wilson from Vodafone. I know you will yourself, David. But we've had Nick for a group that we run for in-house SEOs did a demo around how to use Google Data Studio that used different software tools to pull in various different metrics. And the point being that a lot of the value from third party platforms is not always in the platform itself, it's in the data. And the interesting parts of that is from an SEO perspective, you have a number of different data providers, wherever that SEO Monitor is a good example, Sistrix, SEMrush, and they all have different kind of areas of focus.
Kevin Gibbons: And some of them are useful every single month, if not every day. Some of them are just useful when you have a specific challenge and you dip in and out as relevant. But at the same time, you want to have a platform that you can log into and see where the overall progress is going. And I feel like over the last couple of years, Google Data Studio has been that almost essential piece of the toolkit for all of, certainly on the SEO side of marketing. You pull in naturally Google Search Console data and Google Analytics data into that. But now you have the functionality of bringing in the APIs from the third party tools as well. And then there's plugins on the market, like Super Metrics that will let you to pull things in. Some you can do without that. But really, I think it's now about building those dashboards, that the way I see it is reporting should be built on the business goals first and foremost. And those business goals will be different for every business.
David Bain: So can Google Data Studio bring in the data from essentially all the important data sources, places like Facebook Ads or other ads tools, maybe LinkedIn Ads or Twitter Ads? Is there anything that is missing in terms of using it as a data source?
Kevin Gibbons: There will be gaps for sure. And there may be somewhere that it's just not an option to bring that in. However, from what I've seen, most of the software providers are working on, if they don't have it already, APIs to pull that in. So certainly we've been working with Data Studio, I think, for two years. And over that time, it's developed massively in terms of the access to where you can pull information in from. And from an SEO perspective, I would say to the tools that we're using to bring into data studio now, most of them are on board with this. And I think that the platforms are maybe, in some cases, reluctantly accepting that people are using their APIs and their data, but not using their platform.
Kevin Gibbons: And in other cases it's... But it might be a case of, well, if that's the way that consumer behavior has come in and marketers want to get hold of that information, they have to embrace it. So most from what I seen are now in that position where they are opening up that data.
David Bain: It makes sense. I think as a business, you should try and be great at one thing, and you can be great at associated things, but being a data provider and being a provider of a platform that provides the visual elements of things is two different things really. So it's quite difficult to be the best at those two different areas. So completely understand what you're saying there as well. I've seen a lot of businesses using Tableau as well. Tableau is a great platform as well, that I guess is fairly similar in that people can use it to collect different sources of data. Do you think most businesses should be considering using third party Data Studio type products?
Kevin Gibbons: I think it helps to have that dashboard of, yeah, understanding... For me, the big thing is the lead and lag indicators. So understanding performance, but also what levers should you pour more of or less of potentially in order to move forward against goals. And I think Google Data Studio is a good way to build those dashboards and profiles. Tableau is very nice in terms of visualization and we've used that in the past. I think what we really found was Google Data Studio seemed more custom built for what we were talking about, certainly with the integration of Google Analytics and Search Console. Tableau, you probably need someone that understands and knows Tableau. I think there's a steeper learning curve and maybe a higher barrier to entry to start with Tableau. But potentially, certainly on the visualization side, probably more that you could do with it.
Kevin Gibbons: So if visualized report's your thing, then definitely. Yeah, yeah. I would recommend exploring that more as well. The other thing, and again, I think this is where it's not just one piece of kit. It's kind of how do you use something in the best way, but experimenting where we can use Big Query alongside Google Data Studio because the storage of data can slow things down a lot. And we've actually found that sometimes the accuracy of data, as well, if it's going directly from a search tool into Data Studio, sometimes updates will get sampled. And if it can be exported into Big Query, we found there's less margin for error. And if you're looking at a brand that has millions of visits per month, and you're trying to run a report over a large timeframe, it can take a long time. So actually pulling it into Big Query speeds that up dramatically. So then there's things that you can do there as well.
David Bain: Great. Okay. So it certainly seems like Tableau is maybe more enterprise level. It's more like a Salesforce type tool that could be great, but maybe if you've got an in house engineer to actually set things up and keep things running, Google Data Studio sounds like something that many businesses could get started with, but you could get started with relatively simply. You mentioned Search Console and Google Analytics there. Can you just touch upon briefly the value of bringing those two sources of data together and not just logging into Google Analytics and Search Console separately?
Kevin Gibbons: I think the big difference between the two from my perspective is Google Search Console is almost like the SEO data before the click or up until the click. Analytics is after the click. So it's, how do you marry those two up? And certainly with Google Analytics, organic traffic now being largely not provided, it's there's a case of you want to know, not just the pages that generate traffic for you, but also what keywords. And if there's a way to match that up and get that into the same system, which the likes of SEO Monitor actually does this as well and Search Console, if you can bring them into one place it's easier to kind of splice up data as you... To pull it together a bit more closely.
Kevin Gibbons: So I think that's the big thing of how do you make the two work together in a way that is potentially a bit more coherent. And there's still separations, even if you have it under the same platform, but the more that you can kind of drill down into this page has generated you traffic, which keywords is that come from? And if it's in one place, it does make things a bit easier and smoother and more efficient than anything.
David Bain: So focusing in on your own business, again, as your business grows, what's an example of a process that you currently do manually that you may wish to automate using my marketing technology at some point in the future?
Kevin Gibbons: So one of the sides of what we've done and how we've grown has been on the content marketing and digital PR side. So for SEO, I feel like we have our almost like staple of tools and there's always new ones that, again, I would encourage we trial and test and see what else is on the market. Sometimes it's different tools for the same thing that we do already. Sometimes it's a new tool for a completely different challenge essentially.
Kevin Gibbons: But on the digital PR side, I think in hindsight, one of the things we've changed is probably bringing relationships into stuff like Buzz Stream, is a good example. Moving forward, one of the things we do, it is quite time consuming, is content ideation. And if you're running a content marketing campaign, I would argue the most important thing you can do is have a great idea because if you've got a poorly executed great idea, I think there's a good chance that would go further than a well executed average idea, because there's so much content online-
David Bain: Why is that? Sorry, you were just about to explain why.
Kevin Gibbons: Yeah, I think just because there's so much content online, it means that everything is about that idea, that headline. And certainly, if you're scrolling through Twitter, the chances that you click a link when you're looking at social media, for example, is probably quite low in itself. Certainly as a percentage of those that you see, and it's all about that angle, how do you have the right angle? It's the same as if you're contacting journalists, they would get lots of emails. And if your headline is attractive, they'll open the email, which is a great start. And then obviously you need to have enough in there that gets them to cover your story.
Kevin Gibbons: But if that idea is not the right idea in the first place, it doesn't matter how well you've executed it. They might not even get to see it in the first place because everyone is busy. The attention span is getting less and less. The time that people have, I think, is getting less and less as well. And yeah, I think for us, the big thing that we over invest in, I would say to such an extent, but consciously and for very good reason, is the ideation phase. And how do we... There's a good Steve Jobs video on this, of how he polishes stones by kind of rubbing them together. And how do you challenge each other? And basically an analogy of nothing is ever fully formed at the original concept. It's, how do you then kind of have that back and forth, maybe some disagreements and support in some cases, but how do you come out with that idea that you think is then going to be the one that's really going to take off? And if you get that right, there's a good chance that everything else is going to go much more smoothly.
Kevin Gibbons: And if you get it wrong, you could be wasting your time and a lot of significant cash, essentially, in terms of what you're putting into something. So ideation, to a certain respect, I'd like to think never disappears from the human elements of creativity, because I think that's where you can combine software, data, insights with someone that is in the shower having this moment of genius. And they just think of this idea that no one's ever thought of before. That said, a lot of ideas are typically taken from another idea at some point. So how do you learn from other industries? How do you understand what's worked well before? And then how do you make something better or different? So the more that you can pull those insights together, the more it helps you to come up with fresh concepts.
David Bain: So if the idea is more important than the execution, does that mean that having content that isn't published on a regular basis, but could be better quality content is better than publishing content on a regular frequency that perhaps isn't the best of quality?
Kevin Gibbons: I would argue yes. But then there's other people that would have different opinions to that. I think the answer is you have to pick a strategy. So we've done some work with the FT before. The FT's strategy is if it's a financial topic, they want to be the most in depth and authoritative resource about that subject. However, from an SEO perspective, that has a damaging impact of when there's a Google trends spike that you see of everyone's searching for a keyword because there's just been a big announcement, they're not always the quickest and they could be losing traffic.
Kevin Gibbons: However, they don't want to risk the quality of their journalism in order to capture traffic. Other publishers are less worried. They want to get, yeah, kind of people there as quickly as possible. And the quality of the journalism... Surena in our team has worked for a number of publishers as a journalist. And she was tasked with writing kind of eight to 12 articles at one point in time, within every single day. And at that point, you can't be the authoritative source on a given subject. But if that publisher's strategy is we want to have an opinion on every thing that has happened in that day across sets and topics. So I don't think there's a right or wrong answer, but you do have to pick a strategy.
David Bain: Okay. What is something that you have in mind that would be a wonderful piece of marketing technology that perhaps doesn't even exist yet, but you would love to see created?
Kevin Gibbons: So I crowd sourced this one to our teams group chat, and I got a range of different opinions. Some of them... I'll give you the more useful ones at first. So one was in Search Console, is there a way that you can not just flag alerts as errors, but automatically issued them or fix them? And if you can get... Again, this is where you have different software systems for different things. So it's more about getting those technologies to talk to each other.
Kevin Gibbons: One example is we've used Yoast for WordPress SEO, and there's a functionality there in terms of redirects that you could set up. If there's a page error in Google Search Console, you can link the two together. I haven't used Yoast for a while. Actually it might even be a feature now, but if there was a way to potentially automatically fix that, and it's probably maybe from their perspective, they might feel like that's going too far by changing stuff on your website.
Kevin Gibbons: But from an SEO perspective, I've met brands before that have said, "We're only a team of two or three people. And between us, we're busy enough keeping on top of Search Console and what's going on." That they quite often don't have time to think ahead. And my reaction to that is that's crazy. You should think strategy big picture first and then try and automate the stuff underneath it that makes it more efficient. So if there's tools that allow you to make those efficiencies and automations for the more manual tasks that, frankly, no one really likes doing, but you want to have the level of trust and confidence that it's going to be done correctly, then that would help people's lives out significantly.
David Bain: That's a great point. I mean, I've worked on behalf of different, massive eCommerce sites in the past, and I've certainly seen tens of thousands of errors, if not more and in different places. And it's impossible to go in there and fix everything and perhaps form some kind of coherent strategy to bring up relationships between different pages and try and build solutions that are right for those categories of different pages and deploy the fixes. If you could perhaps use automation to make initial fixes, that wouldn't be perfect, but at least would, in the eyes of a search engine, improve the quality or relevance of pages. That would probably give you a bigger, quicker win. So I'm certainly a fan of automation in those areas.
David Bain: Kevin, thank you so much for your time and your tips today. We could carry on this conversation, but perhaps that's for a followup episode. What's the best way for the listener to find more about you and what you do?
Kevin Gibbons: Yeah, of course. Thanks, David. So for me, I'm quite active, I would say, on social, Twitter is @KevGibbo. LinkedIn, I'm probably more active on these days. So feel free to add me on there and yeah, if you've got any questions following up, then definitely drop me a message and more than happy to help.
David Bain: Wonderful stuff - thank you again.
Kevin Gibbons: Thanks David.