INBOX INSIGHTS: Process Isn’t the Enemy, Google Helpful Content Update

INBOX INSIGHTS: Process Isn’t the Enemy, Google Helpful Content Update (9/14) :: View in browser

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Process Is Not The Enemy

So you want to be agile? You want to be able to pivot quickly. You want to drop everything and switch tactics at a moment’s notice.

It’s not as easy as it sounds but it is attainable. There are people and companies that put a lot (and I mean A LOT) of work into making agility look easy and effortless. With some deep breaths and preparation, you too can make being agile look effortless. Let me tell you how.

Last week my husband happened to have two days in a row off. If you know me, you know this is rare. We decided to drop everything and go camping two states away. We both have jobs, responsibilities, and people who count on us daily. But we went, and the world didn’t end.

How? The same way you can be agile and efficient with your marketing.

I can hear the collective groan because you know what’s coming next. Yup, the 5Ps.

Specifically the third P – Process. And there go the eye rolls.

It sounds counterintuitive but the more process you have, the more agile you can be. The easier it is to pivot in a different direction.

I’ll say that again. The more process you have, the more agile you can be. There is a misunderstanding that process slows you down and creates overhead. This is true of process that is not thought out and had no clear purpose.

However, purposeful process is not your enemy. Process is not meant to bog you down. Process makes you more efficient. Process creates predictable and repeatable outcomes, allowing you to focus elsewhere.

Take your marketing, for example. If an executive came to you, out of the blue, and asked you to create a different campaign than you’ve been planning and executing, and wants it in 48 hrs, could you do it?

“Process” is another way of saying “routine” which is another way of saying “habit”. We’re really talking about what habits and routines you have in your marketing. See? Not so scary.

When I worked in software development we were rigorous about using Agile Methodology. We had our daily stand-ups (scrums), we had two-week sprints, sprint planning, and backlogs. We worked hard to not deviate from the process so that we could stay agile. I told you it sounds counterintuitive.

But by sticking to the process, things became second nature. We knew how long tasks would take. We knew what the tradeoffs of features would be. We knew how to navigate and manage expectations of product releases. This meant that when someone came to me with a feature request, I could be agile. I could work with the team to shift priorities and trade out features for what was being asked. Then we started the processes all over again. The feature that we traded out went into the backlog, was re-prioritized, discussed at the sprint planning, and executed during the sprint. Every time we finished a spring we would evaluate the process to tighten it up, to make it more efficient.

When I went camping last week, I already knew what tasks I needed to get done ahead of time, what I could delegate, and what could wait a day. We have a very tight process for content creation, general marketing, and operations. This allowed me to act in an agile way, moving tasks and priorities around without much fuss.

Additionally, all our camping gear was already packed. I knew where everything was and exactly what we needed for an overnight trip. I have lists and I have a visual map of how to pack the car so that there is room for everyone. I also have after-camping processes which include laundry, re-packing, replacing used supplies, and updating lists. When we get back from each camping trip, we talk about what we could have improved on so that we can spend less time packing and cleaning, and more time relaxing. Kind of like an after-action review. Interesting how that works.

Now, back to your marketing. How much of what you do is a routine, a habit? How much of it is repeatable? If you’re asked to swap out a campaign, do you know what it will take?

As we are rapidly approaching the last quarter of 2022 this is when you can make changes to your process for the upcoming year without anyone batting an eye. Take advantage of the end-of-year planning chaos to evaluate whether you have all your processes in place to set you up for success. Ask yourself, “is it process for the sake of process, or is it purposeful?” Let’s be honest, people are always going to ask for something other than what you have planned. Wouldn’t it be nice if it didn’t give you a heart attack every single time?

Want to talk about your process?

Come tell me about it in our free Slack group, Analytics for Marketers »

– Katie Robbert, CEO

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In this episode, Katie and Chris tackle content attribution. What is content attribution, and how does it differ from normal marketing attribution? You’ll learn about two different ways to do content attribution and one way you can get set up and running right away.

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Data Diaries: Interesting Data We Found

In this week’s Data Diaries, let’s talk about Google’s Helpful Content Update. According to Google, the update completed its rollout on September 9, after a multi-week process that began August 25. The question is, is anyone seeing impact from it?

We decided to take a look across our client base to see what kinds of impacts might be visible. Can the Helpful Content Update be seen?

Helpful Content Update

Here’s a sample of a dozen sites among several that we monitor for clients. When we look at this, we should see the blue line going down (closer to position 1 in search results) and the orange line going up (more search impressions) for any site that did well in the update. The converse would also be true. What do we see?

In the overall update, we see a few sites – two in the final row – that seemed to do well, and not much else. What we infer from this snapshot of these sites – in different industries and very different sizes – is that for the most part, no one took a big hit.

Who did? Sites with extensive automated content that added no value, like scraped directories and automatically generated content rewrites.

However, eyeballing charts is rarely an effective or useful tactic; many times, there are trends and patterns in our data that escape even the most watchful eye. To better determine what the impact, if any, there might be on our search data, we should run a statistical test.

In this case, the test we’ll run is called propensity score matching; it’s effectively a retroactive A/B test. We know from Google’s announcements that the Helpful Content Update began rolling out on August 25 and completed its rollout on September 9. We don’t know exactly when any given site’s rankings were adjusted, but we do know that it wouldn’t have been before August 25.

Thus, if we designate all Search Console data for any given site after the 25th as our “treatment” period, and every date before that as our control period, we can A/B compare a year’s worth of data to see if there really has been any impact.

What do we find, when we run this test for the Trust Insights website?


What we see is that search impressions haven’t really changed meaningfully, meaning that we don’t show up in search substantially less than before the update. That’s a good thing. We do see a small increase in position (lower rankings), and we see negative effects on clicks and clickthrough rate – but that’s a function of how much our audience thinks we’re the relevant result to click on for any given query.

What should we take away from this analysis? First, it’s good to have a bird’s eye view of the data to see what’s happening across industries. Any agency doing search analytics or search marketing should be keeping an eye on their client base to get a sense of the market overall.

For individual site owners and managers, we should be doing the same, plus running statistical tests to determine if there’s truly been an impact or not. We want to know, for certain, whether or not our sites have been impacted substantially.

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