The Most Dangerous Word for Digital Marketers

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Most Dangerous Word for Digital Marketers Cover Image

“Optimized” should scare you.

The verb, to optimize, is innocuous, but the extra character on the end that puts it in past tense causes problems. It signifies finality and completion. It implies that a task can be crossed off the list, which is often not possible or at least not recommended.

  • “My AdWords account is optimized.”
  • “My email campaigns are optimized.”
  • “My online ordering process is now optimized.”

Can you imagine the Amazon.com team saying something like, “Good news, folks. The shopping cart experience is perfect. So, that’s out of the way.”

Unlikely.

Amazon is testing, analyzing, adapting, testing, analyzing, adapting, and on and on forever. And ever and ever. They live in that present progressive tense: optimizing.

Amazon will never be optimized, and you neither will you (or me or anyone we know).

Never Finished < Always Improving

Optimized and I go way back. Anyone with search engine optimization (SEO) or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on their resume has a history of awkward interactions with it – “Well, uh, it shouldn’t stop here.”

Let’s look at an example:

Digital marketing project graph showing performance

I work on a digital marketing campaign for 9 months – it could be SEO, PPC, PR, email, social ads, whatever. During that time, I am testing and learning, testing and learning. I am optimizing. What happens at the end of the last month when I put up hands and walk away from the keyboard, never to return? Whatever I am measuring – traffic, revenue, return on ad spend – will do something, and it likely won’t be linear.

Best case scenario for marketing campaign

Realistic graph

Probable graph

Here are three scenarios, listed from best case to most probable:

  1. The fruits of my labor continue to blossom after my departure, albeit at a diminished rate.
  2. A new bar is set and progress plateaus.
  3. Performance regresses without my continued energy, insight, and action.

The things we do as digital marketers rarely finish. We are either optimizing or not. Optimized doesn’t exist.

That is the attitude with which we approach digital marketing campaigns at LunaMetrics. SEO? Uh, yeah, it’s in the name. Digital advertising? Of course.

It’s even the premise of our conversion (A/B) testing consulting, which surprises some people because “tests” are typically designed to end. For example, on a test like the Google Analytics IQ test, you answer 70 questions, and then (hopefully) pass, and are certified (at least for 18 months).

Conversion testing is more like marketing campaign optimization in that it is never done – roll the Clockwork Orange gif! Test, learn, implement. Test, learn, implement. Remember the Amazon.com example from earlier?

Make the Optimizing Stop!

Fortunately, it doesn’t stop. (No, that’s not a typo.) We chose this challenge, as digital marketers, at least in part because it evolves so quickly. User behaviors change, competition fills gaps, and the inability to rest on our laurels is what gets us out of bed in the morning.

This is our calling, our mission. So, scrub optimized from your vocabulary, have a cup of coffee, and get back in the fight!

Andrew Garberson is the Search Department Manager. He has led digital marketing efforts in a variety of settings, including agency, entrepreneurial and nonprofit environments, and has master's degrees in business administration and mass communications. An Iowan at heart and Pittsburgher in spirit, Andrew commutes on his 10-speed most days between March and December -- after all, he's only human.

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