Whether you’re working in-house, at an agency, or as a freelancer, sometimes being a marketer can feel overwhelming. The role requires you to be dynamic and flexible in how you approach each problem, as well as a willingness to adapt to changing business priorities of the brands you work with. Despite this large workload, we frequently find that digital marketing teams are understaffed and overworked which means we need to increase efficiency to complete the task at hand.
Efficiency is often used as an excuse for cutting corners or delivering a weak piece of work, but that is not what we are talking about here. Instead, it’s about finding ways to automate and speed up the production of your work while still delivering to a high standard and without draining your time.
You will often find that the most time-consuming task you are faced with is thorough and detailed research. From keyword research to market reports, or even a competitor landscape analysis, there’s a wealth of data available out there on how to perform each topic. So how do we quickly and successfully complete these tasks?
Set a scope
You need to establish how much research you need to do, where the best places to research your topic are, and how you collate that research so that it is actually useful. Before every task, whether it’s a two-day billed keyword research or a quick blog post, you need to give yourself a substantial chunk of research time. Having the foundations set out with thorough research will make creating the document easier and more efficient. This also means setting expectations with the questions your research piece will answer, and the areas which will not be covered. By having a realistic scope to the time frame you have, you can avoid project creep and maintain efficiency throughout the work.
Once you know the full scope of the piece, it’s about the most effective way of delivering it. Ask Wonder is a brilliant tool for asking in-depth questions around a certain industry or field and receiving expert answers. You save yourself the time spent on trawling the web for answers by pitching your queries to a team of experienced researchers and analysts. Whether it’s finding out about demographic statistics for competitor analysis, or data for blog content, the detailed answers will be with you within 24 hours of your submitted query.
Scraping and Data Exports
If you don’t have the budget to outsource the research pieces, then instead you can look to finding ways to speed up a normally manual process. I’d recommend using a scraping tool (my one of choice is Dataminer) to quickly export lists and information from sites or Google. For example, for a set of search results in Google, the datamining tool will scrape all the relevant URLs, titles and descriptions for you, which you can then export to analyse.
For more advanced scraping, you can utilise x-paths alongside a crawler like Screaming Frog to find information in bulk like the number of out of stock products or the number of individual items within a category. This is a smart way to understand why competitors might be outperforming you and the depth of their available products. There’s a great presentation on how to do this by Janet Plumpton from Brighton SEO here.
Other free tools
In digital marketing, some research tasks are simply too large to carry out manually; keyword research is a prime example. Understanding the users’ intent is an important place to start. Researching which questions people are asking around a topic or field gives you the basics of your keyword list. Datamining Reddit, forums and social media feeds give you an initial list of topics, while Answer the Public and Ubbersuggest gives you specific search volumes for the relevant keywords.
Monitoring and Daily Checks
In digital marketing, and SEO specifically, there’s a lot of elements which can change on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis. Waiting a week to discover someone has accidentally transferred a noindex tag to the live site or a month to establish part of the conversion process has broken is simply not viable for most businesses. This means as marketers we need to be continually monitoring the small changes and details to check for unintended consequences.
When it comes to monitoring progress, Google Data Studio is a proven and tested method for displaying data in a digestible and visual format. Not only is the tool great for what it does, it also automates the reporting process and empowers clients to edit date ranges themselves and to look at the data independently. This ability to generate reports so easily will save a tonne of time.
As well as keeping up to date with the business’ key metrics, it’s also important to monitor the everyday health of the site. Gone are the days of manually carrying out regular site audits to identify errors, which used up so much billable time. With tools like Little Warden, you get regular automated alerts so you can find and fix important server issues. If the monitor is down or the SLL Certificate is expiring soon, you’ll know about it via email or communication channels such as Slack and can protect yoru clients from any sudden downtime.
It’s also imperative to regularly check and maintain the technical aspects of a site. Like you would with fixing any broken parts on your car, ensuring that every aspect of your site is working, is important for keeping it running smoothly on a daily basis. Luckily, there are tools out there to save you manually identifying these issues. A relatively new tool that’s becoming a staple for any digital marketing agency, Content King allows you to set up automated alerts on website changes. From updated meta descriptions to 404s, the platform will instantly tell you where the changes have been made so you can update and maintain the site’s health.
Finally, if something does go wrong and there’s a change in the data but you can’t quite work out the source of the change then automate your analysis a little bit. The ‘What’s Changed’ tool works to label exports from GA quickly with if numbers are up or down and to discover the extent of a shift in performance.
Communicate in the right way
In digital marketing, as it is in all aspects of life, communicating is essential for efficiency and productivity on a daily basis. A lack of communication, too much communication or poor communication often means a lack of clarity and, in turn, and an inefficient workforce. There are a variety of ways to help a team communicate better with one and other.
Communicate with your team
A big part of how productive we are in the workplace is the people we surround ourselves with, and how we communicate with them. If there are members of the team who are efficient and productive, ask them for techniques and best practices to help your day-to-day organisation. Understand how they organise themselves, their systems and their schedules, and how they spot and fix problems. Communicating with them will help you understand how to be more efficient.
Avoid over communicating
Overusing emails and communication tools can often hinder time management and efficiency. On average, people check their inboxes up to 77 times per day, and employees continuously use communication tools like slack etc. This over-communication can distract them, and it is proven that the more email people do, the lower their assessed productivity. It is always great to communicate both internally and with clients, but making sure you don’t spend too much time emailing and slacking is essential for productivity.
Making sure you’re communicating in a way that reflects both yourself and the agency or brand you work for is imperative. Tools like Textio are invaluable for helping you communicate in the most appropriate, concise manner you can. The augmenting writing service draws on massive quantities of data from industries around the world to help you word emails, job descriptions, on-site copy and much more. The ongoing scoring system helps you improve your communication skills and be more efficient.
In an agency, the day to day processes can sometimes be stressful. A great way to avoid stress in the workplace is not panicking, and making sure this is communicated to your peers. If there is major problem on a client website, such as the site going down, then the first reaction should be ‘how can we fix this?’, rather than ‘oh no it’s the end of the world’. Panic manifests throughout the team, so with a clear mind, optimism and determination to put a wrong, right, this will help productivity and a better working environment.
Make Things Look Professional
If you’re anything like me then design might fill you with dread. I’m happy to write the content of any slides or documents, but when it comes to making it look professional and in line with a brand, the task loses my attention pretty quickly. However, this is an essential part of the marketing we do as the look and feel of a final document is often the stakeholder’s lasting impression of the work.
Streamline your design processes
To save you time and money, there are a variety of tools that make designing a much simpler, more efficient task. Other than the language and text tools we’ve touched on, Stylify ensures any visual assets on and off-site are representative of your brand. The tool scrapes all the colour and style combinations of a site so you can design and create visual assets in line with your brand. In addition to this, tools like Xtensio allow you to move modules, resize elements and change backgrounds in keeping with your brand, whether it is for internal documents, pitches or proposals. Both of these tools allow agencies and brand to avoid spending extra time and money on design work.
Create PPT and Words doc templates
Investing time in creating quality PPT templates and Word docs will save you valuable time when it matters. There may be a time when you need to turnaround a pitch deck quickly; having a visually appealing PPT template already set up allows you to focus more time on the all-important content. Similarly, having a Word doc template set up for client work ensures consistency for all deliverables, and reduces time spent on document visuals for each task.
This is just a selection of the ways that I have worked to improve my efficiency in the workplace and increase my output. Digital marketing can be a tough industry to work with, and often it feels like the workload never ends, but with careful planning, you can invest more time in deliverable work. Below are three final points to consider:
- Take time out when you need it – Whilst your list may seem like you need to work solidly for the next 3 weeks with no breaks just to get to the end, your efficiency will be reduced if you’re overworked or stressed
- Always look for automation – This does not mean producing lower quality work at a higher pace, it means using automated tools to take away any unnecessary legwork.
- Ask for help – Other departments, using everyone’s skills. Work anxiety can manifest itself; avoid this needless stress by asking questions and feeding off the knowledge and abilities of the people around you.