All Posts by Paul Gallagher

Experts Share Red Flags To Watch Out For When Selecting An SEO Agency

Selecting the right SEO agency for your business can be a tough decision. With so many agencies to choose from, it can be difficult to spot the real experts from the ones who could end up having your website traveling in wrong direction.

So many agencies claim to be search engine marketing specialists, so how do you know if you’re picking the right one?

We spoke with six SEO experts to find out what you should be looking for in a good agency, and what should immediately raise a red flag

Will Craig
Managing Director
Digital Impact

PAUL: What should raise red flags when hiring an SEO agency?

WILL: Before you hire a SEO agency be very aware of how transparent they are with their strategies. A lack of transparency is a glaring red flag. If they try to complicate terms and throw out jargon to depict SEO and the work they do as some mystifying procedure that only experts understand - they are throwing you off the scent.

Legitimate and reliable SEO agencies will share with you a detailed strategy for how they plan to reach your goals. Whether that be boosting traffic, gaining backlinks or converting customers they should have a comprehensive plan in place that they can talk through with you including best practices and proven tracked results.

Disreputable and borderline shady agencies might use improper practices such as “Black HAT SEO techniques” including content spinning, keyword stuffing, spam emails and buying backlinks. Not only will this severely damage your business reputation but can get you penalized by Google and have your entire website shut down.

So avoid any agencies that are reluctant to share their strategies, and even more so with agencies that have no results or non-existent reporting. Look instead for candid, reputable agencies that have a wealth of knowledge to share and the reports and case studies to back this up.

Kent Lewis

PAUL: What should people look for when hiring an SEO Agency?

KENT: Education. On the most basic front, an SEM vendor should add value by educating you, the client, by sharing its knowledge of SEO strategies, tactics, technologies and trends.

Feedback. Do they provide input on future iterations of client products and services, based on experience and feedback collected from customers online?

Strategy. If you're the type of company that is always looking for that edge and is open to input from vendor partners, you should look for unsolicited advice from your SEO vendor, beyond organic search strategy.

PAUL: What should raise red flags when hiring an SEO agency?

KENT: Price. If the vendor in question provides a budget that feels low, especially compared to competitive bids, it probably is. Be wary of aggressive pricing that manifests in different ways: a junior team with little experience or oversight that will under-perform, offshoring to another country that isn’t vested in your business and provides questionable quality output, poor executive management or sales team decisions that lead to an unprofitable and therefore unsustainable engagement.

Rebecca Caldwell
SEO Strategist
Mash Media

PAUL: What should people look for when hiring an SEO agency? 

REBECCA: As with any new relationship, you should hire an agency that aligns with your own company's ethics, vision and ensure they are a good fit with you and your staff. Engaging an agency is like hiring a new employee and of course you would want to make sure that you can talk to them as equals, and you are both on the same page as far as your marketing strategies.

Technical knowledge and case studies attesting to their success for other clients is also important, once you know that you are comfortable with them as a marketing partner, you must then vet their expertise.

PAUL: What should raise red flags when hiring an SEO agency?

REBECCA: The number one red flag is a guarantee of rankings in X amount of time. I know many SEO agencies that offer guarantees, but not as far as "this keyword" to X position in 2 months. I would run for the hills. SEO is an ongoing project and the time it takes to get results is largely out of the hands of the SEO professional. 

Questions I would ask are:

1. What is the search volume of the keyword you are promising to rank me for? - Many times, yes it can be easy to rank for something no one cares about, and so what if you are number one for a keyword no one searches for? 

2. Do you outsource any of your work? Do they leave strategy decisions to someone in a non english speaking country? I have seen many times where the point of the SEO strategy was missed and the client's website has ended up being keyword stuffed and bad forum based links were built to it, reducing it's reputation.

Garrett Smith
Pitch + Pivot

PAUL: What should people look for when hiring an SEO agency? 

GARRETT: When looking to hire an SEO agency you want to see proven results and a well developed plan for you. An SEO agency should be able to prove that they have worked with other companies before and increased their search rankings. Ask them to show you their prior results. Along with previous results you will want to see a plan of action tailored for your business. Do they understand what keywords/phrases to target, do they know the competitive landscape, and do they have actions ready to go to complete this plan.

PAUL: What should raise red flags when hiring an SEO agency?

GARRETT: As for red flags that you should be on the look for when hiring an SEO agency, I would suggest staying away from companies with enormous promises. When an SEO agency says they are going to get you to the number search result for all your keywords/phrases within a short time period, I would be skeptical. For an agency to promise that within a highly competitive space is poor business. SEO is competitive and can't be fulfilled in that exact way. Avoid agencies that are selling you the dream and focus on the ones that are selling you a plan and a business relationship to naturally grow your search rankings. 

Trenton Miller

PAUL: What should raise red flags when hiring an SEO agency?

Trenton: SSL/HTTPS. Check the SEO Agency’s website. Does it redirect to https by default? Does it include a secure connection? SSL/HTTPS is basically mandatory in 2018, and if they don’t implement this on their own website, I’d suggest ignoring them completely. That is a dead giveaway that they are out-of-touch with current SEO trends.

Black-Hat/White-Hat. Take a bit of time to educate yourself on SEO and the difference between Black-Hat SEO and White-Hat SEO. Spending an hour reading through Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO will be time well spent in the long run. You don’t want to find yourself months later realizing you wasted plenty of time and money only to find yourself in a worse position than when you started because you unknowingly hired a black-hat SEO agency. For example, if they are trying to sell you backlinks, run for the hills! Instead, hire an agency that is selling you high-quality content in the form of blog posts 1,000-2,000 words each. They should also be talking about optimizing titles and descriptions, removing duplicate content, redirecting old URLs, and earning backlinks through quality content. Spending that an hour’s worth of time educating yourself will make you an informed consumer in the SEO world, and in the long run, you’l be glad you read up on the latest trends. After all, in the world of SEO, tactics that works 10, 5 or even 3 years ago may actually penalize you in 2018.

Blogging. Check the SEO Agency’s blog. Do they keep it up to date? Are they trying to establish themselves as an expert in the industry? If not, there are probably better alternatives out there. If they haven’t posted in over a year, keep shopping around. They likely don’t take their business as seriously as they should. Every good SEO knows keeping your website and your blog updated and active is a key ingredient in a well optimized website. Also check their social networks to see how well those are updated. Social media plays an important factor in SEO value, as Google looks at engagement such as Likes and Shares on social media networks.

Bill Leake
Apogee Results

PAUL: What should raise red flags when hiring an SEO Agency?

Bill: In my mind, instant “check your wallet, start backing up, and find a different agency” red flags include quite a few items, including not being able to supply references, preferably from FORMER clients (you learn a lot more about an agency during the break up process than during the dating ones, not asking you about access to Google Analytics or Google AdWords in the sales process (not asking this shows they don’t really understand how all these things can link together to create an optimal campaign), not having a clear link-building strategy laid out in their proposal (off-page is still the largest part of the Google algorithm, yet most SEO agencies still compulsively avoid this hard work), not having “easy exit” terms for you in their contract, not being able or willing to tell you specifically HOW they plan to help you (anyone deferring to “that’s our secret sauce” is a walk-way — you are the client) AND, finally, offering a rankings guarantee (counterintuitive, but classic sign of a low-end, low-skill provider)

4 Digital Marketing Experts Share Their Predictions For 2018

Unless you’re psychic, or the owner of Zoltars crystal ball, you probably don’t now know what’s in store for digital marketing in 2018.

Will it be new technologies like VR or AI that dominate? Will content marketing still be the biggest talking point? Or will analytics and data continue to be the back bone of digital marketing?

I spoke with 5 digital marketing experts to get their predictions for 2018.

​Serge Vartanov
​Chief Marketing Officer

For several years, improvements in targeting and attribution have made digital marketing more precise and more efficient, driving reasonable expectation that advertisers are able to reach a more relevant audience at greater cost efficiency. Unfortunately, these savings are offset by the increasing shift in advertising dollars from traditional to digital channels, making digital real estate that much more expensive. Nonetheless, several trends in digital marketing have gained significant footholds, foremost among which is overall and deep-funnel attribution, fraud prevention and media buy optimization. As both advertisers and publishers become increasingly sophisticated, it would be reasonable to expect greater transparency, as well as further gains in creative optimization to drive both relevance and cost efficiency.

Finding optimal combinations of product, messaging, user, channel and circumstance or context has unlocked new frontiers of cost efficiency as well as user satisfaction in advertising. I would predict that the best is yet to come. Advertising can be made more impactful with the inclusion of social proof – evidence that other consumers, ideally users that the targeted consumer knows, are also using the mobile product and vouch for its quality. In addition to social networks, social proof can also be achieved with commerce platforms. Imagine being in the market for a car and seeing what cars your friends, or users like you, are shopping for on platforms like AutoGravity.

In the coming year, greater optimization should be achieved from better user targeting, less obtrusive advertising (less likely to frustrate users), retargeting creative that is better tuned to individual user engagement behavior, as well as improvements in the native blend of creative and the publishers where the creative is purchased. As is true in marketing more broadly, users are substantially more likely to engage with creative that is non-intrusive and relevant for them. 

Tyler Sickmeyer
Fidelitas Development

Niche content will become even more prevalent in 2018. With more options for content consumption at our fingertips than ever before, successful marketing leaders will continue to leverage niche content and narrow-targeted audiences at a higher rate in 2018. Pressure for tangible returns on marketing spend continues to mount, and one of the easiest ways to ensure a strong ROI is to concentrate marketing efforts on a brand’s core customers. Niche content allows a brand to position itself as a team of trusted experts within a given field, leading to improved brand positioning with the organization’s most important customers.

The days of a “set it and forget it” content strategy around generic 300-500 word blog posts are no longer effective, meaning that marketing leaders looking for digital marketing success are best served to focus on unique,comprehensive content that serves a specific audience with a specific need. For example, instead of writing a generic post around the three mistakes a cook makes in the kitchen, a brand would be better served writing a 1,000 word article around vegan prep meals, then taking the content to the next level by including photos and, if possible, a demonstration video. Niche content like this that provides a comprehensive solution to a core customer’s problem will lead to increased site traffic, improved search rankings, and increased on-site conversions (read: ROI) for marketing leaders in 2018.

Marketing leaders who aren’t sure where to start with niche content should rely upon keyword research from free tools like Google’s Keyword Planner and paid tools like Buzzsumo,which are great for identifying niche content opportunities that will generate traffic.

Chris Gregory
DAGMAR Marketing

The biggest trend for 2018 will be long-form content. Companies with successful digital marketing campaigns will, in increasing numbers, be regularly writing pieces of well-optimized, quality long-form content. Benefits of longer content are numerous, including that top ranking pieces of content in Google search result pages tend to be at least 2,000 words. Site visitors engage more deeply with long-form posts, and these boosted engagement metrics (longer time on site, reduced bounce rate) will also help with rankings. Strategically include internal links for even better engagement. Long-form posts get significantly more inbound links, further boosting rankings and visibility.

Long-form content should typically be 1,500-3,000 words long, covering a topic in depth. You can brainstorm topics by asking members of the team who regularly communicate with prospects and customers what information would be most helpful; reviewing Google Analytics to see which posts have performed best to date; using Google Trends to find useful insights; and auditing the website to see what gaps in information exist. Using this intelligence, you can create a relevant topic that is neither too broad nor too narrow. Too broad: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Telecommunications. Too narrow: Definition of Payload in Packet Switching.

Elements of long-form content can include (but are not limited to) FAQs, customer testimonials, highlights of case studies, compelling (hopefully, original) images, how-to videos, quotes from industry leaders, interviews and checklists. Elements such as FAQs, checklists and other bulleted content can sometimes cause your text to appear in Google’s Answer Boxes, which greatly boosts site visibility.

Although companies will need to invest more time into longer pieces of content, they’re efficient uses of time because snippets can be used for social media postings over long periods of time. The content can form the basis of email marketing campaigns, among other uses.

Vijay Koduri

There are a few trends that will overtake digital marketing in 2018, especially short form video, increasing use of influencer marketing, and product forums.

In 2018, audiences will be consuming much of their information through short form video: 5 second soundbites on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Email and More. What organizations are doing more and more to stand out is posting fun, informed content on YouTube -- and then distributing soundbites of that video through social mediaA second trend is the increasing use of influencers. Consumers can see through the thin veil of branded content, and view it with a lot of skepticism. Increasingly, industry experts can talk about a product or trend with much more authority than companies. So B2B brands will be leveraging industry experts a lot more, and B2C brands will be leveraging influencers a lot more.

In fact, at HashCut, we’ve seen a lot of success by combining these trends. For instance, we ran a contest with a YouTube creator called SNG Comedy. They asked their 650,000 fans to clip out their favorite joke using HashCut, post on Facebook, and ask their friends to like the clip. Over 900 made and posted hashcuts. For SNG Comedy, they saw their normal YouTube view counts & watch times increase by 100%, and social engagement increased by 1,500%.

Finally, a third trend will be that product and user forums will increase substantially. Sites like Reddit are taking off. This is great for brands, because they can not only release their content in these forums, but use the forums to discuss directly with their audience.

In summary, your audience is getting their information through social feeds, video, and forums. So focus on these and you’ll get the word out in 2018.

7 Content Marketing Experts Share Their Favorite Tools

In the last few years, content marketing has become increasingly important, as marketers move away from things like static text and banner ads and shift towards engaging and educating their customers through methods like interactive video and blog posts.

But, technology is constantly changing, so for marketers, content creators and business owners, keeping up to date with the plethora of tools available can be a daunting task.

On top of that, most people don’t have the time to trial all the available tools to find out which ones best suit their needs.

Fortunately, Spooky Digital has done the work for you. I spoke with 9 content marketing experts who shared their favorite tools for creating engaging content.

Let’s dive right in...

Stephen Jeske
Content Strategist @

My favorite tool, if I had to pick one, would be CoSchedule for a number of reasons. 

I like to keep a publishing schedule for our company blog so I always know what’s coming down the pipeline. I never want to be in a situation where I’m worried about what I’m going to publish this week. CoSchedule handles this very well with its calendar-based scheduling. 

To ensure there are no surprises, I use task templates that I set up in CoSchedule to make certain all necessary tasks are completed prior to the article’s publication date. Getting a post ready to publish is a group effort, so these tasks are assigned to various members of the team. Keeping a post with its associated tasks and communication together makes following up easy. I can quickly determine which stage a post is at in pre-production. 

Publishing a post is only part of the story. Once an article is live, it’s time to start promoting. I use CoSchedule’s template feature to quickly create a social media plan ensuring the post gets published to all our social feeds at the optimal times. This leaves me with more time to spend time on high-value activities like relationship building. 

Much of the content we produce is evergreen, so I throw it into CoSchedule’s requeue for some intelligent and continuous promotion. Requeue works well at filling in the gaps in our social media calendar. Within the app, I specify the publication frequency in each channel, so our followers aren’t overloaded with social content. Plus I can set a repetition limit so that the app doesn’t mindlessly repromote the same post over and over. 

Jessica Stansberry
Video Marketing Strategist @

Content marketing relies heavily on consistency and processes but it can be extremely hard to keep up with a schedule and a process for each piece of content without a tool to make that happen.

Obviously any calendar can allow you to make a plan for content creation and execution, but Trello makes it even easier, more streamlined, and repeatable. With Trello, you can plan content out in a calendar or list view, add to-do lists by default so the process of executing the content creation is never forgotten, and check steps off in real time to keep up with where you are in the process. As a true type B personality, I appreciate that the system focuses on visual appeal and the ability to change at any point throughout the process.

As an example of how I use this system and process in my business, I publish YouTube videos three times per week and each of those videos has an accompanying written blog post, Pinterest-ready images, social-ready images, and a social sharing schedule. With Trello, I am able keep all potential content ideas listed, change them into ideas that are in process with a simple drag-and-drop, add a templated to-do list to each piece of content, and pass off to my team at different stages, all on automation.

 By using this tool, I can view my content schedule at a glance, know exactly what needs to be completed by what dates and see where the content has progressed through the process of getting it created, published and shared.

Izaak Crook
Digital Marketing Executive @

In content marketing, a lot of people overlook the sheer importance of the outreach aspect. It's all well and good creating a fantastic piece of content - but nobody will see it if you don't promote it! 

Luckily for us content marketers - there are are a few fantastic tools that you can use to make outreach and promotion a breeze. For me - one of the absolute best is Ahrefs. 

Ahrefs first and foremost is an SEO tool. However, they offer so much more than just checking backlinks. The content explorer functionality allows you to find top content similar to yours, or around the same topics. Using that information, you'll be able to find exactly the right people to reach out to - those who linked to the similar content.

All of this can be done within AHrefs. I'll find a few similar articles, then use site explorer to find out who linked to them. Next - I'll extract all of those backlinks - and use my preferred email finding tool - Hunter - to find email addresses for every site.

Once you have a full list of people who linked to similar content, and an email address for each one - you can use a tool like YAMM (Yet Another Mail Merge) to send personalised emails to each of them, sharing the awesome content you've been working so hard on.

I've found this method to be a fantastic way of building not just links - but relationships with publications. Ahrefs for me is an invaluable tool!

Tim Jernigan
 Head of Product Marketing @

Badger Maps

Content marketing has a lot of moving parts. There are tools for everything from SEO to content promotion, but not many of them are designed to improve the fundamental aspects of creating content. Outlining, drafting and organizing the different pieces of your content have to be done in different applications. Airstory fills that gap and ties everything together.

Awesome content starts as a fantastic outline, and Airstory simplifies the entire process. It’s a fantastic tool for collecting and combining the different elements of your content. You can save your research to "cards" and add it to your outline with smooth drag and drop functionality. Airstory acts as a hub for your images and writing templates, so you're never starting from a blank page again (every writer knows how scary that can be). You can integrate with Evernote to keep all of your notes on the same page, and use Zapier to tie-in any other app you can think of. Airstory is an essential part of our content marketing efforts.

Nicole Silver
Digital Strategist @

A huge part of content marketing for me is producing exciting content. However, this content won’t take my company anywhere unless it’s distributed properly. So, I would say that pitching my content to relevant sources is crucial to it’s success, which makes my favourite content marketing tool Hunter. 

Hunter helps me find contact information at the click of a button. I am always scouring the internet in search of publications and people who will find my content interesting and useful. You would be surprised how difficult some organizations and companies make getting in touch with their staff out to be!

Sometimes a specific individual’s information isn’t posted on the company website that I am trying to reach. But, when I click on Hunter’s Chrome app, it provides me with a list of sources that I can try to get in touch with (including their contact information). 

Hunter is almost always right. Even if it isn’t correct it will provide an email formula for the website that is usually correct. This makes pitching so much easier and less time consuming for me. I can generate more accurate media lists and send my content to the right people who will actually publish it! Hunter has really helped me in my content marketing efforts!

Teresa Walsh
 Marketing Executive


My favourite content marketing tool is Buzzstream

The days of writing content and sitting back and waiting for it to be read and ranked are long gone. Creating content is much more than just writing and publishing you have to spend time promoting it and putting it in front of the right people. Buzzstream is a fantastic tool for this and I would be lost without it his comprehensive software and its handy Chrome extension.

It is important to mix your marketing efforts and one way to get your content read is y getting other bloggers etc to link t it and in order to that, you need to undertake the time-consuming task of outreach. This is where Buzzstream comes in.

It allows you to compile different prospect lists, assign yourself days to outreach them, reminders to follow up, keep track of any links achieved, how many emails you've sent and who has responded and who has not. Buzzstream basically puts the organisation SEO outreach. The chrome extension is also great when you come across a blog or website you know you want to contact, you click on the Buzzstream extension and you can save it directly to the relevant prospect list without ever leaving the website. Time-saving wizardry.

Stephen Gibson
Founder @

Content marketing is the foundation of everything we do as marketers. Our list of favorite tools could go on for quite some time, and we're always on the hunt for new and exciting one. Here are some of our favorites to supercharge any content marketing campaign.

Canva is extremely useful for creating beautiful and engaging cover photos, images for social shares, and more. It just takes a few minutes to get professional looking digital images for any project you're working on.

Grammarly is a wonderful tool for checking grammar before any content is published. Just copy and paste your text, or use their browser extension, and with one click you can get pristine content.

Moz's Open Site Explorer gives you a wealth of information of not only a website but specific web pages. What I like best about it is checking both the Domain Authority and Page Authority of specific pages. Their browser extension gives you the ability to take the same functionality wherever you browse. You can always know right away the health of a website you're considering working with for your campaigns.

Also, we'd be lost without Google Docs. The ability to take documents from draft to finalization is invaluable. We can see everybody's edits and quickly gather feedback. Gone are the days of emailing Microsoft Word documents with change tracking on. Google Docs is beyond useful and an essential part of getting things done.

Digital Marketing Experts Discuss The Impact of Net Neutrality Changes

In two days’ time the internet as we know it could fundamentally change, that’s if the proposal by the Federal Communications Commission(FCC), led by Chairman Ajit Pai, to overturn net neutrality laws stopping ISPs from blocking or giving preference to certain content is given the green light.

Net neutrality makes it so that all content is treated equally on the internet, be it streaming services, sports, shopping sites or news. Therefore you as a consumer have an easy enough time finding what you’re looking for without anything being filtered or hidden.

Critics worry that getting rid of neutrality regulations will lead to a “two-tier” internet: ISPs will charge fees to sites, apps, and advertisers and slow down or block the sites that can’t or won’t pay the fees. As a result, users will only have access to part of the internet, with the rest either inaccessible or extremely slow.

Will the internet be divided into a two tier system? Will small businesses struggle to stay afloat without being able to spend huge amounts of money? Or are the concerns overblown? I spoke to some digital marketing experts to find out what they think.

Vanessa Watts

Executive Vice President @ Laughlin Constable

PAUL: What impact do you think ending net neutrality will have on digital marketing?

VANESSA: Honestly, if everyone in the marketing industry isn’t worried about net neutrality, then they’re not paying attention.

Content providers—both vendors and brands—will be most affected by an end to net neutrality. This isn’t limited to just consumer content; B2B can also be impacted. Mainstays of B2B marketing like free white papers and webinars may be competitively blocked, suffer access fees, ending equal availability to all potential customers. That would be a major blow to the B2B marketing industry.

With the ability for ISPs to charge for bandwidth, we may see publishers cut deals to give preferred access to their content. And you can say goodbye to start-ups. If they’re not able to afford high-speed bandwidth, they’ll be lost in the shuffle. Same goes for blogs and other kinds of long-tail content providers. We could see a return to the days of content behemoths like Google and Facebook as the forced choice for information and entertainment, but the impact may not stop there. We could see advertisers offer new 'incentive' marketing opportunities. 'Gift with Purchase' would take on a whole new meaning. Access could become a gift rather than a given. Ending net neutrality opens up the possibility of promotions like 'Come to our store three times this week and we’ll upgrade your internet speed.' The scope of the impact is purely speculation right now, but the ramifications of this decision could be massive.

Mark Rapley

Director of Operations @ KWIC Internet

PAUL: What impact do you think ending net neutrality will have on digital marketing?

MARK: Digital marketers will feel pressure from a non-neutral internet as places online become more stratified. For example, should ISPs have the option to portion up internet access, subscribers will have to choose what they really want to see and forgo access to sites that they would have visited previously, which will mean that there will be less crossover of demographics for a given site. People interested in a certain service or subject matter will pay their ISP in order to get access to the content that matters most to them, and simply stop visiting sites that are not in their primary interest category rather than pay to access them. This, in turn, means that digital marketers will be fighting over a shrinking number of opportunities to get their product in front of their target audience. This will make digital marketing a much more inefficient proposition and may slow growth of digital marketing spend. The end of net neutrality will turn digital marketing into a much more competitive and stratified business, and the strong correlation of interest to subscription will make things like retargeting less effective because potential leads simply won’t show up nearly as often on unrelated sites, as is the case now.

PAUL: Which areas do you think will be most affected?

MARK: The areas of digital marketing that stand to be most affected are those that use search engines’ networks to place ads. Since these ads are served on partner websites in addition to the search results, consumers may be “locked out” of seeing placements on web pages, simply because their subscription doesn’t allow them access to those particular websites. Strategies like pay-per-click will have to deal with a shrinking supply of pages to display their ads, and marketers who rely on affiliates will see a steep decline in effectiveness as the internet becomes a vertical, rather than horizontal, entity. Content marketing is also likely to be significantly affected, as having new content is only half the battle without net neutrality. A new website could be producing outstanding content on a regular basis, but if internet companies do not include this website in their standard access plans, then even the best content will not succeed in generating traffic. All of this is to say that if providers are allowed to create walled gardens then there is an increased risk of types of marketing that depends on exposure in lots of online venues will simply dry up or be superseded by more email marketing or social engagement.

PAUL: Which businesses do you think will be most affected?

MARK: Small businesses are likely to be most affected by the end of net neutrality. The problem with reducing the number of websites that a consumer can visit is that there are fewer low-cost opportunities for small businesses just getting started with digital marketing. For example, a new online service for food lovers can no longer count on being able to advertise across a wide variety of small food blogs, because it will no longer be effective. In the same way, popular websites will be able to charge more for prime ad positions, which will effectively shut small businesses out for budgetary reasons. In the current digital marketing landscape, where effectively run campaigns matter just as much as total budget, small businesses and start-ups can make an impression and generate traffic by creating novel content, targeting under-utilized websites or platforms, or making up for budget constraints with time and sweat equity. In an internet without neutrality, these strategies will be dramatically less effective, because the root of the problem will always be that consumers will not often want to pay simply for the ability to access the website of a new, unproven business. They would rather make sure they can access the established, larger players in the segment, because this guarantees them a minimum standard of quality, even if the potential for quality or innovation is higher with a smaller business or startup.

Steve Yu

CEO @ MediaAlpha

PAUL: What impact do you think ending net neutrality will have on digital marketing?

STEVE: For small and medium-sized e-commerce and digital advertising companies, the only real debate is whether the repeal of net neutrality will be only moderately negative or utterly disastrous.

Consumers will be less tolerant of slow load times for websites they have not used before, which will lead to higher customer acquisition costs for smaller companies, whether in the form of reduced marketing efficiencies or fees paid to ISPs. And, the consumer uproar that may ultimately protect Netflix and Ebay from unfavorable treatment will do little to preserve unfettered access to these smaller companies' websites.

Because of limited brand awareness and lack of scale, smaller companies already pay a disproportionately higher price to acquire new customers through Google, Amazon, and Facebook, and the repeal of net neutrality will simply add ISPs to this list of gatekeepers and further tilt the playing field to the advantage of established, well-known brands.

I would urge Congress to retain net neutrality to protect small business.

Eric Dahan

CEO @ Open Influence

PAUL: What impact do you think ending net neutrality will have on digital marketing?

ERIC: The entire online advertising industry is based on monetizing people's attention, and by eliminating net neutrality the FCC would give the cable companies a monopoly over how you use the internet. This would allow them to manipulate what you can and can't pay attention to- giving cable companies full control over the online advertising industry (along with many others). The effects would be catastrophic to the ad industry, as cable companies take advantage of their monopoly to increase their profits – resulting in a huge loss of value to all advertisers, consumers, and the greater economy. For example, slowing or eliminating access to social networks would be detrimental for the consumers who depend on these networks to connect with friends and family, and change how brands engage on these networks – ultimately forcing the social networks to rethink how they monetize.

To be clear, net neutrality is not a partisan issue. Repealing it doesn't favor any American who uses the internet, and it will negatively impact all businesses, both big and small, with the exception of course of the cable companies. Many Americans may not understand the ramifications of a repeal today, but they will as soon as it passes. Voting to repeal net neutrality is corrupt and political suicide.

Sergey Denisenko


PAUL: What impact do you think ending net neutrality will have on digital marketing?

SERGEY: In February I, like many others, predicted the Trump administration would put an end to net neutrality, so while this is saddening it’s not surprising. Today’s consumer expects every website to function flawlessly, and any site that doesn’t have ties or budget to pay internet service providers to ensure it loads quickly and perfectly is going to struggle to maintain its audience. This is where we see a domino effect – a business can’t afford to pay an ISP for premium service, so it loses its audience, which leads to a fallout from advertisers and then maintaining day-to-day operations becomes impossible, so it folds. As a result, we’ll see less competition in the world of digital content creation, which will then reduce overall digital ad supply while demand remains high. It’s tough to say who will be impacted most, because really any ad network, publisher or advertiser without ties to big cable is going to feel this one way or another.

Joshua Feinberg

Founder @ SP Homerun

PAUL: What impact do you think ending net neutrality will have on digital marketing?

JOSHUA: The end of net neutrality will have a chilling impact on how some small businesses and non-profits use digital marketing.

Historically, low barriers to entry have attracted companies and organizations to digital marketing -- and especially content marketing and inbound marketing.

However, most savvy marketers recognize that content creation is only half of the battle. The other half of the battle comes down to promotion and distribution.

If all of a sudden the majority of what's been free or organic becomes pay-to-play, this pricing model could elbow out a ton of small businesses and non-profits whose metrics and business models simply can't afford to make those investments.

As an example, think about how Facebook business pages were used five years ago. A small business CEO was relatively confident that most of those that liked their page would see their content. In the post-IPO Facebook world, with increasing competition, an entirely new digital marketing frustration and an opportunity were born: "Boost Post." Imagine the entire Internet being filled with "Boost _______" where there are monopolistic and oligopolistic pricing models.

PAUL: Which areas do you think will be most affected?

JOSHUA: The lines will continue to blur between native advertising, traditional digital advertising (like Google AdWords Text Ads), and organic content promotion.

Email service providers (such as Constant Contact, GetResponse, and MailChimp) and marketing automation software providers (such as Act-On, HubSpot, and Infusionsoft) will increasingly be forced to pass along additional costs for email marketing that make many offerings based more on variable pricing than a fixed monthly cost.

Because Amazon Web Services has done this so successfully, I see a lot of product managers emulating that model if net neutrality forces their companies to absorb new overhead costs.

So the days of a static pricing page, with three boxes, are numbered. And instead, we'll see a lot more calculators that model a half-dozen or more different pricing variables.

Will small businesses and non-profits be in a position to pay these new costs that could be anywhere from nominal to exorbitant? I think that's a lot of what the net neutrality protests and petitions are getting at..

PAUL: Which businesses do you think will be most affected?

JOSHUA: Again, small businesses and non-profits that today are only able to marginally promote on paid search and paid social will be the hardest hit.

There's a Darwinian element to this as well, where some businesses and organizations will be forced to rethink and adapt their business models, pricing, and how they achieve product/market fit -- the degree to which they're able to scale strong demand.

We use average client lifetime value (LTV) as a barometer for driving what can be invested in the average cost of client acquisition (COCA). For example, a SaaS company selling a $250,000 platform to Fortune 500 law firms will be able to make much more aggressive digital marketing investments than a competitor of theirs selling a $250 per month application to small law firms.

In much the same way that U.S. intellectual property laws -- especially copyright, trademark, and patent -- are designed to encourage investment and provide a level playing field, there are definitely some policy issues at work here as well. Since I'm neither an attorney nor a politician, I'll leave it at that.

But at the end of the day, there will most definitely be winners and losers in the net neutrality battle. It's not hard to imagine certain small businesses and non-profits losing out here.

8 Artificial Intelligence Experts Predict The Future Of AI Marketing


Paul, here from Spooky Digital.

Artificial Intelligence used to be the stuff of science fiction nightmares, robots taking over the planet and keeping humans as pets, but now businesses across the globe are using AI marketing technologies to make smarter business decisions and engage customers in ways that seemed unfathomable a few years ago.

Chat-bots, AI enhanced PPC, programmatic media buying and dynamic pricing are just the embryonic stages of AI, as companies invest billions of dollars to stay ahead of the competition.

In the last week we’ve seen IBM announce its new Power9 chip developed specially for AI, AWS(Amazon Web Services) launch a web suite of AI services for business and Google Brain announce it has developed an AI capable of building its own AI. Yes, you read that last one correctly.

I caught up with 8 artificial intelligence experts to find out what the future holds for AI marketing and how marketers are going to have to evolve to keep up with that changes.

Ryan Redding

Owner @ DP Marketing Services

Business Consultant @ Oklahoma State University

PAUL: What impact do you think AI will have on marketing strategy in 2018?

RYAN: Marketing has already been impacted by the development of AI for a number of years, but is increasingly becoming more and more integrated. In many ways, Google has been leading the way in making this AI-push mainstream with their Knowledge Graph and Featured Snippets products. As popular consumer devices such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa become more common, all signs points to even more overt efforts with AI integration. For instance, Google just announced that Google Home will start offering specific companies for things like Plumbers and Home Contractors. Basically, a person may make a request to Google Home saying something like 'Hey Google, my sing is clogged', and Google will recommend a very limited list of plumbers for the customer to choose from- and even make the call for them. This may be a seismic shift for both customers, and marketers."

PAUL: What impact do you think it will have in the longer term (5-10 years)?

RYAN: It may be hard to imagine, but Apple's iPhone has been on the market just over 10 years now. And in that time, that singular device has distributed so many industries. A decade ago, very few people would've been able to foresee how that device would have such an impact on areas such as finance, medicine, communication, industrial design and more. Of course, the iPhone has now spawned development with everything from wearable technology to security standards. In a similar fashion, as mature as AI-technologies are, in some ways, we're really right on the cusp of seeing how disruptive AI will be. Certainly, as computing prices decrease and internet speeds to consumers increase, we may find ourselves on the verge of a AI-revolution that may radically disrupt all industries.

PAUL: What kinds of skills and insight/intelligence will marketing professionals need in the future to work with AI?

RYAN: To fully leverage AI, marketers will be required to be both data-obsessed and user-obsessed. Traditionally, marketers have used conversion ratios and reach projections to calculate efficacy of marketing campaigns. As a part of that, there's been this mindset of measuring the 'point of last touch', or essentially, only being able to measure the results of a marketing strategy based on the last influence upon a customer's action- such as a coupon or an AdWords click. With AI, marketers will be forced to think things through a more psychological level by providing useful information to customers where the information is actually desired and useful, while at the same time, leveraging the deep analytics that AI provides to continually measure and revise strategies. For a marketer, this means that we'll now be able to measure the full conversion process for our clients- things like how effective that billboard along the highway was for influencing the conversion process- and at the same time, think more holistically about the end-customers being people first, and not objects to target.

Philippe Gerard

CEO & Founder @Eyedream

PhD in Artificial Intelligence & Pattern Recognition

PAUL: What impact do you think AI will have on marketing strategy in2018?

PHILIPPE: While AI has been around us for decades, these last few years AI has been more fashionable. So far, It has been intensively used for hand writing recognition in bank to read checks, or for speech recognition. The methods need usually to be trained and require a set of data to learn. In marketing, this technology has a huge potential since more and more objects are connected (phones, tablets, watch, domestic robots, ...) and the produced data are becoming tremendous. Communication is usually poorly targeted with linear medias, while we can see new interactive screens capable of recognizing the type of audience watching it, and using this information to display the best content for everyone. Age, gender and emotion can be detected using a single camera and to modify the display and fit better the target. In Merchandising, AI can model behaviors of clients and give very useful information to increase the revenue of a retail shop. AI can basically reshape retails. In E-commerce, Artificial agents are helping clients as if they were in a real store with vendors. We can expect in 2018, that all these first steps will be further developed. Collecting data and keeping contact with customers will be a crucial challenge of AI.

PAUL: What impact do you think it will have in the longer term(5-10years)?

PHILIPPE: Since the number of connected object belonging to the IOT (internet of things) will be increasing drastically. the power of communication between all these elements will be difficult to use without an automatic AI. In Marketing, if the people have accepted their data to be used, it will be very interesting to better select what data the targets will be happy to receive. For instance services such sending automatic calls to emergency, when the sensor of someone's connected pace maker is giving an alert, or a service ordering automatically food that will reduce health problem according to body sensors information... so many services could be proposed that could combine data from sensors and customized services to everyone. A lot of domestic and daily tasks could be treated by a "smarter" domestic system capable of cleaning the house, turn/on and off the air con or start a robot to mow the grass, when is more convenient for the person living there. etc... All these domains of service should only be AI-based in order to learn and predict what people want. The collection of data and the process of learning will create a perfect assistant. Marketing will become more and more specific to everyone. It should collect and combine the data from e-commerce and real retails in order to engage with their clients in a more natural way. Virtual Agent on E-commerce will be more human and will not look like a Q&A session. It will engage a real discussion with clients. These conversations could be treated and used to recognized and continue the more friendly discussion with the clients in further session. The agents will recognize you as if you were shopping in the shop next door and won't ask again the thing he/she should already know such as your size, age and weight if you already bought the day before

PAUL: What kinds of skills and insight/intelligence will marketing professionals need in the                               future to work with AI?

PHILIPPE: Marketing professionals will need to acquire the fundamentals about what AI really is. Today AI is not always really understood and some applications sold as AI-based are not more than pattern recognition. AI should be used to learn, to be able to dig valuable information into a huge pile of data and should give accurate results after training. i.e: detecting if a person is smiling or not is just a pattern recognition tool, while speaking a language and replying to questions with accuracy is closer to what we expect from AI. Marketing professional just needs the basic to judge what they are buying from the companies who are giving them such a service to be able to select the right partner and also to understand better how they could use the technology into their domain.

Aaryn Kobayashi

AI Growth Marketer                  @ Kahuna

PAUL: What impact do you think AI will have on marketing strategy in 2018?

AARYN: Today's highly dense market puts consumer loyalty at a premium. Top brands all have one thing in common: they are leaders in consumer retention. AI marketing isn't tomorrow's game—it's today's game. Most brands are still struggling with retention and CRM databases because they are expecting a human to crunch pages and pages of exported data sheets and distill insights. Ironically, AI marketing is the only way to put a more human touch on your consumer relationships. Personalization, powered by AI, means better product recommendations, more attuned message delivery, predictive audience segments—all with a few clicks.

PAUL: What impact do you think it will have in the longer term(5-10 years)?

AARYN: The output of AI is improved with immense datasets. Meaning, as AI marketing becomes the standard, the strategy we are used to putting together as a marketing team might not be necessary anymore. At Kahuna, we are already seeing a shocking degree of accuracy and complexity with AI being able to plot out an optimal path to purchase based on past audience behavior and predictive insights.

PAUL: What kinds of skills and insight/intelligence will marketing professionals need in the                                  future to work with AI?

AARYN: These days, some AI platforms require knowledge of SQL for audience segment creation, for example. But, similarly to web development, soon everything will be drag-and-drop or perhaps completely automated with 1-click. For successful AI adoption, marketers must have a base understanding of what AI can and should be able to do. There is a level of trust needed between human and machine in order for AI marketing to be initially adopted and ultimately successful.

Ryan & Chad Steelberg

President & CEO of Veritone

Business Journal 40 Under 40 Award Winners

PAUL: What impact do you think AI will have on marketing strategy in2018? 

RYAN : In 2010 we saw the emergence of on-demand media where it went from linear environment to DVR to streaming. Right now, it’s about on-demand selection and minimal interruptions. As consumers expectations and standards shift, interruptive and spot-based advertising will adjust to native and organic methods. We believe that the traditional model of interruptive-based advertising may be a thing of the past but on the topic of traditional methods, old school sponsorship models may become premier strategies for awareness, where a whole compilation is sponsored by one brand.

PAUL: What impact do you think it will have in the longer term(5-10 years)?

RYAN: In 2017, there is a disproportionate balance between purveyors of the tech and consumers. We predict that in 2018 and beyond, brands will generally have a better understanding what AI means for business applications because of intentional education, experimentation and strategy with AI. Forward-thinking businesses will set aside budget for AI in the coming years. Now, if you didn’t take the time to become educated about AI or set aside budget for innovative technologies, you'll soon be facing a digital divide. There's still time to learn and strategize, but unfortunately, there will be a huge chasm in business application of early adopters and those who fell behind. 

PAUL: What kinds of skills and insight/intelligence will marketing professionals need in the                                           future to work with AI?

CHAD: Those who fear that AI will take their jobs shouldn’t rail against this inevitable technology innovation. Instead, they should hone their skill sets with talents only humans possess, such as creativity, emotional intelligence and unstructured problem-solving. Better yet, become a fearless early adopter: integrate AI into your job and demonstrate the efficiency gains to your co-workers. Embrace your humanity, your emotions and the other things that distinguish you from a computer -- welcome AI into your life as a helping hand.

David Gutelius PhD

Founder @ The Data Guild

Founder @ Motiva AI

PAUL: What impact do you think AI will have on marketing strategy in 2018?

DAVID: AI will probably have less impact than most think in the short term. But in 2018 you'll begin to see top B2C brands and B2B companies who've invested in bringing AI into their marketing begin reap the rewards. The ones who do it right will achieve better customer loyalty and satisfaction, and higher response rates with lower human effort. This will set those companies up to win against the competition.

At the same time, marketers everywhere will also see another even more profound change in 2018: there's a new generation of highly effective AI-driven spam and ad filtering that will hit the market. If the message wasn't clear before, it is now: if you want to engage audiences, mindless push campaigns are not the way to do it. Keep it up, and customers will go to where they feel appreciated - with the help of AI.

PAUL: What impact do you think it will have in the longer term(5-10 years)?

DAVID: Longer term, AI will allow companies communicate with customers in fundamentally different ways - and paradoxically this will feel much more human than most marketing does today. It will also begin to blend the domains of marketing, sales, and support with machine intelligence, helping human teams help customers however and wherever needed - proactively. Machines may take over some of the rote tasks human do today, but the story is less about automation and more about augmentation. Marketers will use their "digital prosthetic" assistants to communicate and care for customers in entirely new ways. The stuff we think of as "marketing" today will seem ridiculously quaint.

PAUL: What kinds of skills and insight/intelligence will marketing professionals need in the                                           future to work with AI?

DAVID: Marketers with deep creativity, a willingness to experiment, and a genuine concern for customers will be in higher demand. You'll likely be working directly with machine assistants that can help you do more, test more, deliver more - and they'll need your guidance and training to deliver the best results. You'll be part of a new team that's a mix of adaptive assistants and human colleagues. You won't be doing many of the routine tasks you have today - particularly if they can be scripted or are rules-based. That means you'll be left with higher-order, creative work: thinking deeply about who customers are, what they want / need, and different strategies to satisfy them. In the end, the machines will allow us to be more human in our marketing.

       Sameer Patel

     CEO @ Kahuna

PAUL: What impact do you think AI will have on marketing strategy in 2018?

SAMEER: Immediately. AI will take the guesswork out of marketing. Today, the marketer is subsumed in campaign design and segmentation. AI immediately lets the marketer take control of the hard questions. Questions such as who to target, which consumers will churn, the best time to engage them, the best channel to engage them on, and the best message content that will convert.

PAUL: What impact do you think it will have in the longer term (5-10 years)?

SAMEER: AI will help the marketer scale in the long-term. The proliferation of engagement channels from email to mobile, chat-bots, AR/VR, beacons, voice and others requires machine learning and AI to make sense of a million digital breadcrumbs that every consumer leaves behind every day. To genuinely build a relationship with this hyper-connected consumer that just a few years ago was only tied to email, the modern marketer must embrace AI to get ahead of this tsunami of data.

PAUL: What kinds of skills and insight/intelligence will marketing professionals need in the                                           future to work with AI?

SAMEER: Marketing will need to learn how to become less programmatic and more strategic. If the machines will help make more accurate decisions on who to target, when to target, who will churn, and the like in near real time, the marketer gets freed up from the block & tackle, and first and foremost gets to focus on building authentic relationships with every consumer that can far outlast individual transactions. As important is the fact that the marketer is now very strategic—based on a real time handle of the consumer, she figures out which kinds of products to bring to market, how to drive supply & demand planning, and how to increase the lifetime value of every consumer.

Damon Waldron

Vice President @ Protagonist Technology

PAUL: ​​​​What impact do you think AI will have on marketing strategy in 2018?

DAMON: Artificial intelligence is going to have an emerging role in marketing strategy in 2018. Until now, AI has been an abstract idea in the space - largely focused on chat-bots and robotic “job-stealers”. These notions don’t have a legitimate place in marketing. However, as more marketers become aware of what AI has to offer in terms of unprecedented access to data, uber-personalization, and extreme segmentation, the marketing world is waking up to the power of AI as a tool to enhance marketing engagements and strategy.

To effectively engage with buyers today, marketers need to identify, analyze, and action all the available customer data. Without AI, this is impossible. 2018 will prove to be the year that marketers see wider adoption of AI in marketing and the technologies will go from theory, to practice in sophisticated organizations like marketing automation did in early 2000.

PAUL: What impact do you think it will have in the longer term( 5-10 years)?

DAMON: In the longer term, AI will become an essential part of the martech stack just like CRM or marketing automation. Marketers and their organizations will embrace AI solutions with open arms once the effectiveness of these technologies are more widely demonstrated across verticals and in adopted use cases.

With AI, marketers can connect with their buyers and deliver empathy-at-scale via their highly-personalized, data-driven engagements and this will clearly differentiate effective from traditional marketing processes. AI in marketing is here to stay and will only get better in the longer term.

PAUL: What kinds of skills and insight/intelligence will marketing professionals need in the                              future to work with AI?

DAMON: The skills and insight marketing professionals will need in the future to work with AI will be analytics-driven. Marketers will need to learn to analyze and operationalize data like never before. The emergence of AI as part of the marketing tech stack means data that was previously inaccessible, is now accessible and marketers will need to learn to action data to drive better conversions and ultimately, more revenue.

This Ice Cream Shop Owner Is Taking Over NYC One Instagram Post At A Time

In a city with with no shortage of options when it comes to food, it's hard to stand out from the crowd, but Jimmy Chen--owner of Teriyaki NYC--uses social media to build a cult-like following. His posts are so popular, he regularly has people lining up around the block to get one of their fish shaped waffle cones with soft serve.

The result? Business has never been better.

Spooky Digital caught up with Jimmy, for a quick chat on the importance of social media and how Instagram marketing has increased his business.

How important has Instagram been to the success of your business?
  • Instagram has been huge to the success of our business because people eat with their eyes and cameras as much as their mouths these days. Social media, our phones, have been added as cutlery on the metaphorical dinner table in this day and age.

When did your account start to gain serious momentum - was there a tipping point of has it been more of a gradual rise?

  • It has been more of a gradual rise as we work on it daily but there have been spikes when we launch new products like the Unicorn Float.
How important has Instagram been to the success of your business?
  • Instagram has been huge to the success of our business because people eat with their eyes and cameras as much as their mouths these days. Social media, our phones, have been added as cutlery on the metaphorical dinner table in this day and age.

When did your account start to gain serious momentum - was there a tipping point of has it been more of a gradual rise?

  • It has been more of a gradual rise as we work on it daily but there have been spikes when we launch new products like the Unicorn Float.

In July, you introduced your unicorn float (which actually floats). How much did you guys have Instagram/social media in mind when creating it?

  • We definitely had Instagram/Social Media in mind but we also wanted to provide our customer base with a fun, refreshing summer product.

Do you have any tips on attracting more followers and becoming visible in the food world?

  • Being visible in the world is a culmination of several factors today: being visually appealing, working with different brands/influencers and continually innovating.

Do you have any tips on attracting more followers and becoming visible in the food world?

  • Being visible in the world is a culmination of several factors today: being visually appealing, working with different brands/influencers and continually innovating.

Do you have any tips on attracting more followers and becoming visible in the food world?

  • Being visible in the world is a culmination of several factors today: being visually appealing, working with different brands/influencers and continually innovating.

How do you think the rise of influencer accounts on Instagram has impacted on the way that people discover restaurants/chefs/bars/food in New York?

  • It's huge because they have such a huge following on Instagram, a platform where many of use daily. It is also a perfect marriage between influencer and restaurant. Influencers need to create content daily and restaurants want to be featured. 
 Do you think every restaurant should have a presence on social media?
  • YES, YES , YES!!
How do you think the rise of influencer accounts on Instagram has impacted on the way that people discover restaurants/chefs/bars/food in New York?
  • It's huge because they have such a huge following on Instagram, a platform where many of use daily. It is also a perfect marriage between influencer and restaurant. Influencers need to create content daily and restaurants want to be featured. 
 Do you think every restaurant should have a presence on social media?

Do you have any advice for brands who would like to build a successful social media presence?

  • Be consistent with posting, Innovate and study trends. 

And our spooky question......which is spookier, skeletons or zombies?

  • Zombies