31: Marketing Artifacts and the website of doom

Who built this? Why did they build this? What was the purpose of this?

Sometimes, marketing can look a lot like archaeology. Unearthing ancient relics, reverse engineering them, and trying to understand how they were used by your ancestors. Like an ape discovering a tool for the first time, you look at them with a mix of bewilderment and awe. I didn’t know we were so advanced back in — 2011.

You’ve discovered a marketing artifact, and the internet is full of them. Form submits that go to legacy email automation systems, blog posts written before the last ice age, and strategies for a trend that went extinct long ago.

As marketers, we need to be experts at carefully extracting these artifacts, evaluating their worth, and deciding whether to revitalize them or put them in a museum.

Honestly, you’ll encounter this more in your career than you’d probably like, so we’re going to chat about how to work with marketing artifacts.

In the world of tech startups, a lot of marketers only last a 12-18 months before they move on to their next position. They make a bunch of content, then move on, someone comes in to fill their role. This type of inheritance is super common in all areas of marketing. Why is this a problem?

  • No one joining a marketing company wants to inherit someone else’s mess. It’s like renting an AirBnB and finding the dishwasher is still full of dirty dishes. 
  • At least, that’s the perception.
  • The problem is that marketers love to create net new content. We’ve been programmed to think content is king — and have responded by creating mountains and mountains of content. 
  • Most of us in marketing come from some form of content creation background — it’s literally our instinct.

Nothing sucks the wind out of a new job like cleaning up someone else’s mess. It’s easy for the content side to sweep things under the rug. But for tech systems, it’s way harder to clean up.
You get this perception that tool X sucks or tool Y sucks. 

I know you’re deeper in the ops area — how often do you hear a new CMO or VP start looking to migrate off of marketo or hubspot or whatever?

  • Yea very often. Senior leaders come in with the tools they are familiar with and demand a migration in the next year haha
  • I’ve had the experience of building on a fresh underutilized instance of Pardot
  • Configuring and managing the Marketo beast you gave me the keys for at Klipfolio. Funny enough, now that you’re back at Klipfolio, you were stuck uncovering some of the webs I tangled.
  • I’ve also had the migration side of this as well, while I was migrating out of Hubspot, you were migrating to Hubspot.

Martech artifacts are everywhere! The maretch landscape of doom is growing everyday, and each of these vendors can easily be a failed trial. If it’s a free product, then you could be using it forever.

One thing that really gets me is how underutilized existing software is before we start asking for budget for the next thing. I was the type of kid who had to finish each portion on my plate before I moved on to the next thing — I’d eat my broccoli, then my potatoes, then my chicken.

In marketing automation especially, you get players like Marketo / HubSpot that have so many features available out of the box. These features sometimes, however, aren’t as powerful as you can get from other tools. I noticed this with web personalization and forms.

  • Hubspot has a blog CMS, they have email automation, they have forms, they have a CRM… they have something for everyone… That’s a really great way to make a mediocre tool. Everything is average to please the average user. 
  • We use 4 tools instead of Hubspot and they all give us features and powers that hubspot alone cannot.
  • We moved our blog to Ghost which has a beautiful UX and writing experience for my content team and they were pumped to get out of the clunky HS CMS
  • We moved email automation to Customer.io, honestly my favorite email workflow building tool. Super intuitive and fast. 
  • I’m a huge fan of convertflow for forms, DriftRock a UK startup is also doing cool things with forms. No one wants to use a crappy tool.
  • And obviously we use Close for our CRM. 
  • These 4 tools cost us less than hubspot alone cost us.

Totally. Also, we all like shiny objects:

  • I think the key is to identify areas where you want to bring in a new tool. Check your toolset out, and see if they have a version of that feature.
  • Run a test or experiment, and validate your approach.

Speaking of forms, what about the web form that submits to nowhere?

  • When I migrated out of hubspot forms, Close had like 200+ ebook and gated content forms that I needed to re-create and map to a download link and a resource.
  • Lots of companies don’t manage this well. 

Yeah, customer’s hate this — it’s right up there with online chat that doesn’t connect with a live agent.

  • This happens so often — it’s not even funny
  • It’s actually really hard to find things like form embeds on a website.
  • I use a tool called screaming frog which has a custom extraction tool which allows you to specify different selectors to crawl your website
  • The other way to do this is to look at forms within your system and pull them out that way — only works if you know all the systems at play

You’re giving me PTSD. Enough about marketing automation and let’s talk about the website.

  • JT, I know you spend a lot of time in SEO land — from talking with you I know you’re really big on updating existing content instead of just creating new content. Walk us through the advantages of that.

Years ago I ran an experiment where I started updating existing content to see if I could improve traffic and rankings. What I found is that I could consistently move pages from 2nd page and beyond to the first page => this gave something like a 200-400% lift on conversions.

  • SEO is like gardening. You don’t just toss a bunch of seeds in the ground and expect them to grow. You need to tend them and nurture them in order for them to grow

What about when the garden is overrun with weeds and the last gardener has skipped town?
Resist the temptation to clearcut! There are often very valuable plants in that garden. 

  • As an SEO, you need to get good at determining which pieces of content are distractions and which pieces of content are really valuable
  • Use search console’s GA plug-in to see conversion rates and traffic

What types of problems do you see when trying to clear out the garden?

  • Outdated messaging, positioning
  • Language
  • Trends that have died

JT, is there really value in updating and managing all this content? We live in such a transactional society, it’s almost always easier to create new.

  • Heck yes it’s easier to start from scratch. I resist that temptation all the time — it’s hard to look at a web page that is ranking on second page, figure out why it ranks, and how to preserve it’s ranking.
  • There is a ton of value in this, however. I’ve seen first-hand how often a simple update can yield a big result. It’s way easier to improve the performance of a 2nd page asset than get a new asset all the way to 2nd page.

I feel like it’s a skillset that you really need to work on. In my own career as a consultant and in-house marketer, I’ve almost always seen or been a part of website migration projects. I think this is one of the most common large scale projects for any marketer. If you’re on the SEO or content side, you’re going to spend a lot of time redesigning and relaunching websites.

In other words, get good at sifting through marketing artifacts.


Intro music by Wowa via Unminus

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