We love to hear about how other businesses tackle their digital challenges head on. Today we’ve got Mark Gale, Digital Marketing Executive from McCarthy and Stone, one of the UK’s largest retirement home property developers.
- Hi Mark, tell us about yourself. What are doing career wise these days?
Hi! I’m Mark, a Digital Marketing Executive at McCarthy and Stone, where I’m in charge of online acquisition channels, SEO content and social media for the UK’s leading retirement housebuilder. It’s a tough job for one person, being responsible for the digital acquisition strategy in a market leading company (and on behalf of 9 regional teams) but I feel really empowered by being able to bring new innovations and technologies to our industry that keep us ahead of the game.
- You’ve worked on quite a few websites in various businesses, what has been your biggest challenge or obstacle in terms of optimising websites for customer journeys?
There’s often so much you can identify that a website can and needs to do to improve optimisation and user journey, but in my experience it is nearly always hindered by the quality of the CMS supporting a site and the time and resources required to make changes to carry out those optimisations.
Far too many companies are operating websites on CMS’s that aren’t fit for their needs and are paying through the nose to make up for it.
- Across your career to date, what’s been your biggest digital win, whether it’s a paid search campaign, conversion uplift or SERP change?
My biggest win so far was leading our company to record website conversion levels.
This was achieved with bigger budgets than predecessors, but what made this achievement stand out was doing so by being more efficient than ever and therefore keeping cost per acquisition levels at a similar rate.
Lots of people can try throwing money at PPC to get more leads with a varying level of success, but the trick is to do so without losing efficiency.
- When considering a website development or rebuild how much of a factor are user testing and/or focus groups when considering the direction for the site?
Absolutely critical. I’ve worked in companies where far too many decisions are based on subjective opinions that bear no relation to the end user experience. By applying learnings from user testing, you’re making your user experience all about the user themselves.
If you don’t undergo and apply user testing, it’s like being given directions to where you’re going and choosing to walk the other way.
- For many clients a website audit is usually undertaken as an SEO exercise. When was the last time you undertook a website audit to understand the user experience? What did you learn/any surprises?
We’ve just done one! We found out so much that we’re going to be applying, with the most important being that despite our attempts, people weren’t able to find the information they were looking for to make a decision sooner. We’ve often been accused of not being transparent enough on certain information, but this gave us the ammunition to tackle this issue and work towards a change – which should lead to better UX and conversions!
- Can you give us a specific example of how through split testing you’ve been able to deliver insight into the understanding of the online user journey?
We launched a set of new landing pages to improve UX and traffic conversion for people searching for specific location keywords, we tested between sending them to the old pages, a simplified search results page and the new pages.
Unsurprisingly, our old pages lost out and our new pages came top on all scores, but we did learn that we also needed to add a level of search functionality to the location pages that mimicked search filters as they often went downstream to these pages anyway, so we improved performance and found out some really useful learnings that set us up for further testing.
- With the rate of change and ever evolving ‘internet of things’ driving more data and higher consumer demand for engaging experiences, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing digital marketers in the current market?
As people who aren’t in the industry wake up to the reality of how much data is being stored about them online and how much of this is being used to target them, I fear there’ll come a breaking point where people will grow disillusioned with the “big brother” approach and rebel – which could force big change.
Having data at our disposal is great as it makes our jobs as marketers easier, but people will have their limit on how “intrusive” they’ll allow people like Google to be and when that tide turns, marketers may have to be incredibly agile to react.
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years-time?
Hoverboarding my way through the office to high-fives from the CEO and the board after another month of high performance and kick-ass content campaigns before settling down for another holo-conference with my team!
- Favourite TV show?
My god, so many to choose from in the golden age of TV, but how can you look beyond Game Of Thrones?!
- What’s your favourite beverage? Fancy a pint?
Got to be a Belgian Tripel for me! You’re buying right?