When did search engine optimization become not just unfashionable, but an afterthought? Marketers have increasingly sidelined organic SEO as they push for paid-for “performance” – but they do so at their peril.
They have forgotten about the power of organic search, preferring to invest instead in paid activity that is more easily measured and brings short term results. Yet this focus on performance at the expense of brand is short-sighted.
At a time when budgets are being squeezed ever downwards, integrating organic SEO into a brand’s pay per click and display advertising can herald great results for minor outlay. Often, though, it’s the first budget to suffer, possibly because its effects are not always immediately noticeable or that it is fundamentally misunderstood.
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Busting the “Black Box” Myth
Many clients struggle with SEO as they wrongly consider it a “black box” of dark arts – something they don’t understand, even to be feared. Yet while SEO is more technical than many other channels, that notion of a black box is somewhat outdated, particularly when it comes to Google. Yes, once, their algorithm updates and the reasons behind them were notoriously vague and unhelpful, but it now actively shares its direction of travel.
Over recent years Google has embraced the SEO community. It knows that many businesses rely on it to deliver their bread and butter and wants to encourage good, honest, quality content. Think not of rules, but guidelines or best practice, and you won’t go far wrong. There is little to lose from employing an SEO strategy but so much to gain.
You can’t fail at SEO – if you follow those guidelines and consider the user then it’s all but impossible to invite negative impacts. A key benefit is its ability to drive valuable traffic in areas that aren’t always commercially viable for PPC, especially for verticals that suffer from high generic cost per clicks. This is often a no-go area for those brands working towards a strict return on investment.
Brands who invest even a little will see a positive impact, particularly those who have not done so before or have cut budgets.
The “Forgotten” Hero
Organic search is a very trusted medium at a time when many consumers actively shy away from paid advertising. Why, then, is it often the forgotten element in a brand’s online advertising strategy?
There is a tendency for marketers to ‘do’ SEO as a one-off project and then neglect it. But a brand’s website should sit at the heart of its marketing, and SEO is a constantly-evolving machine that needs continual updating and investment. Content written two years ago won’t be as relevant now as it was then.
Pull the plug and you might not immediately notice any difference in your outcomes, maybe not even three months from now – but further down the line the lack of SEO will begin to bite.
Another issue has been the belief that SEO needs a lot of integration, so why bother? Yet adding SEO to the Marketing stack can add a whole new dimension to the overall strategy. In fact, as Google continues to make changes to its algorithms, focusing on more semantic search, achieving an optimal mix of paid and organic results is imperative.
It’s a big shift from generic keyword searches to people asking the question in a way that’s much more closely aligned to natural language.
Think, too, about the growing importance of Voice search. We’re nowhere near a tipping point just yet – it’s not going to make a difference to Marketing strategies immediately, but the likes of Google and Amazon are betting big in this space. It’s an ideal time to test and learn what works in this nascent area, particularly as Voice search is more semantic, or conversational, by nature.
The Search “Experience”
Successful advertisers in this space see the value in the overall user experience, particularly as Google continues to prioritize the user and customer experience when tweaking its algorithms. Think about how SEO sits with UX, website design and analytics, with both brand and performance: it touches on just about every asset of marketing. It should be at the center of every conversation but too often sits on the outskirts.
Successful brands are breaking down these traditional silos and concentrated on leveraging all their assets, from YouTube to Instagram to Twitter, thinking of the overall search experience in both the short and long term.
It requires a step-change in accepting that results aren’t always (or often) instantaneous and demanding better reporting from agencies that reflects this. It is much harder to prove the ROI in comparison to the performance channels, but that doesn’t mean it should be disregarded.
You might be able to bridge the gap in the short term with paid media, but ultimately cost per click (CPCs) become more expensive, swinging the pendulum back towards organic conversion.
SEO is not the flavor of the month but it can compete in its own right with relatively very little investment, compared to how much money brands put into paid media.
It might not provide the overnight solution marketers have recently striven for, and integrating it into your tech stack might not be easy, but the benefits of doing so are clear. It is an efficient Marketing tool when used alongside other tactics in a holistic, joined-together Marketing strategy.