I love SEO. It is the channel that I have worked the most in, and I feel that performing well in organic search results is beneficial for almost every business. However, SEO does not always seem to work for everyone. Why not, and how can we increase SEO’s chances of being a successful strategy for your business?
I will share my thoughts on why SEO does or does not work and my opinions on how to get the most out of this channel.
Let’s start with why SEO sometimes does not work.
Why SEO does not always seem to work
SEO seems to work worst when the focus is not on achieving the broader business objectives. For example, an organisation’s focus may be on increasing revenue, yet the SEO strategy is purely looking to drive traffic irrespective of its conversion rates. SEO providers are often under pressure to ‘drive more visitors’ and ‘get better rankings’, but SEOs must tell their clients that it is the quality of traffic in supporting business objectives that counts.
Regardless of whether SEOs can show a chart from GA or Search Console with an upwards sloping line, clients will view the campaign as unsuccessful if they did not achieve their business goals.
I also feel that a lack of investment is a significant reason why SEO sometimes fails. The truth is, unless your business already has a process in place to produce high-quality content, you will need to make a significant investment in creating content. This is not even factoring in a costly initial research phase and then fixing any technical issues identified during audits. As with any other good marketing, SEO requires investment if you are going to have professionals spend the amount of time needed to make it work.
Finally, a lack of patience combined with unrealistic expectations can kill off SEO before finding its feet and making an impact. Yes, we all want to rank position one for our most important, high converting terms. But, if a business is in a weak position when starting out optimising for search, it could take a long time to reach those rankings. Clients’ enthusiasm for SEO can, understandably, start to wane if the progress is slower than expected.
So, how can we go about making SEO work for your business?
How do you make organic search a successful channel for your business?
Let’s take a look at how we can make SEO work for you. In general, we will address the issues raised above, with a few other tips thrown in for good measure.
Align SEO with business objectives
Most importantly, SEO should align with the wider objectives of the business. If revenue is the focus, then SEOs need to focus on the high converting terms. If a business is trying to build brand awareness, then SEOs can cast a wider net and target a more diverse range of keywords.
Not only is it essential to align with the broader business objectives, but SEO needs to find where it fits into the business strategy. For example, if the goal is to drive revenue, SEO does not necessarily need to be the final point of contact in the conversion funnel. Perhaps the business drives a lot of sales from offers sent out in a weekly newsletter, so the SEO strategy might be to drive sign-ups to the email newsletter via content marketing for relevant keywords.
Of course, it is all business-specific, and this is why the initial research phase is really important. This leads me nicely on to…
Carry out in-depth research
In SEO, it can be easy to fall into the trap of jumping into keyword research and some competitor analysis straight away, often with that being the research’s extent. In truth, as with marketing in general, in-depth research will help to build a more informed and, hopefully, effective strategy.
SEOs are marketers, and we need to ensure we understand our clients’ businesses and their customers, their competitors, and the wider external environment. We can use tools such as the Business Model Canvas to get an excellent overview of organisations.
Traditional marketing models can be used to better understand different sectors and the organisations in them. SWOT analysis can provide opportunities for clients to excel where their competitors are most weak. For example, perhaps a client’s competitors have greater resources for content production, but the client has excellent partnerships that they can leverage for link acquisition that their competitors lack.
PESTLE analysis gets you thinking about the wider external environment. For example, you may identify that upcoming regulatory changes in a client’s industry would be an excellent topic for a content marketing campaign. This campaign idea could have been missed if just carrying out run of the mill keyword research.
It is also vital to understand a client’s offering. What is their value proposition, and how are they differentiated from their competitors? Who the business’ target audience? Knowing this could not only improve conversions, but it could also result in better keyword research and competitor analysis. For example, a premium luxury brand is unlikely to target ‘cheap’ keywords or their equivalent terms for that sector.
Integrate SEO with your other marketing activities
Do not run your SEO campaigns in a silo. Integrate SEO with other marketing channels to get the best results possible. For example, SEO and content marketing go hand in hand. SEO can be used to identify great topics for content and to optimise the content for organic search, while the content can rank for high priority keywords and drive link acquisition.
Be realistic about costs
Doing SEO properly is unlikely to cost £200 a month. Of course, the cost will vary significantly depending on whether you hire in-house, hire a freelancer or appoint an agency. But, you are likely to be at least spending thousands of pounds a month on SEO if you are in a semi-competitive sector.
You do not want to overspend, but underspending can also cause issues. Investing something, but not enough, might mean that you do not see the results you are expecting as you had not quite reached the ‘critical mass’ of investment to get a positive outcome.
Give your SEO time to work
It takes time to complete research. It takes time to plan out a strategy. It also takes time to write content and publish it. It would be best if you gave your SEO time for it to work. Unless you have a few major technical issues that are the sole reason for holding back your rankings, do not expect to see significant results from SEO within a couple of weeks; it may take months. For really competitive terms, you might be looking at a year or more.
This does not mean that you should blindly keep doing SEO exactly the same way when seeing no progress. Track your rankings and identify which keywords are seeing the most improvement. Monitor your conversions and see if you can spot trends where particular services or products are selling more that align with increased traffic for related keywords. This information can help you to optimise your campaigns.
Also, you should not just look at rankings at traffic for results and how you can optimise your SEO. You can review your processes and see if they are working as well as possible. For example, is your content production process optimised? Are your content teams able to hit your deadlines for publishing? You may find there are optimisations to be made to improve your overall SEO working practices.
SEO can be challenging, but it is not impossible to see great results. Focus on avoiding the major mistakes and ensuring you have a strategic process to plan out your campaigns.