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What does SEO mean in 2019?

By David Stein, VP, Content and SEO, Wunderman Thompson

David Stein, VP, Content and SEO, Wunderman Thompson

The year is 2019. Sixty of your web traffic comes from “Organic” and 80% of your conversions include an “Organic” touchpoint. You invest millions in paid SEM, but you still have no SEO (search engine optimization) strategy.

This is something I see every day.

What you should know about SEO

The Google Corporate Mission Statement is: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Continually that has taken the form of updates not only to the search engine results page (SERP) algorithms, but also in how the information is displayed. From the evolution of the Knowledge Graph to Quick Snippets and other SERP features (there are roughly 40 SERP features documented as of the time of this article), Google’s efforts are meant to drive the most value to users, regardless of the impact to websites. In short, this means Google is trying to provide more information in the search results rather than just through links, and in turn, this has driven up the value of those top search results.

Owning anywhere between 80 and 90% of the search engine market share (depending on your source), Google would have companies believe that they “can’t buy rank” in search engines. But, the reality is that SEO is not “free”, as many organizations believe.  Yes, websites can rank without spending a dollar on “SEO”. However, ranking in those coveted top spots in search engines for those competitive keywords takes an investment. The good news is that we’ve seen time and again that regardless of the industry, SEO investments tend to create the best ROI/ROAS of nearly any marketing spend—digital or traditional. 

"Regardless of the industry, SEO investments tend to create the best ROI/ROAS of nearly any marketing spend—digital or traditional"

On-site factors and the SEO needs:

  • Creating a site that is technically sound and allows search engine bots to crawl the site requires development resources
    • SEO experts will be the first and best line of defense to ensure the site meets SEO expectations: 301 vs. 302 redirects, structured data implementation, etc.
  • Content is King: something that every marketer has heard at one time or another and takes great content producers, editors and publishers
    • A good SEO will not only optimize content for keywords and internal links, but will also use keyword research to inform the content before it’s created to make sure it fits a need and is a worthwhile investment

Off-site factors and SEO needs:

  • Creating backlinks to your content is a critical part of SEO success. These links send signals to the search engine that your content is good and valuable and should rank highly
    • SEOs need to be able to create backlinking strategies to garner links
  • Likewise, ratings/reviews and social signals are all assumed to be part of the search algorithms
    • SEOs need to be cognizant of the brand’s reputation, social sentiment and PR efforts to drive strategies

Paid SEM efforts

  • If you’re asking, “what does SEO have to do with SEM?”, then there is a good chance you’re paying more for paid search tactics than you need to be. The Quality Score algorithm is as unknown as the Organic Search algorithm. However, most speculate (and we have seen) the two algorithms certainly have some correlation and optimizing landing pages for SEO best practices can raise quality scores and drive down cost-per-click. This can allow paid media budgets to either stretch further or to be reduced, in favor of other channels—like more content to drive even more SEO success or better user experience and conversion rates.
  • In addition, when considering spend and depending on your budget, most agencies will spend your first dollars on branded terms (lowest CPC; highest click through rates) and often will run out of budget when it comes to non-brand and more long-tail keywords. This is where you should consider paid/organic synergies to ensure the paid search media and the SEO keywords are working holistically to drive the best portfolio of keywords.

SEO is not easy. And it’s not, contrary to some, free. But, it consistently yields the best ROI/ROAS of any marketing channel. Not playing in SEO is a mistake you shouldn’t make.

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