The layman would be forgiven for thinking that marketing was all celebrity endorsements and outrageous give away competitions. Sure there are areas of the marketing industry that capitalise on stratospheric budgets, but for those of us that aren’t on first name terms with messers Dicaprio and Pitt, we have to choose the most effective marketing channel for our clients’ needs.
Disclaimer: many of us at Yellowball have devoted a lot of time to becoming experts in the world of search engine optimisation so we hold our hands up…we are probably slightly biased on this occasion. But for good reason!
For over a decade SEO was generally considered to be somewhat of a dark art. It is still thought of as a dark art by a lot of people. The acceptance of SEO as a highly valuable marketing channel is growing though and seemingly picking up a significant amount of momentum despite the ‘SEO is Dead’ rhetoric coming from those that fail to deliver results. But why is it popular? Why is it effective? Why does it usually require organisations to sign up to a hefty retainer? We’ve heard the questions and now we’re going to do our very best to explain it in detail.
Google is, well, it’s Google.
Let’s start with the obvious: in Europe and North America Google is by far and away the most favoured search engine. Want to find information of any type? Just Google it. The world relies on Google to answer trillions of searches every year. That’s not just hyperbole, it’s a statement from Google itself. We accept that ‘trillions’ is not only suitably vague but also a ridiculously large number to get your head around. You’ve probably never seen a trillion of anything, so let’s make it more digestible. That means that every day Google is processing….forget it. It’s just a whole lot. Loads. Like more than it’s worth thinking about if you don’t want a headache.
The point is that Google is ingrained into our lives and we’re not just talking about the swathes of companies under the Alphabet umbrella. We’re talking purely about the search engine. You might think that it was the sheer quantity of searches that makes being top of the Google results so attractive, and to an extent you would be right. Dig a little deeper though and it becomes very apparent what the true value is at the core of SEO.
1. People Trust Google
This is important. If users did not trust Google to return the most appropriate result for their given search term they would eventually use a service that would. Google enjoys such spectacular popularity because the general public value the results that are provided.
Which website would you trust more? The one that is at the top of Google or the one that you have to find in the barren wastelands that are the backpages of Google?
2. A shift towards Inbound Marketing
The internet has created a monumental shift in how businesses target potential customers. As Hubspot put it, traditional marketing is interruptive. It relies on quantity over quality. It was not as if marketers of the older disposition did not want to target their customers more accurately. Media space such as television & radio adverts or billboards were bought on the basis of demographic likelihood, i.e a shopping mall or certain area of town would be more disposed to a certain demographic. It’s just that the internet has made our demographics far more likely. More on this in the next point.
Marketers now devote more time targeting potential customers that are actively looking for something. How? The internet. It provides direct access to lots of things including information, service providers, manufacturers and retailers. No longer do you need a stockbroker in a fancy dark blue pin striped suit to buy stocks on your behalf, you just need your login details. No longer do you need a travel agent to provide you with airline or hotel rates, you just input your desired dates and locations into a website et voila.
The web has taken the power of information from the hands of the brokers and given it to the public. As a direct result of this access to information the marketing world now invests in ensuring that they capture these ‘inbound’ individuals and convert them as best they can.
A key addition to a marketer’s toolkit is the public’s ability to compare and contrast, read up and research topics. This is especially pertinent for items of a higher value. People are searching for information when they are higher up the sales funnel. They may not be at the point of making a purchasing decision but their research is part of their journey. Inbound marketers (using possibly the most annoying marketing term ever) therefore have an opportunity to become ‘front of mind’ early on in the the buyer’s journey.
3. Inbound Marketing is driven by User Intent
We have established that the internet has facilitated the world’s information being no more than a click away. The public’s main portal to all of this treasured information? Google.
If inbound marketing is the famous lead actor, user intent is the scriptwriter. Without user intent the whole party comes crashing down. It is absolutely essential and is arguably the most important reason why SEO is awesome. Remember how earlier we were saying the sheer quantity of searches via Google isn’t the be all and end all? That’s because of user intent. Realistically neither functions properly without the other, but user intent is critical for SEO’s conversion rate.
So what is user intent?
Put simply, it is what the searcher is trying to achieve by typing their given query into a search engine. This query and subsequent intent can be a multitude of things such as looking for information or buying a product online. The beauty of the situation is that by targeting certain search terms or keywords we are able to be a lot more specific about user intent compared with the more traditional channels, e.g. TV adverts or billboards.
Think of it this way. If you Google ‘Italian restaurant in central London’ you are highly likely to be looking for an Italian restaurant at which to eat. This offers a distinct opportunity for a restaurant to be visible to a user at a point where they are actively looking for their product. In turn significantly increasing their ability to convert a website visitor into a paying customer.
As already stated this user intent applies to more than just transactional intent. Informational queries can hold significant sway over content creation and sales processes and yes, you can identify informational type queries that are relevant to your sales funnel.
Capitalising on the users defining their intent as soon as they search for something is fundamental to the success of inbound marketing and SEO in general. Without user intent, it’s just a numbers game. Clearly the level of identifiable intent can differ dramatically between search terms but take the time to do the research and you can display relevant and valuable content to someone at the exact point at which they are looking for it. Powerful stuff.
4. Content fuels alternate marketing channels
Developing awesome content is a core pillar of any SEO campaign and is one of the reasons why it is so time intensive. As above, the content should be highly targeted to specific points along your buyer’s journey. That’s great news though; SEO’s requirement of consistent, high quality content creation means that your investment into an SEO campaign can pay dividends elsewhere. In fact, planning and writing content for an SEO campaign (if done correctly) should force you to become a better inbound marketer. It should also provide a substantial amount of content to be used in additional marketing campaigns.
Let’s have a look at how SEO can affect your marketing channels:
Buyer Journeys & Inbound Marketing
The focus on capturing potential customers according to their user intent encourages both in house teams and agencies to deep dive into their own buyer journeys, buyer personas and overall inbound marketing theory.
In turn, the website should be full of content that is specific to your personas and convert at a higher rate compared with more generic content.
Due to the specific nature of the content output, we often see success when this content is then baked into sales collateral, especially for more complex or higher value goods. Leveraging the content creation for the SEO campaigns as part of your sales process reinforces your focus on the customer’s needs and where they assign value.
Social Media and Email
If your content is truly specific to potential customer’s requirements then why wouldn’t you utilise it across multiple channels? Grasp the economies of scale offered by your investment of time and budget into SEO by using content across multiple marketing disciplines.
Of course, not all content produced will be applicable to social media or email campaigns but keep this in mind when planning your content and you should be able to reuse a lot of it!
5. Highly Trackable
As the world has sprinted headfirst into the digital age, marketers have found themselves with the ability to track ROI on a far more granular level. In a similar vein to billboard advertising having very loose demographic control, the marketers of old were still able to track ROI to an extent. In comparison to the ability of digital marketers to track success though, they really were in the dark ages.
The multitude of metrics available to SEOs – from the obvious ranking positions through to website traffic from organic search and subsequent conversions allows us to provide detailed ROI reports and segment this data to identify areas for improvement. Do not underestimate the influence of data in providing iterative improvements to a campaign. Content and link building steal the limelight but without constant review and subsequent alterations, the campaign will never be as successful as it can be. It is this highly trackable nature of SEO metrics that provides such potential.
6. Focusses CRO
Following on from SEO being a highly trackable marketing channel, SEO also helps to focus us on conversion rate optimisation. I know, CRO should actually be a core pillar within any business regardless of whether they are spending money on marketing (especially if they are spending money on marketing) but it becomes that much more poignant when a business sees marketing on the cost line of their P&L.
Sure, this argument does not make SEO any more valuable in terms of focus on CRO than other marketing channels. However, coupled with the fact that SEO relies more heavily on the website for conversions than most marketing channels, you could argue that it really does highlight the need for CRO.
7. SEO is NOT “pay to play”
Google Adwords, Display Advertising, Facebook Advertising. All ‘pay to play’ platforms. The unfortunate fact is that if you don’t have the advertising budget ready to pay the Big G or Facebook, you’re not allowed in the club. Conversely, the moment you stop paying is the moment you lose all visibility via that particular platform.
The pernickety amongst you will be saying something along the lines of “there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Time is money so you’ll be paying one way or another whether it be through agency fees or your own time”. And they would be right….but there is a difference:
SEO offers a cost effective solution to teams that may have additional time to dedicate to marketing, or start ups without the disposable cash to engage in adwords or display advertising. Finding or allocating more time is often far easier (and on the surface less risky) than allocating already meager disposable cash reserves.
You do not lost visibility as soon as you stop contributing to your campaign. Depending on the competition, over time your competitors may start to supplant you at the top of the SERPs but at least the loss of visibility is not instant. In some less competitive areas your dominance can last for months!
8. Targeting Local Searches
The internet and smartphones have undoubtedly changed society. We can order just about anything to our door, video call people from across the world and get near instant updates directly to our phones. The result? A society that expects instant information anytime, anywhere. Furthermore, to an extent we have become impatient. We want things now.
This links into user intent (as do most things SEO). The internet may have made vast distances obsolete but local searching is still rife. Again, this presents an opportunity for SEO’s. People still value businesses in their local area so targeting searchers according to location can be very fruitful indeed! Ensuring that your website effectively targets those looking for local products or services will involve ensuring that your Google Maps Listing/Google My Business profile is fully optimised, you include local specific content, your onsite is top notch and your link profile includes local citations will go a long to attracting those people local to you.
So there you have it, 8 reasons why SEO should be a mainstay in your digital marketing strategy. It is time intensive, can be expensive in very competitive environments but hopefully the items above demonstrate why when done correctly it can help drive your business forward!
As always, if you have any questions or are looking for an SEO agency to run a campaign for you just shout!