This is what every business owner should know.
Often touted as a one-size-fits-all solution, former-buzzword SEO has become the sovereign player in digital marketing. The ideology behind SEO appears positively utopian at first: mention the right keywords for the right landing page and the coveted number one Google spot can be yours.
The reality is that SEO technique crackdowns at Google HQ have culminated in manufactured backlinks and stuffed keywords. What worked in the past is not working in 2020, as marketing agencies continue to promise the holy grail: page one results in 30 days (or your money back!).
Paying up to play fast and loose is not best practice, and search manipulation has shifted the paradigm of who SEO can realistically benefit today. How competitive is your market? Are you competing with generic search terms? Do you have a generic brand name? Are you B2C or B2B? All of these factors can impact SEO results.
Is your agency serving you or serving Google?
In 2008, then-CEO of Google Eric Schmidt called the Internet a ‘cesspool of false information’. That doesn’t necessarily mean the ubiquitous fake news– it means spam, fake backlinks, dead websites, missing data and empty marketing. To continue providing a quality user experience, Google needed to prioritise brands. Schmidt asserted that brands are the crucial signal that ‘content can be trusted’.
That sentiment holds true over a decade later. Your business will not have good traffic because it ranks at the top of Google. Your business will rank at the top of Google because it has good traffic.
Some other things to consider…
Relevance and user experience
What does it mean to trust content? The overall web presence of your site must be logical and relevant to the product or service you provide. In traditional marketing terms a chaotic, shallow or misleading web presence is akin to erecting a billboard with a phone number on it connecting your customers to your janitor. You want your customers connected to your sales team. Ask yourself the following questions:
- When was the last time you updated your website?
- What is the average loading speed of your site?
- What does your website ask the user to do?
- Is it a secured website?
- Is your site optimised for all devices?
The social proof system
What matters now is tangible, cross-platform social proof. Social proof from Facebook posts, from Zomato reviews and LinkedIn referrals – proof of existence across the Google network and beyond. If you expect clear results from an SEO package your business should have already attained a certain level of social proof. Social proof supplies the authenticity your business needs, and that authenticity in turn relies on empathy (the solution to a problem) and logic (a relevant, intelligent landing page). A business with no social media, no healthy backlinks and no tangible proof of existence will see little ROI for an SEO package.
The position of your business
An SEO package should be juxtaposed with your profit margin and sales volume. Weigh these up against the potential SEO spend – are you competing with big players? Are you a new business? What is a sale worth to you? Many key search terms are dominated by corporations that can outmatch an SME spend at every step. A local plumber, for example, may not see an agreeable return on her investment in SEO. But she could see better ROI through PPC and local radio advertisements.
Search engines need to make a profit too
Marketing agencies don’t like to admit it, but the search engine must prioritise its profit at the end of the day. Google’s AI system RankBrain is geared toward understanding contextual clues and serving user intent, but RankBrain itself still needs to be profitable. Sometimes this means an unpredictable flux of web traffic as Google updates its algorithms – there was an average of about nine updates per day in 2018. Sometimes it means an SEO team partnered with a search engine will generate more revenue for the search engine than leads for your business. Is your agency serving you or serving Google?
If your landing pages are relevant, your content is trustworthy, you’ve generated a decent amount of buzz to prove you exist in the tangible world, your market position can stand up against the cost of an SEO package and you’re running the gamut– SEO is right for you. If not, SEO could be better suited to later stage marketing.
SEO is an incredibly valuable marketing tool at the right time, and for the right business. We like to think of it as the by-product of your content marketing strategy – not the foundation of it.
Want to know if your investment in SEO is delivering an ROI?