Every now and then we receive calls from businesses enquiring about our SEO services.
“I need to be at the top of Google,” they say.
“We need more business – fast!” they exclaim.
And our answer usually goes something like, “Sure, we can optimise your website for search, that’s not a problem. But are you sure that Google rankings are your real problem?”
The trouble is, marketers do a great job of throwing around acronyms like SEO, BANT, CRM, CMS etc., etc. And I’m starting to wonder: Have we created a monster? Because, from a customer perspective, it can be a little bit confusing, and some of these terms can be so all-encompassing that your intentions may get lost in the ambiguity of it all.
So, let’s cut through all of that and try to explain what SEO really is and whether it’s what your business needs.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimisation (SEO), according to Moz, “...is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. “
What do they mean by ‘organic search engine results’?
The organic search results comprise everything following the final ad, including the Knowledge Panel, instant answers box and ‘People also ask’ box. Note that the ‘first organic search result is below the instant answers box in this case.
How does SEO work?
Search engines are essentially websites that allow you to ask a question and get an answer within seconds – like a telephone operator, but faster and smarter. Examples of such websites are Bing, Yahoo!, and the biggest of them all: Google.
Search engines are constantly scouring the web’s content, looking for telltale signals to understand what that content is about, and indexing those pages. When you publish a new page to your website, whether that’s a blog or a service page, it takes between four days and four weeks to be crawled and indexed.
When a user performs a search, the search engine interrogates its index for the most suitable results to serve, applying its algorithm to decide on which order to display them. The aim of the search engine is to rank the most relevant and authoritative content first.
Can you begin to see why it’s important to have content that answers your customer’s search query? If your content is ‘optimised’ for the kinds of searches that happen relating to your business, you are much more likely to come out higher on the list of results.
Top 3 misconceptions about SEO
1. SEO work can be carried out in isolation from your other marketing efforts.
The first misconception we have to slay right here and right now is that SEO is an isolated tactic you can purchase off the shelf whenever you want to boost traffic to your website.
Getting a lot of views of your homepage and a quick perusal through your price list is not going to engage customers, and it’s certainly not going to help you make a sale. You need a cohesive marketing strategy that includes carefully formulated SEO tactics.
Your campaigns are always going to be multifaceted efforts with a load of other KPIs (key performance indicators) that determine whether your work is heading in the right direction or not. Placing emphasis on keyword ranking alone is like buying the most expensive running shoes on the market to run a marathon you’ve done zero training for.
How’s your organic traffic? Does your content engage your customers, i.e., what’s your click-through rates (CTR) and conversion rates? Are people only visiting one page and then leaving your website (this refers to your bounce rate)?
Looking at these metrics could help you to pinpoint why you aren’t getting any conversions, because as good as it is to come out at the top a SERP (search engine results page) it means absolutely nothing if that top keyword ranking isn’t actually generating revenue for your business. Unless you think about the user journey on your website, how you capture leads and whether your content is educating your target market on how to solve their challenges and pain points, you’re unlikely to see any tangible growth.
2. SEO can deliver fast result
Uh, no. Sure, SEO can be a more cost-effective way of getting some ROI, but a small budget usually means low-effort work with very little strategy behind it. Not to knock anyone down here, but there are an awful lot of SEO agencies that will charge punitive amounts and promise SEO miracles. But what happens when the steam runs out? What happens when you start slipping down in Google’s ranking? Is your service provider putting in the effort to test your strategy and tweak your campaigns?
To achieve scalable growth, you need to partner with a service provider that has a vision for your business, not just a quick win in mind. Ask the necessary questions and be prepared to only get short-term results if you’re not willing to invest accordingly.
It’s important to bear in mind that it may take months to see the benefits of an SEO strategy on rankings and traffic; for this reason, you must diversify your marketing efforts with social media and paid ads if you want to see results straight away.
3. You should ‘optimise your website for Google’
The customer should be at the centre of all your business decisions; so don’t design a website for Google, design a website that serves your target market.
You have to build valuable content that engages and informs customers throughout the buyer’s journey. Furthermore, keyword density is not the answer – loading your website with content that is crammed full of keywords will not lead to increased traffic. What does work, however, is high-quality content that links to other internal or external content.
You should always take an inbound approach to your website:
- Is it easy to navigate and are the CTAs clear and simple to follow?
- Do your pages load quickly?
- Does your website work on mobile and desktop?
- Does the content answer your buyer’s questions, leading them to a purchase decision?
If you’re getting all of these things right, then you’re naturally optimising for Google, anyway.
Is SEO right for your business?
As digital marketing experts, we have to be tentative about making generalisations. But in short, yes, in order to remain competitive and to achieve business growth online, SEO is a necessity. However, you should take the view that it’s a cog in a greater wheel, and it’s important to look at it in relation to all the other components in your inbound digital marketing strategy.
With this approach, you will ensure that your website is optimised for conversion, with content that is specifically targeted to your audience, and therefore, your SEO efforts are actually goal-oriented and result yielding. If you’re looking to grow your business and get high-quality traffic, you have to apply the foundational cornerstones first.