With the new year just around the corner, let’s look at four major issues holding back businesses when it comes to SEO. Unless your organization can acknowledge and address these, you may not be prepared for success in 2016.
1. Your Marketing Can’t Be Integrated Without An SEO Strategy
Sadly, many business leaders and “strategists” take the position that SEO is a minuscule fragment of their marketing mix, something that can be “tacked on” later. A few even consider SEO a task to be handled by the IT department.
As an SEO consultant and specialist, I’m frustrated at the scant interest most marketing managers and business leaders devote to understanding SEO. It is critical for sales and growth, yet my bigger business clients seem to be the worst in this respect.
This is, in part, because there’s more distance between them and the money they spend on marketing. Start-ups and smaller companies, without the luxury of an unlimited budget, are more discerning and careful. Gone are the days when an obsessive attention to detail would hurt productivity. In today’s world — and especially when it comes to SEO — you have to focus on details.
SEO has become the glue that holds other elements of your digital marketing program together. That’s why it is important to integrate SEO into all aspects of your marketing — and that requires taking a strategic approach.
2. Without SEO, You’re Eliminating Yourself From The Buyer Journey
Google is a fast-evolving corporation that adapts to digital shifts in consumer behavior to ensure the best and most intuitive experience possible for their users. In this rapidly changing business environment, leaders who lack high-level insight about how Google and other search engines work are threats to the future of your organization.
Yet many choose to remain ignorant, because they don’t see how search engines have grown to become an integral part of people’s lives.
Just pause to think about how you make buying decisions. You’ll realize that search engines are usually among your first sources for information and guidance. That’s why any business looking to be on a consumer’s list of options needs to be visible in organic search results. For this, SEO is vital.
In a recent column, I highlighted the financial implications of SEO for e-commerce websites. These principles also apply to any other business. Leaders should internalize them in their strategic thinking about SEO.
3. You Cannot Approach SEO Like Paid Advertising
Buying traditional ads and marketing exposure was simple. The steps were clear: identify avenues and channels, design creative, pay cash, and bingo! You have instant exposure to a target audience.
SEO is entirely different. It is far more complex and dynamic. Achieving maximum impact from an SEO campaign requires cross-discipline participation and partnerships. No longer can an experienced SEO specialist working alone achieve the kind of results your business needs.
Modern SEO consultants must not only be great at technical SEO, but they also have to be skilled at other things like:
- digital analysis
- content writing
- social media marketing
- conversion rate optimization
A lot of their efforts will go into modifying and tweaking the foundational structure or architecture of your website and marketing process, ensuring that each layer integrates and works in synergy with the others to boost overall SEO impact. This needs to happen early on, even as your site is being built and the marketing campaigns are being planned.
If you don’t realize this and wait until late in the process to invite an SEO consultant to “sprinkle pixie dust” over your promotional campaigns, it simply won’t work. There’s no magic SEO wand that I (or anyone else) can wave to make things right.
4. Your Company Structure Might Be Holding You Back
A little-known challenge of working with large international clients on their SEO strategy is that marketing managers (or even CEOs) of national branches are often not free to make major decisions.
Many large organizations are centrally managed, which can create barriers to making technical improvements to a corporate website. Even content strategies and content marketing may be limited to mechanically translating text received from the corporate headquarters.
No changes are permitted without legal clearance. The few changes they concede aren’t effective because lawyers aren’t really marketers (or persuasive in their writing style!).
With this kind of slow-moving company structure, you’ll be lucky to get your SEO strategy implemented at all — let alone in the timely fashion required to keep up with competitors in an ever-changing digital environment.
As a result, marketing departments in large organizations just accept that their hands are tied and do the best they can within those constraints. Even though they might realize that Norway is a different country with its own unique culture that responds better to a different approach, breaking through those confining constraints is often too difficult. Low ambitions and hard-to-clear hurdles along their path keep them from pushing ahead to take the business to a higher level.
Aim, Then Fire
When it comes to SEO in 2016 and beyond, the message is simple and clear: Do things in the correct order.
Spend time on insight and analysis first. Don’t rush to draw up content strategies, produce websites and text or allocate budgets and resources.
Too many shortsighted leaders only hire an SEO consultant much later, and they expect the expert to analyze their potential, narrow the gap, help tie up loose ends and make more money.
It seems as if arriving at their destination is more important than the assets they accumulate, or the competitive advantages and strengths they develop along the way. They don’t seem to mind that only a tiny fraction of their investments, purchases and marketing efforts works as intended.
An SEO specialist could have predicted this in advance. But running faster on a hamster wheel, getting nowhere faster, gives these leaders the illusion of trying hard. It’s a seductive sense of hyper-activity — and one that you should break, because it doesn’t work.
Aim first. Then shoot.
It’s easier, faster and much more effective.
In a business universe that’s so dynamic and complex, SEO can engineer transformation. There are new opportunities waiting around every corner. There’s an unlimited range of places you should be in, markets you should invest in. More than ever before, you need a chaos pilot to help prioritize your choices and navigate these murky waters safely.
SEO is great for this. In a world of seemingly endless data, you need SEO to help you find the data that really matters. Without it, you’ll drown — or burn through your budget without getting to your goals.
To make your SEO strategy the cornerstone of your business growth in 2016 and beyond, pay attention to the four critical issues above — and do whatever it takes to avoid making them in your business.