According to HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2018 report, generating traffic and leads is the biggest marketing challenge for brands. The same report says 54% of marketers’ top priority is bringing more traffic to their websites. So, despite being one of the oldest digital marketing strategies, search engine optimisation (SEO) appears to be as relevant as ever in 2019.
In this FAQ, we answer some of the most common questions we get asked about SEO:
Search engines have changed a lot over the past ten years and the growth of other inbound channels, such as paid search and social media, make this a perfectly valid question to ask. However, multiple studies from the likes of Sharaholic and Chartbeat last year revealed that search overtook social as the main source of referral traffic for brands for the first time since 2014.
To fully understand the role SEO plays in modern marketing, though, you have to look beyond traffic volumes. Instead, you have to look at the kind of leads search optimisation generates compared to other channels. Paid ads on search engines are generally triggered by high-intent searches from users who are ready to buy now or in the very near future.
These people have typically made up their minds about what they’re going to buy; it’s more about where they’re going to buy from or which specific product/service they’re going to settle on.
With SEO, you’re generally targeting people who are actively looking for purchase advice but haven’t made any conclusive decisions yet. This gives you the opportunity to get in there and influence purchase decisions quite drastically, as long as you can get your content seen in the right moments.
No. SEO and content marketing are very close relatives but they’re not the same thing. SEO optimises web pages and content to make them as visible as possible at the vital moments. So, you can’t do SEO without content to optimise in the first place but you can do a lousy job of content marketing without SEO.
Content marketing without search optimisation is kind of like a musician writing a bunch of great songs and only playing them in their bedroom. Meanwhile, SEO is the promoter who secures the gigs, air time and interviews so people actually get to hear all of those great songs.
Without SEO, it doesn’t really matter how great your content is because people aren’t going to see it during those moments that influence buying decisions.
No. Inbound links are an important signal that search engines like Google look at when deciding how to rank pages and content for specific queries. However, there are hundreds of other factors being considered every time a user hits the search button and it’s important to optimise for them when they’re relevant. (The most relevant ranking factors vary from query to query).
Google’s search algorithm is incredibly advanced now and simply having a bunch of links pointing to your pages is going to do very little by itself. This doesn’t mean having inbound links from high-quality, highly-relevant sites isn’t going to help your search ranking but there’s far more to SEO than “link building”.
There’s really no answer to this question as the two play very different roles. As mentioned above, in the ‘Is SEO still important?’ question, search optimisation and paid advertising generate different types of lead.
Generally speaking, SEO generates leads from people early on in the buying process while PPC brings them on board when they’re much closer to buying. On the one hand, PPC leads will often have a higher chance of converting but it’s important to remember the vast majority of consumers go through the early research and consideration process before making a purchase.
The sooner you can build a relationship with these users, the more likely you are to secure the final purchase. And, equally as important, the less likely they are to buy from one of your competitors.
So rather than asking whether SEO or PPC is better for your brand, the more important question is how you can integrate the two strategies to maximise your revenue from every stage of the consumer journey.
Related reading: PPC and SEO – a match made in heaven
Integrating SEO and PPC starts with understanding how these two channels serve your target audiences at different stages of the consumer journey. Organic search normally dominates the early research stages of any purchase decision before paid ads take the lead once users start to show a stronger purchase intent.
So it’s relatively easy to think of SEO as a strategy for generating leads at earlier stages of the buying process and PPC as a channel for getting them closer towards the sale.
The problem is, simply capturing leads doesn’t turn them into paying customers. An integrated SEO and PPC strategy nurtures these leads from one stage of the consumer journey to the next, until the purchase takes place.
This doesn’t happen by magic though. To guide users along the buying process, you need to know what they’re looking for and to determine what kind of message is going to incentivise them to take the next step. This requires a fair amount of data, cross-channel optimisation and a good mix of creative content/ad copy. But the end result is more than worth it because you’ll be maximising the number of SEO (and PPC) leads who go on to make the final purchase.
Broadly speaking, you can divide search engine optimisation into two categories: on-page SEO and off-page SEO. On-page SEO optimises your pages and content at the code level to make them as accessible to search engines as possible and give them enough information to deliver your content in the most relevant scenarios.
This is where you optimise your page titles, place your keywords, internally link between pages and break your content up into sections that make it easier for readers and search engine to interpret. Other on-page SEO techniques include URL optimisation, alt-text for images and loading time optimisation.
Off-page SEO involves factors that make an impact outside of your website, such as inbound links, citations, third-party reviews and external platforms that can generate search traffic (e.g. Medium, Quora etc).
SEO is often mistakenly thought of as a cheap marketing strategy but getting results quickly requires a lot of data-driven research and a highly strategic approach to content creation. First, you have to spot the opportunities for growth and then you have to have the means to create and optimise the right kind of content to fill the void.
The opportunities available from one brand to another vary greatly and the kind of content you’re going to need to create (e.g. eBook guides vs video reviews) can be just as varied. So it all comes down to what you’re trying to achieve with SEO, who you’re battling against and how quickly you need to get results.