If you decide to change one thing about your digital marketing in 2016, make it to increase your SEO spend – you won’t regret it, and here I’ll explain why.

In SEO, you have to dig a little deeper than your competitors and invest enough to get the rewards your business deserves. Read on to discover what you can do with your SEO in 2016 to make a big difference to your business.

Chapter 1

Effective SEO demands thoroughness

There are no shortcuts to long-term success in search engine optimisation (SEO).

If you are ready to invest, you need a comprehensive solution that empowers your business to create (or reinforce, improve and maintain) the foundation that not only supports your digital success, but is able to fuel it for the duration.

You wouldn’t build a house on weak foundations, or leave it to deteriorate without professional maintenance, so it’s time to start looking at your website and approach to SEO in the same light.

With the volume, velocity and variety of big data available to facilitate effective decision making, marketing teams need to work with big data platforms, specialist data analysts and SEO experts who can turn all of this information into meaningful insight.

You cannot look at a small part of the picture anymore; you need to look at all of it:

Comprehensive SEO - looking at all of the data

Let me put all of the data into perspective, as I appreciate this can mean different things to different people.

I recently wrote a post about ‘What we learned from one billion site audits‘ and while one billion may seem like an astounding figure, when it comes to big data and thoroughness of SEO delivery, this is just a part of the opportunity that we can leverage for competitive search engine advantage.

Here’s a few of the things we learned from one billion site audits:

  • Website health is imperative to search success
  • Healthy websites attract 750% more links
  • Technically sound sites receive more organic traffic
  • Unhealthy websites are slow
  • Website health suffers without SEO

A comprehensive SEO strategy is likely to include:

  • Removing technical barriers to success
  • Making greater use of any current content, authority and visibility
  • Filling gaps in your current offering and strategy

At a more granular level you will want to consider areas like the following (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • On-page SEO
  • Off-page SEO
  • Technical SEO (something regularly overlooked)
  • SEO copy writing and content
  • Website health (page, section, site)
  • Site speed (desktop and mobile)
  • User experience
  • Social signals, promotion/PR and general ‘buzz’ creation
  • Site and user quality
  • Mixed content creation and delivery
  • Depth of content and value
  • Mobile optimisation
  • Pre- and post-click optimisation
  • Keyword research, analysis and optimisation
  • Internal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
  • External strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
  • Cyclical refinement, innovation and improvement (based in new data sets and potentially real-time data opportunities)

Chapter 2

SEO performance needs teams of expertise

Search engine optimisation in 2016 is vastly more encompassing that it has ever been before, and if you are looking to compete effectively in Google (or any other search engine), you need to reflect this in the breadth and depth of expertise that you employ.

Content writers & journalists

SEO needs content. Without content in its many forms, any opportunity for search engine success will be minimal.

The identifying, creating, optimising and promoting of the right types of content is perhaps the very starting point for content and SEO working together.

Effective SEO content: creation and collaboration.

When SEO and content works together it:

  • Connects your business with your target audience
  • Educates and informs the right people throughout the information-seeking and buying process
  • Builds brand loyalty
  • Drives visitors through the buying cycle
  • Gives your audience a reason to keep coming back
  • Enhances effective visibility and value derived from search engines
  • Turns potential prospects into active leads
SEO content and copywriting for search engines

When you combine these two disciplines you can create content that delivers results, and you’ll also gain a better understanding of the current value of your content. Furthermore, it allows you to: spot new opportunities for effective content creation, refine and improve your content results, and make more informed choices to support your SEO goals.

Here’s an example of using SEO data analysis (in this instance using our own deep data platform Apollo Insights) for spotting effective content opportunities:

Content promotion experts & link building

Search engines cannot work without links. From website and content discovery, to external votes of confidence and authority, you need links to compete online.

Link building is a critical component of SEO; it features in every search marketing ranking factors study worth reading, and I cannot see the need for backlinks within an SEO strategy changing for many years to come.

Importance of links for SEO - Google ranking factors 2016

Source: Moz search ranking factors

The purpose of links far exceeds simply sending traffic from one website to another. They also:

  1. Logically bring content together for a much greater user search experience
  2. Effectively pass trust and authority between related entities
  3. Provide quality information about the credibility, popularity and trustworthiness of a business or website
  4. Explain relationships between websites and topics for greater value and easy information seeking
  5. Identify opportunities for fixing broken links, exploring new content creation and adding more value to your target audience
  6. Support ranking gains in search marketing for keywords, pages, sections and entire websites
  7. Help find something new which enhances your search experience
    And so much more…

To achieve the above, you need distinct, specialist skills and expertise that is dedicated to fulfilling link-based objectives and more.

Diverse SEO expertise

Expecting a single point of contact, regardless of their level of experience and knowledge in SEO, to be the expert spanning every SEO specialism is unrealistic.

The depth and diversity of skills needed for a business advantage in any competitive industry means that a team of distinct specialisms is the only realistic scenario for maximising search opportunities.

How expertise is segmented will often be reflective of the perceived impact and importance of that specialism required to deliver SEO results. Other factors that may come into consideration are the industries being targeted and the search objective in question.

Would it be logical to have a local SEO expert who is highly successful in delivering targeted search gains to deliver an international SEO campaign?

The key here is maximising the SEO opportunity, based on what is needed to deliver the ultimate potential gains, as opposed to restricting the opportunity based on settling for the status quo.

In 2015 we created ‘the anatomy for the perfect search marketer’, to help you understand the component parts to look for in individual SEO experts. However, in today’s search marketing, this is more ‘the anatomy for the perfect search marketing team':


Chapter 3

SEO requires integration

The days of SEO experts working in a room on their own, only having interaction when they need to justify insights or implement strategy, are over.

SEO always works better when it’s deployed collaboratively as a key aspect of integrated working with other specialist teams.

Whatever digital marketing project you are working on, if you are looking at SEO as a separate medium rather than an integrated one, please stop now and reconsider your approach.

If you are contemplating SEO for the first time and considering whether to add this to your marketing mix or use it to replace something else, consider whether SEO will actually enhance your existing marketing mediums first.

When I get asked: “Which should I choose, SEO or (insert any feasible marketing channel)?” my response on nearly every occasion is: “both“.

Part of this logic is that SEO, when given the opportunity to do so, will nearly always bolster existing marketing efforts and deliver a positive force multiplier to your marketing.


As a practical example of this – when you combine SEO and PPC expert teams you can:

  • Boost visibility to derive much more from search engine results pages
  • Occupy more retail space to drive greater volumes of traffic
  • Perform more effectively across a multi-device environment
  • Maximise rather than restrict performance
  • Generate more conversions – the days of last click (or single channel) attribution are well and truly over
  • Fill data gaps and use this for competitive wins

It is important to change your perspective of silo-ed experts, adding disparate feedback, advice and recommendations to your digital marketing, and to start to see the integrated working model as the approach to take.

All digital marketing disciplines that combine data sets (and re-combine data sets for even greater value) work more efficiently and effectively when separate expert areas collaborate.

Separate experts working together for SEO gains

Chapter 4

Long term success takes time and resource

You cannot build long term SEO success without both time and expert resource.

It is important to recognise that search engine optimisation is a long term, ongoing investment. In fact, when incorporated effectively, SEO should never stop.

Whilst every website brings with it low hanging fruit, longer tail keyword opportunities and technical improvements for quick (sometimes immediate) SEO wins, the notion that SEO is a one off activity (or a single phase of quick wins) is incorrect.

There is no silver bullet to SEO and, in nearly all instances, successful SEO is more related to prioritising, repeating and refining the myriad opportunities that exist for improvement and gains, rather than completing any restricted set of known actions.

Refine, innovate and repeat

This SEO tactic encourages continuous improvement and incremental gains from search engine marketing. If you use ever-changing data to drive phases of improvements that are fuelling the next levels of results, why would you ever stop?

SEO continuous improvement

A short-term SEO mentality causes long-term damage

In my experience, most Google manual penalties and negative algorithm impacts are caused by a disparity between SEO aspirations and realistic expectations.

If you want to become the authority in your field and remain so, you need to be prepared for the long haul. In almost every scenario, there will be existing industry-leading sites, businesses and experts. When you are looking to replace these, you have to bring to the table more than just short-term tactics.

Yes, there are quick wins, which are still important as they can prove your approach works, reinforce your selection of SEO agency (or the expert team you employ), and provide data for driving next stages of strategy. However, they need to be paired with medium- and longer-term tactics.

If you are only focused on the tactics that will deliver immediate returns, you will miss out on a larger proportion of available results.

Short-term focus also encourages black hat SEO (or certainly a lot of the actions which move very closely to low quality and spammy tactics) which can very quickly restrict or permanently impede your chances of succeeding online within that niche (with that website).

Chapter 5

There is always a next opportunity

What happens when you limit the amount of expert time you employ? You’re effectively saying that you only want to have access to a smaller part of the biggest picture.

Yes, this is a little simplistic, but it is also very true.

The scope for boosting visibility is huge, and if you are not taking greater advantage of this, your competition very likely is. Your competitors are ever-changing, and part of the challenge facing SEO is not only building and expanding effective visibility and positive impact from search, but also maintaining it.

Something regularly forgotten when it comes to SEO success is the constant attention that is needed to reinforce what you already have. Hitting a new ranking target, exceeding traffic goals in a month, and adding new areas of conversion success to your site are all great; what’s even better is the ability to ensure all of these actively contribute to your total site success all year, every year.

Further reading: How to increase website traffic

Achievement of an objective in SEO is an initial success metric. Maintaining it, reinforcing your claim for it, and ultimately expanding and maximising it – that’s the ongoing challenge.


When you add something new to your website (a topic or theme, a page, a new product range or service etc.) you start a new claim for opportunity and value.

An initial goal should be that anything you add is the best example of what you can find available. Ideally it should be 10x better than the closest competing example.

10x content example - Rand Fishkin whiteboard Friday

The next stage is gathering data from this and using data for the next stages of actionable insight. At this point you will have benchmarks covering a number of areas: impressions, click-through rates, visits, bounce rates, quality metrics, micro and macro goal completions, average page ranks, volumes of search queries and much more.

The purpose of benchmarks is that you have a base layer from which to set new targets and objectives, to create a strategy that works towards delivering them.

Chapter 6

Keeping up with the industry

Most competitive environments change, but the SEO industry sets a pace that very few can stay on top of. Keeping in touch with the SEO industry can be an extremely time consuming (but equally important) aspect of service delivery.

The danger of dated knowledge can be seen in many ways, including adverse algorithm impact and manual penalties. This can have a negative impact on any business and every industry, regardless of brand, size or any other criteria.

The alternative approach to looking at the impact of algorithms (something that is not covered a great deal), is the chance to derive value from them.

Every algorithm update presents more ways to improve your SEO performance. It is part of an attitude and approach to ongoing professional service delivery that cannot be shortcut.

Whilst many SEO fundamentals remain fairly consistent (‘content is king’ etc.) attaining success from them can grow worlds apart over a relatively short time frame.

Consider the changing importance of mobile search and responsive design in 2015, driven in no small part by the Google Mobile Friendly Update – aka ‘Mobilegeddon‘.

Other examples springing to mind include:

  • The ongoing shift towards quality (‘good’ is not enough anymore – it has to be ‘great’) and user engagement
  • Answering questions (consider the prominence and potential brand value with Google SERP answers)
  • The strengthening correlations between social PR and search engine ranking
  • The tale of Google+ ‘here, gone, and back again’
  • The death of last click attribution and the continued growth of the multi-channel environment
  • The shrinking of the desktop (also tied to the respective growth of mobile and tablet success)
  • Ever-changing approaches to link building (and the consistency of potential value derived)
  • The re-birth (although it should never really have gone away) of technical SEO
  • Integrated search engine results pages (SERPs) – a never ending story
  • The migration from some of the keywords, to all of the key words (note the all-important space)
  • The growth of BIG data

Chapter 7

What's next?

I want you to think differently about spending more on SEO, so that your business can get the rewards it deserves.

If you have any questions, please get in touch; share them with me and we can discuss how to improve your SEO results in 2016 and beyond.