Search engine optimization (SEO) is an integral part of digital marketing.
SEO helps with brand discoverability. When done right, SEO can create the most consistent and by far the highest-quality traffic source which doesn’t require on-going maintenance.
Yet, SEO is usually the most isolated part of the marketing. Whether it is an in-house team or a third-party service that’s delivering your SEO campaigns, it usually exists on its own without really communicating goals, progress or results to the whole company.
This creates silos that can lead to poor results and even reputation crises.
How does SEO work in digital marketing and how can a business make it work better?
What is SEO?
SEO is a collection of tactics (content, technical, link building, even website security and usability) that ensures that your website is easy to understand for search engines.
Basically, it ensures a machine knows that your page will be easy to find to a human being who is looking to solve a related problem.
Search engine traffic is one of the highest-quality traffic for many reasons:
Unlike PPC (paid) traffic, it doesn’t require an ongoing investment to keep coming
Unlike social media traffic, it doesn’t require an ongoing work to keep coming
Unlike social media traffic, you are not interrupting people’s browsing. Instead you give them what they were actually searching for.
In other words, it is consistent and it converts well. No other digital marketing tactic beats that.
Apart from driving direct traffic, search engine optimization helps build brand awareness by increasing your brand’s organic findability.
Keep Your Whole Team Aware of Why SEO is Important
The great thing about today is that everyone understands the value of ranking high on Google! Sadly, however, many folks only know that they “need SEO” without having really understood what that means.
SEO these days is too hard for a digital marketer to do alone. Many SEOs find themselves in situations where an executive will simply come down and go “Why are we not ranking well for ‘dingwobble’?”
Keep working hard with teams for them to understand how they contribute to the SEO process:
Product Marketers who are responsible for the business, personas and messaging understand that SEO is critical to driving the bottom line revenue numbers they are looking at. Part of the persona developing process should be the development of the “digital persona” – what websites and search terms are these people looking for? This helps the product marketer when it comes time to develop messaging, as that is going to be critical for developing the content, so the right search terms better be there!
Field Marketers responsible for the campaigns need to know how SEO fits within their campaign, how it in fact is core to our demand generation, and how to make sure to keep the campaigns integrated.
Marketing Communications is creating the content, so SEO should very well be top of mind for them, as the content itself will be critical in impacting how successful SEO will be.
But that’s not all! Often, other groups are creating content (Press Releases, Blog Posts, Presentations, etc.) that also end up on the web and impact SEO. Whether it’s Corporate Communications, Investor Relations or even Legal teams, working with them is critical.
IT manages the infrastructure and can be very critical to the technical aspects of SEO.
Sales and customer support teams are at the forefront of marketing talking to your future and current customers, so they need to be involved in the SEO strategy. Creating relevant content goes beyond keywords. It needs to address real problems and answer actual people’s questions, and your client-facing teams will be your best source of inspiration here.
Executives also care! While they can’t often influence the day-to-day of SEO, they will care a lot about the bottom line, to which SEO contributes.
Educating all of these people about SEO helps empower them, as well as position yourself, the SEO, as the subject matter expert who is not just someone back-office who gives very little visibility into the black box of SEO, but someone who is actively educating and contributing to the organization’s success.
Review and discuss common KPIs early and often to make sure everyone knows what victory looks like to the team.
What is the key to SEO success in a constantly changing environment?
As a practitioner of SEO, I believe that you need to look to ensure you are looking at both developing yourself in both depth and breadth of knowledge. A key danger in the name of being informed or being a part of the SEO community is spending all your time debating tactics and practices rather than testing them.
Additionally, SEOs as with all employees need to look outside their field to stretch and learn how to be more well rounded. This could mean learning to code, or educating yourself in some other area of the business you work for. This will expose you to ideas others may not have.
As a manager of people, success is really about diversity of expertise. Who you hire and the kind of people you hire will be far more valuable than much of what people invest in with regards to SEO programs. You have to have people who can roll with the punches and develop a skill for self-management and personal growth.
Finally, I think knowing what your real goals are in having an SEO program are the key to long term success. The reality is you may get more traffic, but if that traffic is not from qualified leads and generates real revenue then the benefit may be very little. Having well defined goals and metrics will also help you avoid chasing algorithm changes and focus on the big picture.
SEO is the most essential long-term digital marketing strategy but to make it really effective, you need a knowledge team that is well-integrated into the company’s life. Good luck!
Ann Smarty is the brand NINJA at Internet Marketing Ninjas as well as the founder of numerous startups including MyBlogGuest, MyBlogU, ViralContentBee, TwChat and many more.
Ann Smarty has been an online marketing consultant for 10 years providing high-quality digital marketing consulting through her services and courses (both free and paid).
Ann Smarty’s content marketing ideas have been featured in NYtimes, Mashable, Entrepreneur, Search Engine Land and many more. She is known for her indepth tool reviews, innovative content marketing advice and actionable digital marketing ideas.