A recent report from Zazzle Media explored attitudes toward SEO amongst marketers.

In the State of SEO report, respondents were asked various questions about how they use SEO and the impact it makes on their business. Here, I’d like to explore the top 3 reasons companies said they don’t invest more in SEO, which were:

  1. Resource/budget shortage
  2. Hard to prove its effectiveness
  3. Too time consuming
state of seo report

Image from Zazzle Media

1) Resource / budget shortage

I’m old enough to remember a time when SEO was a brand new concept. With search engines only just starting to show their value, many marketers were – understandably – keen to focus more on the channels which had been proven to work.

Fast forward to today and search engines are globally recognised as a method of reaching information, be it for transactional, educational or entertainment reasons. Any marketer worth their salt knows that, to reach their audience, they have to be visible in the SERPs. And that means investing in SEO.

The thing is, though, that modern SEO isn’t just about ‘optimising for search’. It’s about optimising for users. Scratch that; it’s about optimising for human beings. In my opinion, SEO today is far closer tied to traditional marketing techniques than ever before and it’s driving a much more defined way of looking at user behaviour and crafting user experiences.

Consider, for example, the concept of ‘audience research’. There are some huge companies out there providing audience research where they’re survey respondents or dig into data to help you better understand the people at whom you aim your marketing messages. But what many companies don’t realise (or take advantage of) is the fact that Google itself holds a huge amount of data about users, which we can easily access in the form of keyword data, trends information, Analytics insights and the search results pages themselves.

Then there’s the idea of ‘user intent’, a term that’s gained in popularity across the SEO industry in recent years. User intent simply means understand what your audience is trying to achieve, and is a basic principle of all marketing. When we know who we’re speaking to and what they’re trying to achieve, we’re much better placed to service those needs and encourage conversions. And while I’ve got a lot of response for the likes of UX agencies (heck, I used to work for one), there’s, again, a huge amount of insight to be gleaned simply from reviewing the search landscape.

So, while I do appreciate that investing in SEO can seem a big step in many ways, it’s actually one that’s hugely important and much further reaching than many marketers realise. A lack of resource / budget shouldn’t hold back your SEO activity because it’s going to benefit your business in so many ways. Plus, it’s measurable, so as long as you’re tracking everything appropriately, you can prove that it’s making you more money than it’s costing. Which takes us nicely to the next point…

2) Hard to prove its effectiveness

As one of the most measurable elements of marketing, the finding that marketers struggle to prove the effectiveness of SEO is a surprising one – and perhaps more testament to a lack of knowledge on how to measure than a question mark over the discipline’s measurability.

The first step to proving the effectiveness of SEO is to know what you’re trying to achieve. By setting clear goals, you’re much better placed to tie your strategies into delivering against those goals, meaning your SEO efforts will be more effective from the off.

One of the first things we do with any new client (and regularly thereafter) is to set clear KPIs. In the vast majority of cases, businesses investing in SEO are doing so to make money and therefore a goal will be set relating to conversions (sales or leads).

But there are broader KPIs (key performance indicators) than that too.

Consider the case of a business that has invested in SEO before and that sits comfortably in the top spots for its target transactional keywords. Aside from some ongoing maintenance of that visibility, they’re pretty content in that position and know it’s driving a lot of valuable revenue their way. We’re measuring conversions and seeing a constant stream. Happy days.

But marketers recognise that there are customers beyond those ready to purchase now. In fact, there’s a whole funnel of potential customers just waiting to be attracted to your brand. And that’s where broader KPIs come in.

By measuring things like ranking improvements across keyword categories, we can report back on the additional visibility SEO is driving. By measuring traffic to our site, we can prove that we’re attracting visitors and by commenting on engagement metrics beyond just conversions, we can take a much more holistic view of the quality of that traffic. By crafting a strategy that takes into account various metrics of success, we can be much better informed of the wider value of our investment.

3) Too time consuming

Too time consuming? Hmm.

I jest, but the concept of something which positively impacts the growth of your business being too time consuming is a confusing one. The very idea that we wouldn’t want to invest more – both financially and time wise – into something which is delivering success in line with its goals is strange to me, and no doubt to those marketers who do measure and track the outcome of their input.

What may be coming out in the survey is a question around the application of time to different areas of SEO. In many ways, the early stage of an SEO campaign is the ‘easy’ part. Easy, that is, in the sense that there’s a lot to be done usually to clear up any existing issues and you can often see ‘quick wins’ coming from relatively straightforward updates. So as marketing managers we’re thinking ‘yes, great, SEO delivers quick wins, I’ll invest more.’

But savvy marketers also recognise that SEO is about long term gains as well as short term wins. Once the short term wins have been hoovered up, it’s about looking forward to the strategies that are going to help us broaden our audience, grow our visibility and build our business into the future. That’s where we need to appreciate that we’ll need to make bigger time investments in order to see results.

That’s especially true when we start looking at disciplines like digital PR. Though we can look for quicker link wins like broken link fixes and responding to journalist comment requests, in many cases, the biggest gains are made through longer term campaigns – meaning it’s not uncommon for a digital PR report to note KPIs like ‘building a media list’ or ‘creating press releases’ as well as eventual goals like links and features. It means recognising the longer term actions required to reach the overall goals.

 

The concept of a marketing strategy not including a focus on SEO is almost extinct at this point and certainly as we move into 2019, we expect to see bigger investments from more businesses looking to capitalise on the maturing search landscape and online audience.

If you’d like to discuss your strategy with us, get in touch today.

Laura Hampton

Head of Marketing & PR

Head of Marketing at @impressiontalk specialising in user-centred SEO, PR, content marketing and digital strategy. In my spare time, I jump out of planes.

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