SEO is an evolving discipline and every day offers up new challenges and opportunities to the businesses who choose to invest.
As a team of digital marketers, we’re immersed in SEO every day. We make it our job to invest time into understanding the latest methods, updates and technologies that affect our industry, and to pass those experiences along to our clients and other contacts.
Don’t worry though… this isn’t another one of those ‘looking ahead to 2017’ posts…
Instead, here’s a practical list for marketing managers of things you may or may not know already about SEO in 2017. If you’d like to learn more, feel free to drop me a message in the comments at the end. Enjoy!
Technical SEO is as important as ever
It may not be the ‘sexiest’ of disciplines. But whilst creative and innovative campaigns certainly have their place (and can be very exciting to work on as a marketer), great SEO still starts with flawless technical SEO.
It’s the foundations of how our websites function – for Google and for our users. Technical SEO requires webmasters to deliver an experience which is conducive to seamless and positive user journeys – whether that user is a person or a bot – and to showcasing our services and products in a way that they can be easily understood and found online.
As we continue into 2017, savvy marketers will recognise the value of technical SEO and getting the website right from the very start.
So what does that mean?
Here are some technical SEO tips for marketing managers:
- Make sure your website works (and that it works well) on mobile devices- use Google’s mobile test to check yours
- Your website must load quickly – use Google’s page speed test to check yours
- Your budget and strategy must take technical updates into account – just because your website was ‘fine’ in 2016, doesn’t mean it won’t benefit from a refresh in 2017
- Schema markup will be more important than ever, helping marketers to better showcase their wares to a search audience
- Website structure and content hierarchy continue to be key, so make sure you have a clear strategy, whether yours is a 5 page showsite or an ecommerce store with thousands of pages
Digital PR and SEO are closer aligned than ever
Digital PR is essentially the practice of using traditional PR techniques to achieve coverage and gain links online.
When done well, digital PR comprises the telling of existing stories and the generation of new stories to capture journalists’ attention and spread the key messages of the company.
With an in-house team of digital PR experts, we certainly recognise the value of the discipline and have invested in a wide range of highly successful digital PR campaigns for our clients over the years.
One of the key areas we focused on as a team in 2016 was the alignment of our PR efforts with our SEO strategies. What we have found is that digital PR and SEO now rarely work independent of one another. Instead, savvy marketers are investing in highly strategic campaigns which integrate PR with SEO, content marketing and PPC to deliver tangible leads and revenue into the business.
What does this mean for marketing managers?
It means we need to be thinking in campaigns rather than channels. Whilst you will still benefit from investing in separate channels, having a clear campaign driven strategy that brings them all together will help you stand out from your competition and deliver better results for your business.
For example, in a highly successful campaign we ran for one of our clients before Christmas, a combination of creative content (driven by PR and influencer marketing), SEO, paid social ads and PPC remarketing resulted in a marked increase in web traffic and leads, which will now be passed to the sales team to close.
Consider your goal first, then utilise the channels that enable you to get there.
SEO touches all parts of your business
We’re big fans of outsourcing your SEO efforts. That’s because it is such a huge discipline and it evolves so quickly that having a focus on it day in and day out is really the only way to stay ahead of the curve. By using a dedicated SEO expert or agency, you can achieve a lot more.
That said, SEO does not operate independent of the rest of the business. Just as SEO should work in conjunction with other disciplines to help you achieve your goals, it should also be a consideration and asset to the business that reaches well beyond the marketing team.
Have you ever thought about the market research potential of SEO?
Keyword research is traditionally used to inform the structure of a website by identifying the terms and phrases which will appeal to the largest number of people and stacking them in the hierarchy in a way that Google can understand their value and serve them in the SERPs.
But more and more, savvy marketers are using the insights of SEO to understand how their audiences behave and what appeals to them. This informs other departments of your business – from your sales to your product to your management teams – and empowers the business as a whole to better engage its audience.
On the flip side, other departments of your business should also inform your SEO strategy.
If your sales team is receiving calls and emails from potential customers, find out what those questions are. By creating content which matches those queries and intents, you can better engage your existing audience, improve conversion rates and broaden your search visibility. You can also take work off your sales team by delivering the answers to questions they would otherwise have to spend time fielding.
What can marketing managers do with this?
It comes down to communication. As an agency, we work very closely with our clients to integrate ourselves into their marketing teams and understand their wider concerns. How well are you currently communicating your SEO findings to your business? How strong is the feedback loop that gives you access to their insights too?
Successful SEO hinges on great content
This certainly isn’t a new point, but it is an important one.
SEO is made up of two key areas – on page and off page. You’ll know already that on page is all about technical considerations and the production of content to engage and inform users. You’ll also know that off page is about promoting that content widely and encouraging relevant, high quality sites to mention and link to yours.
It’s one thing to know this, and quite another to make the required investment across both sides.
As an agency, we’re very proud of our reputation for creating innovative, creative content campaigns. But great content isn’t just about great design – it’s about the successful communication of values in a way that catches the attention of the target audience, be they your end user or an influencer like a journalist.
Take the Company Check Business Census as an example. The true value of this content piece (which last year earned our client features and links from the likes of Forbes, International Business Times and Yahoo News) lies not in the design, but in the data that drives it. A survey of over 1,000 business leaders, the Census was crafted to expose key insights from the world of business in such a way that journalists and consumers alike would be able to empathise and talk about.
The Harvey Water Softeners Great British Hygge campaign is another recent example whereby design wasn’t the core of the project. Instead, this was all about influencer marketing and the use of other people’s expertise to create something that was truly valuable to our target audience. The work that goes in behind the scenes on campaigns like this is what matters (and incidentally, both of the campaigns I’ve mentioned incorporate more channels than just SEO).
Marketing managers in 2017 will recognise the importance of investing in content.
That means having content you can really back. If you’re going to do, say, four major content campaigns per year, you need to be confident that the four ideas are solid and will enable you to achieve the goals you set. Here are some tips:
- Invest in content as a key part of your SEO strategy
- Start with your end goal and work backwards to find the best idea for each campaign
- Let data inform your decisions – look at what’s worked for you and what’s worked for others to find inspiration
- Be clear on your attribution model. If you are investing in content, it’s like to be a decent sized investment and you need to be sure you can monitor the impact of their investment on your bottom line
SEO is a measurable marketing channel
As marketing managers, we’re expected to deliver a return on any investment that represents a positive outcome for the business.
That could be leads and sales. It could be softer conversions, such as newsletter sign ups or website visits.
Whatever the goal of your SEO, it’s important to recognise that it is a highly measurable channel. Through the use of tools like Google Analytics, Decibel Insights, Call Tracks, STAT, VWO and many more, we can track clear changes to the performance of your website over time, and use those insights to inform the strategy moving forward.
For marketing managers, the importance of attribution modelling is as important as ever. Not only does it inform our strategies, it confirms the value of our investments – so use those tracking platforms to the best of their ability in 2017.
Are you reviewing your SEO strategy?
If you’re anything like me as a marketing manager, you’ll see the new year as a great time to review the strategies in place and refresh how those strategies look in the current climate.
Our team of SEO consultants works with businesses just like yours across a range of sectors, including energy, manufacturing, retail, fashion, ecommerce, travel, hospitality, consumer goods, food production, B2B services and much more.
To discuss your SEO requirements with us, get in touch today or drop me a message in the comments below.