Do you know SEO? Yes, you probably know what it stands for. But if you think it’s just another marketing tactic, you might not understand its full power.
At its core, search engine optimization is about just that. What that term doesn’t explain, though, is how broad that concept truly is. It doesn’t help when plenty of vendors and ‘experts’ try to sell you on isolated ideas like technical optimization, link building, or referral marketing.
No, SEO is not a silver bullet that solves your marketing challenge. It’s also not just another tactic living its best life alongside social media, content, or email marketing. Run away from vendors trying to sell SEO optimization as the only thing you need, for as little as $99/month.
Instead, the concept applies to almost all of your marketing efforts and your entire digital strategy. That’s one of the most important lessons that both executives and experienced marketers can learn.
It’s not just a single effort, done by some vendor or expert sitting in an isolated office. Instead, it plays a role in all your marketing efforts. Keep reading to find out how.
SEO as a Customer Experience Benchmark
You might think about search engine optimization as an awareness-building tool. Sure, it’s that. But that doesn’t mean it’s useless later on in your sales funnel.
According to one report by SEO platform BrightEdge, 90% of consumers say they use search in every stage of the sales cycle. Yes, they’ll type the right words into that search bar even if they already know you. Why navigate around your website if you can simply search for it?
The same report also uncovered that customers search on the go, regardless of device. That means one thing above all: your digital strategy and your entire online content, from first discovery to post-purchase engagement, has to be search optimized.
That, in turn, makes SEO the perfect customer experience benchmark. If you perform well in one, you can’t be doing too badly in the other. Of course, the reverse is also true, so treat it as more than just initial awareness.
How SEO (Should) Impact Web Design
Raise your hand: do you think SEO should be a layer on top of your existing website? Ideally, the answer is a resounding no. Instead, you have to make sure that it’s built into the fabric of your online presence. That starts with design.
Some of the most beautiful websites don’t rank well on results pages. Some ugly ones, on the other hand, do. Some of that is coincidence. The key to success, though, lies deeper.
Good web design has to keep SEO in mind. Don’t believe me? Consider:
- Your audience will exit pages that don’t look appealing. A high bounce rate, of course, negatively affects your rankings.
- Your web design needs to be consistent to build a natural flow of traffic. Without it, time on page and number of pages visited go down — again, a hit on your ranking.
- Fonts and font sizes that are tough to read cause fewer people to read them. Not good if you want to impress Google.
- Loud sounds and autoplaying videos trigger the X finger. Your audience running away is never a good sign for search optimization.
Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. A well-functioning and appealing navigation tends to improve your SEO. So does content that’s easy to consume and prompts your audience deeper into your site. And of course, the right design has to function equally well on all devices.
Technical SEO, or the Evolution of Web Development
Web design is about the aesthetics. Web development, on the other hand, gets down and dirty. It’s the code behind the beauty; the parts that make the website run even if none of your audience members will ever get to see it.
Don’t build a website, then start worrying about SEO. Instead, build the site with SEO in mind, from the first line of code, forward. Today, it’s almost impossible to build a website aiming to rank #1 for relevant keywords if this priority is not baked into the process.
Technical SEO is a complex topic that requires far more than a few paragraphs in this post. If you work in the field on a daily basis, or even if you’re somewhat familiar with the concept, you likely know some of the basics. It’s important to realize, though, that it’s possible (and even required) to go far beyond those basics as part of your digital strategy.
Yes, your images need to have alt text. Yes, you need responsive code that adjusts the page layout to the screen size. You probably know all of that. So instead, let’s dive in deeper:
- Build your website only with the code that’s absolutely necessary. Unnecessary code slows down loading times, which become a mark against your search rankings.
- When using a pre-built system like WordPress or Drupal, stay away from plugins that slow down your site. Instead, build as much of the functionality as possible natively.
- Analyze your log files to find nuances in your code and page performances, and adjust accordingly.
- Audit your pages for broken links, redirects, and other factors that complicate navigation or in any way hamper the browsing experience for your visitors.
And that’s still only the beginning. Needless to say, your web developer also needs to be an SEO expert. It’s the only way to make sure that the entire site is built with search engine optimization in mind.
SEO Drives Your Content Marketing Success
Enough with the technical stuff. If you’re like most marketers, your eyes have probably glazed over at least a little bit. It’s okay. You can admit it. Because now we’re getting to a topic that most (if not all) marketers can get excited about.
You might already know that content marketing is not just the future, but the dominant present form of promotion. The more high-value, relevant content you can pump out, the more you will succeed in gaining anything from brand awareness to more repeat customers.
There’s a reason for that popularity. Digital channels, from search to social media, are oversaturated with ads. Millions of internet users install ad blockers to avoid them altogether. To break through the clutter, you have to get creative.
Or maybe it’s not even that creative. You simply have to make sure you’re the brand that provides actual value to your audience. That typically happens through content, whether we’re talking about webinars, blog posts, or whitepapers.
But there’s a rub. You can’t start posting content and simply expect it to succeed. The internet is littered with businesses running blogs that don’t ever get a single reader. You, reading this post right now, is proof that some blogs are more successful in getting that attention. What’s the difference between one and the other?
Some marketers simply know how to give their content an audience. And more often than not, that happens through SEO. The best blog posts and long-term content pieces are all optimized for the right keywords and search intent. It’s how they end up ranked so highly on Google.
The same, of course, is also true vice versa. Just as SEO drives traffic to your content, the right content is crucial for SEO success. Through algorithms like RankBrain, Google has ensured that only content your audience actually values makes its way to page one of the search results. One, simply put, cannot function without the other.
Promotion and Syndication Facilitate Better Optimization
A well-optimized piece of content or web page is a great start. It’s also not enough. In addition, you have to make sure that others begin to share your content.
Granted, that’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. Some optimization is probably necessary to get the initial attention. That attention, though, can magnify the impact of your content and, as a result, your search engine optimization.
Promoting your content, and even syndicating it through blog posts and other channels, should be a huge part of your effort. It drives attention, but also ensures that you build links to your website. Those links, it turns out, are among the biggest ranking factors for your site as a whole.
At this point, it’s also important to point out the value of content that can morph to different channels. You might not realize it, but YouTube is actually an SEO monster. If you can convert a blog post into a video that’s just as engaging, you can go a long way towards that optimization.
It all works together. You publish a piece of content on a website that’s already optimized in both design and code. You make sure that content itself is optimized as well. You then promote the content in a way that builds links and awareness, resulting in more shares, more reads, and more conversions. And of course, you repeat that process throughout the customer lifecycle.
Suddenly, every piece of your digital strategy at least touches your SEO efforts. That’s why a vendor promising to blow up your rankings for $99/month will never keep their promise. Search engine optimization simply cannot happen in isolation. But once you tie it into your entire digital strategy, and prioritize its long-term success potential, you will begin to realize just how powerful it can be.
This article was first seen on Jefflizik.com