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What role should SEO play in your digital marketing strategy?

29 May 2020
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Last month, we talked about utilising your digital marketing resources in response to COVID-19. We’ve had multiple clients ask about SEO services off the back of this, and we feel it’s the most misunderstood area of digital marketing.
 

So, let’s look at SEO — the original digital marketing avenue — how it can fit into your online strategy and what you can expect back for your efforts.

 

What is SEO?

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) pertains to the Organic Search channel, e.g., organic (non-paid) search results on a search engine results page (SERP).
 

The organic results are circled on the pictured SERP, below:

 What is SEO search screenshot

 

SEO work is the act of optimising a website to effectively send the right signals to search engines (Google and others) to provide your website with improved visibility in organic search results. The SEO work a digital marketer carries out strengthens your signals, giving Google strong messages about the content held on your website and which search queries it will answer efficiently.
 

Google factors some 200 signals when crawling websites and assessing whether they will be helpful to answer a users’ search query. These include, but are not limited to ‘technical SEO’ signals that exist in the back-end of your website to ‘on-page SEO’ signals like page title tags, meta descriptions and information-rich content that features keywords relevant to the search query.
 

In a (thankfully) bygone SEO era, black hat methods were employed to manipulate search engines and gain prominence on SERPs. This type of SEO didn’t always produce a user-friendly SERP, so since 2003, Google have been implementing periodic algorithm updates in an effort to counteract this trickery and reward websites that follow SEO best practices in order to serve users with highly relevant search results.
 

In 2011 Google stepped things up a gear, with hard-hitting updates like the Google Panda update aimed at stamping out low quality and/or unscrupulous SEO tactics. This was followed in 2012 by the Google Penguin update, another high-impact update that shook the organic search results.
 

The upshot of this is that getting your website visibility on a SERP is like hitting a moving target — part of the SEO industry’s time is spent simply monitoring Google’s algorithm updates and how they impact search results and what mitigative measures need to be taken in response.

 

What SEO isn’t?

Because SEO has been around since the dawn of the world wide web, businesses commonly hold on to nuggets of SEO information (or what it can achieve) from some five, ten or even fifteen years ago. Of course, much of this info will be ruefully outdated and no longer useful or applicable.
 

In some cases, following best practices from yesteryear will at best waste time and at worst be detrimental to your online presence, rendering you invisible in search results.

 

SEO isn’t about keyword stuffing

Keyword stuffing is a prime example of an outdated SEO practice: remember the days when articles about SEO would have SEO crammed in as every second SEO word? This pleased search engines back in the day but is unpleasant for the end user and as such won’t be rewarded with visibility in search results today. These days, a natural keyword density that makes sense to the reader is what’s considered good SEO by Google, Bing, and others.  

 

SEO isn’t something you should expect to do once

Some clients have the misplaced belief that SEO is something that you do to your website once and it’s there forever more. But as with most digital marketing, SEO isn’t a set-it and forget-it task that is one and done in an afternoon or even a week. Instead, it’s an ongoing methodology that starts with comprehensive keyword research, continues with monitoring and measuring, and should be applied (or at least considered) across all your digital marketing efforts, from your website to any campaigns you have running.
 

As algorithms and best practices change, so too should your SEO efforts. And as your website evolves with new pages and functionality coming and going, these changes need to be implemented with SEO at front of mind.

 

SEO isn’t about quick wins

While the frequency that Google crawls and indexes the internet has increased greatly, SEO should still be considered the long game of digital marketing. Clients starting from zero when trying to gain organic search visibility for a specific keyword (likely with a new website) often get caught in the trap of expecting overnight results.

Work to gain this visibility creates ‘SEO authority’ — if you’re starting with an empty glass and competing against others who already have their glass full of SEO authority, you’re not going to fill your glass overnight.

Additionally, having the contents of your glass measured by search engines is dependent on how often they crawl your site, so it can sometimes take months for your efforts to be recognised and added to Google’s index.

We recently created a new website for a client who had no previous online presence. They came to us after a couple of weeks of their new site going live, asking why they weren’t yet visible for searches for their key services. We asked them to be patient and noted that the industry-standard visibility-measuring tools we use showed the visibility of their targeted keywords was indeed improving. A week or two later they had a strong presence on the first Google SERP, and they were highly visible for searches relevant to their services.

Let it be known that this client operates in a relatively uncompetitive niche industry, and the timeframes can vary greatly from one sector and set of keywords to the next based on the competition present.  

  

Which businesses is SEO suitable for?

Every business with a website should set out to achieve an SEO baseline, covering technical SEO and on-page SEO with special attention paid to your website content. This baseline should have been created as part of your website build, but this isn’t always the case.

Organic search visibility (a result of good SEO) is becoming harder to come by as paid advertising (Google Search Ads, Google Shopping Ads, etc.) becomes more prevalent and more organic players come to market and compete for the same keywords. Businesses often struggle to get online visibility because they target keywords that are too broad and competitive, and put all their eggs in one basket.

If a new, one-person band accountancy firm in Christchurch creates a website and goes after ‘christchurch accountants’ as their primary keyword with SEO as their sole marketing tool, they’ll have a hard road making it onto the first SERP. They’ll be going up against well-established and reputable outfits with a strong online presence gained through years of marketing across multiple channels and creating E-A-T content, which search engines love and reward.

 

Why SEO and organic search should just be one feather in your marketing cap.

We’re not saying that this small, hypothetical accountancy firm shouldn’t create a website using SEO best practice. But because their website will likely struggle to get organic visibility (at least at the outset), their SEO efforts should serve as the foundation for a strong website — a foundation that other digital marketing strategies are built upon. Understand too, that good SEO practice ties in closely with good UX, design and site performance.

Not every company will be in the position to attract inbound links from other websites and create unique content to bolster organic visibility. However, by combining a well-optimised website with other marketing strategies like PPC advertising via Google Ads and growing your exposure on social media through paid advertising on Facebook, Instagram, etc., you can put your marketing eggs in multiple baskets. This creates a robust online presence that has every channel covered and allows you to target all your key audiences and keywords.

 

Where to start with SEO for your website

If your existing website’s level of search engine optimisation is in question, it may be best to start with an audit by a professional to identify what SEO practices have and haven’t been done. Off the back of that you can decide what actions to take — are there some simple fixes to put in place to gain an acceptable SEO baseline? Or, is your SEO foundation as brittle as a bowl of Weet-Bix, effectively rendering you invisible to search engines and your desired audience?

These audits often highlight why it’s so important to apply SEO as a methodology from the outset when creating a website.

Read more about our approach to SEO.

Get in touch about your brand’s SEO, and we’ll have you decipher your simple fixes from your bowl of Weet-Bix.

 

 

 

 

Written by
Josh Casserly is one of our Digital Marketers and, as a well-travelled wordsmith, Josh combines his aptitude for engaging content with his ever-expanding digital marketing skill set.

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