The Power of SEO – Future Proof Your Brand and Protect Your Bottom Line
- September 1, 2020
- Tim Eschenauer
The global pandemic has completely changed the way most companies think about marketing as some companies, like those making essential items, have ramped up both their organic and paid marketing efforts. Other companies, such as those selling spirits, have been forced to roll out new ecommerce capabilities while retail businesses have worked hard to stay sufficiently engaged with customers digitally to sustain relationships through the pandemic. Lastly, some companies have had to simply pause or significantly scale back their marketing efforts.
In an effort to ride out the storm of uncertainty, marketing teams have asked serious questions, such as:
- “What should we do with our website?”
- “How can we drive growth if we scale back on media?”
- “How can we be more efficient with our media spend?”
- “How can we remain engaged with our consumers?”
- “What can we do to be ready once things turn around?”
Renewed Focus on Owned Assets
There are close to six billion searches every single day, with around 15% of them being new queries, according to Google. Approximately 50% of searchers click on one of the organic search results.
Organic search is often responsible for capturing the demand created by media and other sources, as well as capturing non-branded categorical demand, even when consumer behavior changes.
Brands are re-focusing on the opportunity that organic search represents – to drive traffic, increase engagement and lead consumers down the path to conversion. Simply put, there is a renewed energy to get owned assets optimized in order to capture all of that demand.
SEO allows you to be present at the precise moments that matter to your target audience ― when they’re looking for answers, entertainment, information, products, etc. Even if you need to scale back on paid media, SEO will still be working on your behalf all hours of the day and night, every day of the week.
The SEO proposition is straightforward: solve the needs of people in order to drive incremental growth for your brand. You do that through the following steps:
- Understand your target audience’s needs, wants, and questions.
- Create content that matches audience intent and creates interest and curiosity.
- Ensure that technology is enhancing delivery of the content.
- Use analytics to track user behavior in order to optimize and grow.
The purpose of this process in order to maximize brand presence online. With that being said, how can brands use SEO effectively to be ready for an unpredictable tomorrow? Some of the most important ways are to:
- Change mindset.
- Rethink ways of working.
- Own your brand.
- Target incremental growth.
- Future-proof for an unpredictable future.
Let’s explore each of these in further detail.
SEO needs to go beyond simply ensuring that a website matches user intent and has sound technical foundations in order to maximize a brand’s online presence.
Yes, those things are still foundational and are critically important but, done right, SEO can do so much more for your brand.
For starters, viewing success of SEO or other campaigns based on post-click metrics should act as the source of truth ― because that gets us closer to the actual goals of the business. Next, leverage technology so that you can optimize both websites and campaigns at scale, helping you to align with your audience more deeply. And, perhaps most importantly, utilize search data to inform, validate and discover new opportunities.
Search data provides you with an unbiased view of how your users think. People don’t lie to Google, and there are many SEO tools available that will give you a clear view of how people are thinking about your brand or product offering. This information should then directly inform both marketing and business decisions.
Successful SEO should benefit not only traffic, but also conversion, efficiency, retention and growth.
Rethink Ways Of Working
In addition to changing the SEO mindset, brands also need to rethink how they approach marketing. The reality is that SEO is intertwined with other forms of digital marketing.
The platform on which a site is built can directly impact SEO performance. Media generates interest and demand, and landing pages need to be optimized so that they’re ready when searchers arrive. Search data should directly inform what content is created and which creative development opportunities are pursued. Analytics reveal growth opportunities and provide performance metrics.
Integrated organic and paid search should be the standard. Analyze the paid search performance of your landing pages and compare those numbers to the overall performance in terms of conversion rate, engagement metrics and audience level metrics. Pay specific attention to any areas where paid search is underperforming.
Additionally, review your keyword performance for any wasted spend. Are you bidding on any irrelevant keywords? What do your Quality Score metrics look like, and can you optimize the pages further to enhance the metrics? You may also find new areas of improvement through the search data, as well.
Own Your Brand
Every solid search strategy begins with owning your brand, and you can learn a lot about your brand simply by evaluating search results.
- Go to Google and search for your brand and your priority business categories.
- Analyze both the mobile and desktop results and look for any gaps.
- Check other sites like Bing, DuckDuckGo, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.
- Then repeat this process for your competitors and use the information you gather to develop a SWOT.
The Google UI is designed both to maximize revenue and provide your audience with the type of content they want. If a particular search has a lot of ads, it means that it’s very competitive and that you need to think about your paid strategy. If there are videos, you need to consider developing a YouTube strategy. If there are local maps, your SEO strategy needs to address local intent.
Owning your brand means constantly monitoring how you appear in search results and then adjusting your optimization activities accordingly.
Target Incremental Growth
Once you own your brand online, non-brand growth is the key to increasing overall presence in search and ultimately converting those users.
SEO is not a flip of the switch strategy. It takes time to run audits and parse data and then make changes to a site. Both time and money are required to optimize a site for search. This is why it’s critical to leverage data – especially data with a dollar value – to explore, assess and prove the value of opportunities.
Use data to help you prioritize content creation and/or technical analysis. Overlay your landing page metrics with search data to find growth opportunities. You may discover that some categories have low organic traffic but a high conversion rate or you may find a high-traffic page that has a low conversion rate. Both scenarios represent potential growth opportunities for you.
Ultimately, your SEO strategy needs to close the gap between acquisition and conversion.
Future-Proof For An Unpredictable Future
Finally, how can brands use SEO to plan for the future when everything seems so unpredictable? The best way is by staying on top of search trends and adapting accordingly.
Given how dynamic and ever-changing search results pages are, SEO best practices differ by vertical. For example, auto companies are going to have large images, video content, detailed specs and brand differentiation. Retail companies, on the other hand, need to utilize dynamic product filtering, images and product data to create a seamless experience. An audit of your own website isn’t complete without baselining it against your competitors.
Additionally, changes in user behavior are leading to different types of queries and experiences. Voice and visual search are on the rise, and your site needs to be optimized to account for these types of searches, as well.
On top of all this, personalization and commercialization are increasingly present. Artificial intelligence and virtual assistants are driving increased search personalization and paid search results are consistently encroaching on organic results.
Even though search trends are changing at a rapid rate, the goal remains the same: know what people want and give it to them. With SEO, you have an always-on acquisition source that helps you to maximize brand presence while improving the landing experience across all channels.
There are many business benefits to SEO, especially when facing an unpredictable future. These benefits include:
- Understanding consumer needs and intent.
- Acting as an always-on acquisition source.
- Maximizing brand presence.
- Improving landing experiences that support all channels.
- Reducing paid search premiums.
- Closing the loop for demand created by media.
If your brand isn’t filling the gap in a person’s needs, then they will be sent somewhere that will. Be sure to use SEO to enhance your marketing strategies, campaigns and programs to be ready for tomorrow.