SEO is hugely important in today’s digital landscape. Let’s just get that out of the way. I’m guessing that if you’re reading this article, then you’re probably aware that the time to stop ignoring the opportunities of SEO has arrived.
When I first started working with SEO, sometime around 1998, I felt like I had discovered a magical world of secret knowledge. Finding reliable information on SEO was no easy task, which is ironic because SEO is all about getting found.
I might be guilty of some familiarity bias because I provide SEO services, but I can confidently say that there are probably only a handful of people who haven’t heard of SEO. There are likely no business owners, marketing directors or managing directors who aren’t at least aware of search engine optimisation. Those who aren’t aware are probably suffering because of it.
That’s a bold statement, but it’s true. If SEO were a human, it would be past the challenging teenage years and well on its way to becoming a semi-functioning member of society. So why does the importance of SEO still appear to be something that can be brushed under the carpet and shoved to the back of our mental filing cabinets?
The rise of digital marketing, a short history lesson
SEO is just one tool in the modern marketer’s arsenal. It’s my favourite, so I run Yeseo, but it’s not the only game in town. Digital Marketing, as a broad set of tools and tactics, started very simply.
In the early days, if you had goods or services to sell, investing in a website was like setting out your market stall. But after a while, businesses were shocked that the adage of ‘build it and they will come’ simply wasn’t true.
So we needed to find a way to get people to visit our websites. At first, many tried the digital equivalent of being the loudest, shoutiest voice in the market square. Crappy tactics like spamming and obnoxious, untargeted banner ads brought people to websites, but there was a problem. Nobody bought anything.
In the early days of the Internet, website visitor numbers were seen as legitimate fodder for bragging rights. Some businesses even proudly displayed hit counters on their homepages, to brag about how many people had gawped at their terrible websites.
But hubris only lasts a short while online. Before long, the people who were funding websites started to ask how much money all those celebrated visitors were making them. This is when the business world quickly and expensively learned that being proud of owning a pretty website was only a small part of using the Internet to nurture business development. This was the birth of Digital Marketing.
SEO and visibility
As I mentioned, SEO is not the only fruit in the garden of digital marketing. Paid ads (PPC) can drive swift growth, social media has the potential to be great for brand building, and video is a powerful marketing tool, especially when combined with other strategies.
All the many flavours of digital marketing are all focussed on one thing – visibility. You want your brand to be more visible than your competitors’ brands.
PPC can put your brand right next to your competitors in a beautifully simple way. When people search for your competitors, PPC can put your advert next to your competitors’ listing in search engine results (SERPS). However, this assumes that your competitors are nailing their digital strategy in the first place.
I love PPC and recommend it in some circumstances, as long as it is well-managed. However, the opportunities around PPC are pretty different from those offered by effective SEO.
One of the critical goals in SEO is to increase your company’s visibility, not just concerning your competitors, but as a direct response to your customers’ needs. To quote the title of a brilliant book on inbound marketing – ‘They ask, you answer’.
We obsess over keyword research in SEO because we know that finding out what your customers are searching for gives you the power to be the answer to their problems.
Potential buyers have questions about every product or service in existence. SEO gives us the power to find out what those questions are. The goal of SEO is to make your solution visible to your market consistently, repeatedly, and reliably. This isn’t guesswork; it’s science.
You want your brand to be a beacon of brilliance – a clear and logical solution to your buyers’ problems. SEO removes the friction from the buying process by raising your visibility in the market, making it abundantly clear that you are the right people to buy from.
One of our clients once told me that customers would call him because (in their words) his brand was everywhere they looked on Google. We have worked with this client for nearly 20 years. Can you guess why?
Key trends in SEO
I’m often asked how we keep up with the ever-changing world of SEO. When I’m giving talks on SEO, the Q&A section frequently throws up the same complaint: Google keeps ‘moving the goalposts’ regarding SEO.
I always answer that Google doesn’t move the goalposts; they just get better at sniffing out the stinkers. Google has built a multi-billion dollar business by doing something that, on the surface at least, is incredibly simple – they give people what they want.
Think about your peers, friends and family. If you want answers to questions, or input and opinions, you seek out the person you know who has the most authority on the topic. It also really helps if you trust the person you speak to. Google does the same, on a massive scale.
One of the responsibilities of a great SEO expert is to sniff out new opportunities to amplify the excellence of his or her clients. The evolving nature of the digital landscape offers new opportunities at a pace that can be challenging to keep up with.
Some opportunities are great, some are not, and some can be game-changing. The best opportunities in SEO are those that enhance the clarity and visibility of your authority.
Remember; SEO amplifies excellence, it can’t polish a turd.
Why ignoring SEO is no longer an option
One of the many joys of my work is that I get the opportunity to learn about new markets. In SEO, it’s unethical to work with competing companies, so seeking out new opportunities is baked into what makes SEO effective for our clients.
Back in ye olden days of the Internet, it wasn’t unusual to dig into a niche and find that none of the big players had invested in SEO. This put our clients in the fantastic position of getting a fantastic head-start on their competitors.
The world has caught up with digital marketing. If you choose to ignore the visibility-increasing opportunities of SEO now, you are not only missing out on growth opportunities, you are setting back your progress.
SEO is a long-haul; it’s about consistency, tenacity and data-driven decisions. The sooner you start, the greater your long-term success will be. Start now, because if you don’t, your competitors will.
Last Updated on December 12, 2023