Introduction to SEO Strategic Thinking
Over the past 24 years, I’ve come across different thoughts about SEO Strategies. While I thought this would be pretty straightforward to write about, I quickly realized that there are four parts to an SEO strategy:
- What is an SEO strategy
- How to create an SEO strategy (and why)
- How to tie metrics to an SEO Strategy
Why Have an SEO Strategy?
Some of the most common questions I’m asked that I’ll attempt to answer are:
- What is SEO strategy?
- What are SEO strategies?
- How to create an SEO strategy?
- What is SEO in a marketing strategy?
- What is a good SEO Strategy for Cybersecurity?
- What is a good SEO Strategy for Airlines?
So that the company – from the CEO down, and not the SEO manager up, is fully bought it into it, that they realize the value and benefit of being first in Google, that they know what they need to be number one for, and that its hard work but that they have the trust in the team that they will get there.
The number one failure in an SEO strategy is not knowing what the goal is – how big it is, and how long it takes to get there. In ad campaigns, with a budget, you know exactly how many clicks to expect and maybe even what the conversion rate is. When SEO is deemed not to be working because the lead count isn’t high enough, most people downgrade SEO as part of the marketing strategy, and this is wrong on both sides of the coin.
The second biggest reason is that companies treat SEO as free ads – they want to write ads that they expect they are entitled for and then ignore keywords that they dont understand because they wouldn’t otherwise pay for. Combined – these two elements lead to a fast distrust of SEO. Meanwhile, their competitors, who aren’t talking aout their SEO strategies are enjoying phenomenal results which they keep investing and optimizing in.
SEO as part of a Marketing Strategy
SEO’s place in Marketing Strategy is sometimes a placeholder, and sometimes it’s just an assumption. It’s critical for Marketing leaders and SEO Managers to clearly define what an SEO strategy is, without getting to the tactical level and articulating that to the management team.
I’m going to assume that Search is going to be your main organic and overall lead generator. SEO works incredibly well for about 85% of marketplaces and terribly for about 5%. There are certain industries where demand and awareness simply don’t exist and SEO takes a secondary role.
SEO as a Primary Marketing Strategy
If your business is getting more than 30% of its leads from Google, then you need to consider SEO as a Primary and not a secondary or supporting strategy. The list for B2B often looks like this:
- Google/Search (includes Google Ads)
- Web Forums (Reddit, Spiceworks etc)
- Social Media
An SEO Strategy Primer
There are some major misconceptions about SEO that need to be addressed in the strategy. A strategy should:
- Set out the over-arching goal of what and why
- It should set the importance of it in the overall Marketing Strategy
- For example, if Organic SEO is 70% of your lead source (currently or intended) – it should be positioned in your Marketing Strategy as such
- Know Exactly who you want to be
- We want to be the X of our Industry
- We want to be the #1 in [search keyword]
Sizing your SEO Market
Google Analytics will give you a great starting point. Look or ask your digital marketing team for a breakdown of Traffic Channels.
Marketing Channel Data
If you’ve already got the data to analyze, then you should be able to see what % makeup Google and other digital channels send. While your Google data is probably the biggest, you might be tempted to think that other channels like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and others just aren’t being used to their full potential but the opposite is most likely to be true. In fact, as a B2B business, somewhere between 70-90% of your traffic should come from Google, Google Ads and YouTube (collectively: the Google Platform). The problem is – that the other channels just don’t generate traffic to the same scale. Instead, they focus on impressions and you have to decide, as a marketing leader, if this is a real or vanity metric.
Important Digital Channel Traffic Volumes to Know
According to sites like SimilarWeb, this is how web traffic flows
- Google Search is the single largest web traffic source, driving well over 60% of global web traffic.
- Google drives 800% more traffic than ALL of the web’s social media platforms combined.
- The average top blog gets 70% of its traffic from search, of which 99% is organic and only a fraction – approximately 0.23% – is paid for via Google Ads
When you think about how much traffic you get, buy or curate from other sources, like Referring sites such as blogs, aggregators, comparison sites, and forums, it bears well to think that they in turn get most of their traffic from Google.
Strategic SEO Stages
There are three pivotal stages at which an SEO strategy is required that are significantly different from each other:
- Developing a brand new startup or go-to-market
- Building a strategy for a company with a small SEO Campaign
- Developing a High Performance Strategy for a company dependent on SEO/Google
The Industry Standard
The most common SEO strategy appears to be “fine, lets do SEO.” The ramifications of this quickly become apparent:
- Lack of budget
- Ad hoc approach
- Sporadic Content Development
- Resources borrowed or co-developed with other campaigns.
Bad Assumptions and Misconceptions
Some of the failures in communication and understanding between the marketing execution and the rest of the leadership/executive team are rooted in the misconceptions and assumptions the leadership team has. Even if they really want to do well in Google, they need a framework that sets out what they want to do and what obstacles exist.
Breaking Down Assumptions: Stage 1
The most common and frequently unsaid assumptions about SEO are:
- SEO is free
- SEO is an indirect result of other marketing
- Content Marketing is the new SEO
- SEO is dead
- SEO is a dark art
- SEO is about doing special things to web pages
- Content is content – whether its for SEO or other
SEO is all about hard work, being creative and opportunistic, learning, executing , benchmarking and improving.