The Uncanny SEO Valley And Why You Need To Be More Patient
SEO is one of the most misunderstood concepts in marketing. It is not uncommon to find clients approaching the agency with great urgency and requesting that we turn their website into an SEO masterpiece because their business depends on customer visibility. They demand a top-notch website that ranks on the first page of Google, has all the remarketing tools needed, and also turns a tidy profit for the brand - the cincher? The client gives us a month to do this.
It's no fault of theirs. There are n-number of agencies out there that promise this same product with no consideration whatsoever to how search engines work. They think SEO = keywords, and as long as you're stuffing a website with keywords, you'll rank on Google. Three months later, you'll find the same client approaching yet another agency with the same brief.
Many organizations are stuck in this never-ending loop of optimization and keyword correction. Keyword stuffing is such a predominant tactic used by SEO writers that it has become a running joke in the growth hacking community.
Let's hear from Google's own Matt Cutts what he thinks about keyword-stuffing, "We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and a great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now."
So what IS the role of SEO?
To answer that question, we need to get the fundamentals of digital marketing straight. Traditional marketing consists of five stages. It follows a simple flow chart that transitions from stages of awareness through retention. One of the most confusing things about getting SEO right is understanding that customers have become drastically diverse and no longer fit into the simple top to bottom flowchart. Depending on where viewers are most present in the digital landscape, a consumer might get introduced to the brand on the retention stage, might explore external news and review sites, and make it to the consideration stage all by themselves - ultimately rendering awareness stage content on websites useless.
The modern customer's decision-making process is far more complex. And the definition of a good SEO strategy has shifted to accommodate these changes in content consumption patterns.
Companies have to drastically change their marketing methodologies to create more efficient strategies for the future. Depending on just SEO to improve your revenues is downright high-stakes investing. Why keep all your eggs in one basket when diversification gives your marketing strategy more stability?
SEO has its place but in long-term roadmaps. But between launch and page-ranking glory, there are quite a few steps brands need to take to ensure they get the most of their marketing efforts.
Let us look at a 4 step digital marketing framework that can be customized to suit your business needs and reach your audience.
Do you know for sure why your consumer wants your product? Defining your product proposition in a few simple statements is often overlooked as trivial. But when it comes to the goldfish attention spans of digital content consumers, being able to clearly and precisely convey your message is essential.
This step helps discover many attributes regarding your target audience at the initial stages of your business. Using established information about your target group's core problems can help in pricing, modifying functionality, and changing delivery methods based on guidance. They also help identify the right digital channels that can be used for better reach and define content types that best suit them.
The second step in the 'define' process is to create a bigger picture of why your offering is the answer. A successful marketing campaign uses its problem statement effectively to provide a holistic solution. This solution becomes tied into the brand's communication strategy and applied over the course of the entire user journey - now you not only know what problem you're solving for the user but also the best ways to address the problem statement.
The 'Define' stage's last step is to convert your problem statement and solution offering into measurable experiments for your digital platforms. SMART goals are the only goals that matter, and you need to be thinking about how you intend to deploy content and what you want to measure.
For Netflix, the development of SMART goals might involve increasing the total number of long term subscriptions by showcasing its market position as an aggregator of original content. In which case, a yes or no for Netflix might depend entirely on the user acknowledging a need for easy-to-access entertainment. The marketing team at Netflix might decide that the best way to convince a user to buy an annual package is first to give them a taste of Netflix. And that users between the ages of 20-30 are the most likely to try out an online entertainment platform. Keeping in mind the tones of various social media channels, they decide to launch an incredibly specific campaign on Instagram targeted at audiences in the age group who follow Marvel and DC. The team will then develop ads, influencer content, or memes to see if they can score 5000 subscribers over two weeks for a free 1-week trial.
Now that we have defined audience and problem statements, we can now deploy digital marketing strategies to engage them. It becomes far more comfortable to identify keywords now with the second step to implement SEO and SEM. Implement SEO on website pages and other content that you may create. SEO ranking is a long term process, and every step helps. Bring in expertise on different segments to create better-trusted content to your blogs that have more chances of getting ranked quicker.
The next implementation could be display ads on different platforms where you can identify your customer segment. Create pages on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and other social media platforms with clearly-defined step-by-step instructions to set up ads for the right audience. Web design implementation has to ensure that the site has the best user experience with well placed and clearly defined CTAs that bring in the right audience. Split test CTAs to optimize them better. For example, the CTA "Start Now" versus the CTA "Watch Now" for Netflix's trial period can be tested to see what yields the best result.
A well planned and effective content increases your trustworthiness on the subject matter and places you as a thought leader giving you more authority for your brand. This methodology subsequently increases your visibility and brings in better ROI than traditional marketing methods.
Audience demographics, acquisition channels, average time spent on landing pages, bounce rates, top conversion paths are just some of the metrics that need to be analyzed. Google offers a way to get more in-depth insight from audiences, including the devices that they use and the kind of content that works for a particular demographic.
Multi-channel attribution is when the user touches base at different channels like a Facebook ad, then comes to a blog, an email, and finally to your website and makes a purchase. Monitoring at different stages helps identify the first channel that made the introduction of your brand to the audience and the channel that brought in more awareness. Finally, the user flow drove the conversion.
Position-based attribution models rank different channels that bring the most conversions. They help set a base expectation for the other user flows and identify various methods that we can employ to boost conversions all around.
Optimizations have to be carried out individually at different levels of the marketing funnel. It can be user experience testing, content, and copy testing and ad creatives that have to be periodically optimized.
With the gold mine of information that we obtain from analyzing different marketing channels, we can better target. We can now not just optimize for geography but also intricate factors like device use and economic backgrounds. Messaging gets fine tuned to address the age group in focus and the region's political diversity.
Optimizing digital marketing channels doesn't essentially mean cutbacks but diverts funds temporarily to a better performing channel. Assigning the right funds to the right track ensures better ROI than just distributing funds across platforms equally. This finetuning and refining method is why marketing is a dynamic process that has to be optimized day in and day out.
Though search engines, ads, and campaigns bring in visitors to your website through curated, highly specialized keywords, what makes the visitor stay is the quality of the content. Making content accessible is one of the primary factors that makes or breaks brand storytelling, and getting all aspects of your digital landscape working in tandem is what will help brands rank consistently on search engines.
Content will always be king, and brands need to focus on storytelling as their core competency to create long-term users to build brand loyalty. An efficient marketing strategy is a culmination of all these factors and is continually evolving. It's time to get your brand on a better digital journey that brings in great ROI while creating a healthier growth trajectory.
Tl;dr? Stop focusing your marketing budgets just on SEO and develop a more customizable strategy that will let you build marketing campaigns that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.