What’s so hard about SEO?
SEO strategy is easy to start, but hard to maintain – and even harder to perfect. Beyond this, a 'successful' SEO strategy is rarely one-size-fits-all.
Despite most marketing leaders recognising the real impact of SEO when done right, the day-to-day requirements of marketing output and channel strategy can mean SEO work is left ‘half-finished’.
Still, any level of investment can contain a level of risk – so how do you get started?
Getting started with your SEO strategy – setting the scene
Framing your current SEO strategy – your goals
Think about your current work on SEO within your business – what are you looking to achieve? When you’re aiming to rank higher in online search, there are a few key points in the SEO ‘funnel’ that prove valuable.
What are your realistic goals for SEO right now
“Say with commercial intent as a goal - This totally depends on what it is you’re looking at. Whether it’s a specific product that you’re wanting to launch, or whether it’s the wider commercial aspect of the whole business it’s about assessing where you are already, and then the strategy will come after that.”
‘Low hanging fruit’ with your SEO performance
Often, smaller teams will look to hone in on what’s perceived as ‘more achievable’ traffic – long-tail keyword searches, or thought-leadership level content. For Martin Calvert, Marketing Director at ICS-digital, that’s a misconception.
“I don’t think any one of these goals are any more difficult than the other, because it’s still about building rankings, traffic and visibility, and the building blocks are the same: It’s excellent quality and relevant content, the topicality of strength of links and the technical infrastructure you’re able to put behind all of that.
Some people aren’t prepared for that journey. Some people will accomplish those goals quicker through a different channel, and it’s important to be honest about that.”
Framing your current SEO strategy – your marketing investment
Look at the below – where do you currently fit within the 3 investment levels?
Your strategy should have a clear understanding of what you currently have available to work with so that you can start to evaluate the step change that might be required to progress or see a stronger return.
You can also begin to benchmark what might be a best practise expectation given the level of time and resource you’re already putting into the SEO work.
For lower-investment teams
‘If you’re a small website, a new start up or are new to the field, focus on those pieces of content that are typically low competition. This typically highlights a smaller search volume, but you can look to attract a range of topics within that content.
Still, don’t just view this work as SEO – create pieces that are nice for your website, that educate the audience about a product or solution.‘
Framing your capacity
Thinking about your goals and current state of play, which of the below aspects of SEO strategy can you currently build into your marketing activity? How much are you unable to focus on, or could be maximised?
What's the most important part of SEO strategy for you right now?
“Increasingly, SEO is becoming split into two parts. One is the technical setup; foundation, keyword planning, structure, indexing, crawling etc, and then the other is PR, content, and the more traditional techniques. It’s important that both elements work together.”
Your capacity – don’t overlook your technical SEO
As connecting the dots between content-driven and more technical SEO becomes less and less feasible for an individual person in a team, Andy gave us some specific examples that can cause trouble for a business.
‘The hardest bits are typically the technical elements, which you probably look at in terms of indexing, site speed, 404 errors. Small changes can sometimes make a big difference. Things get missed by developers, particularly with bigger companies that have an in-house team and might want to build their own website. Either they forget about SEO, or don’t know much about it, and so they build the website in a way that’s hard to crawl.
We’ve had instances where meta descriptions have been missed off, a very, very simple change, but a fix that can have a very, very big impact on click through rates. Even bots blocking their own website being indexed at all, which often happens when new sites go live.’
What other resource is supporting your SEO strategy?
SEO work doesn’t happen in a vacuum – for teams that are stretched across channels, there are opportunities everywhere. Polly at Flaunt shared the value that other channels like PR can have on your SEO performance:
‘As soon as you start viewing PR as a tool that you can leverage as part of your SEO strategy, you can start to see it differently. It’s about getting those genuine, real backlinks and giving more authority to the content that you’re putting out there, which is massively important to your SEO and your ranking.’
That’s the sort of thing that Google responds to well nowadays. They want to see more coverage, and not just article filled with irrelevant, bought backlinks. The real, genuine sharing of your content shows its worth, and shows people are interested in it.’
Questions to ask about your current strategy:
- How competitive is the space that you’re working within?
- What are you working to achieve?
- Can your goals translate into clear ROI?
- What level of investment are you working with?
- What can feasibly be achieved with that level of time and cost invested?
- Which areas of SEO strategy are currently being missed?
Questions about what ‘best practise’ should look like, or thinking about doing more? Get in touch for a free chat with a specialist in your sector.
How to invest your resource for an SEO strategy that works for you
If, by now, you know what’s missing from your strategy, the next step might seem simple – invest in those areas.
However, before investing time, budget or other resource into a full-fledged, full-funnel strategy, think about what you’re looking to achieve, and identify the type of support that might work best.
Defining ROI for your SEO investment
‘It depends on what you want from your SEO. We consider SEO as part of a more holistic strategy, feeding into a broader marketing mix. If you’re coming in with an extremely limited resource and trying to compete with major, high-ranking businesses, it might not be that SEO is the right channel to do that.’
For Martin at ICS-digital, it’s about the size of the prize and seeing a return for yourself rather than following the algorithm.
‘It depends on the nature of the competition and what the achievements are looking like. For some people, 50K (a month) is not expensive - it’s about the size of the prize.
You need to think about the reward. When it comes to measuring ROI, it’s down to what works, it’s not really down to what Google says is correct, because they will always steer people in a certain direction.’
Time to impact vs. investment in SEO
Because SEO is still classed as an ‘organic’ channel, the view that it’s a long, slow burn to see a return is still common.
Edd at Impression said ‘One misconception that I see around SEO is that SEO is only a ‘long term’ investment. I certainly think value can be extracted within the first few months of working purely focusing on SEO.
While we know that SEO is something you want to sustain over a long period of time and invest in, a lot of value can be identified earlier.’
Investing in SEO – project formats and finding the right resource
What is your current skill level with SEO? What do you see as your blind spots?
Depending on your existing strategy, the breadth of the channel means there are multiple routes to take:
Running an SEO Audit
Whether it’s content analysis or technical SEO reporting, regular performance audits for your existing digital presence are key before looking to set any major targets or make a step change. Several agencies will also provide this as part of an initial proposal – get in touch to learn more.
Technical SEO specialists
A technical specialist is a great support to teams where SEO is primarily the responsibility of a content team or creative group that will be able to dive deeper into your website behind the shop front and make immediate changes to boost your performance.
Performance marketing & SEO
SEO also doesn’t exist in a vacuum – and for many, in places where organic ranking might be complex, a well-placed ad or PPC strategy can help you to get ahead. For teams looking to enhance their organic efforts with a dedicated performance-led approach, an agency that specialises in search performance more broadly might be the right fit.
Link building & reputation boosting
Despite the hundreds of messages in your junk daily might say, buying 100 backlinks for £20 might not be the best idea for you. Experts with well-connected backlink opportunities and relevant spaces can make all the difference to both your content and your SEO strategy’s return.
Content & SEO support
A dedicated resource that focuses on the content aspect of your SEO strategy can lift one of the heaviest sources of time resource off your shoulders, but can also be the most sensitive when it comes to bringing someone outside into your business and brand communication. To ensure you’re working with a team that ‘get it’ let us know your needs and we can share recommendations.
Not sure where to start – or already working across all areas of SEO? An integrated agency may be the right fit. As an integrated resource, these teams will work across all areas of your SEO performance to build a more holistic strategy.
Unsure where to start? As always, GO! are happy to recommend agencies that might fit your goals – get in touch for a complementary conversation about what might work.
Final questions for your SEO strategy
Before going further with a particular plan of action, remember to ensure you’re answering the below questions, and shaping your requirements from them:
- What’s your current ‘objective’ with your SEO strategy?
- How will you measure your SEO performance going forward?
- What’s your current capacity and skill level?
- Where could your SEO strategy benefit from additional support?
- How long will you need that support for?
- How does your SEO strategy bake into your broader marketing goals?
Feeling good about your plan? Get our interactive workbook, The Ultimate Guide to the Digital Brief, to lay out your strategy for yourself.
With thanks to our contributors:
Andy Headington, CEO, Adido
Edd Wilson, Head of SEO Strategy, Impression
Martin Calvert, Marketing Director, ICS-digital
Simon Douglass, Founder, Curated