We are all about helping clients promote their business and build their brand by creating and publishing interesting, relevant content online. A well-recognised brand coupled with a solid reputation communicated through an appealing website is a great way to build business opportunity.
However, the best content is only of value when it is seen and read by relevant potential customers. Making sure your target audience can find your content quickly and easily is an essential element of the marketing process. I recently got into a debate with a colleague about the value of Search Engine Optimisation as part of this process and whether it still has a place in SME marketing:
In essence, our debate came down to 2 questions:
- Is organic search ranking still important in getting your content noticed?
- Is there still a role for the “SEO consultant” who will manipulate your site to optimise technically for search?
So let’s look at and answer these questions
1. Is organic search ranking still important in getting your content noticed?
Having your content visible on Google, in a way that gets it noticed is vital. Ask a new enquirer how they found you and 8 times out of 10, the answer will be
“I am not sure, I probably found you on Google”.
The fact is that Google is the number 1 way that people search for information online. so yes it is still important that your content can be found on the search engines; organic listings are key to this.
So the Simple Answer to this first question is YES, organic search ranking is important
Moving on to the second question:
2. Is there still a role for the “SEO consultant” to optimise your site for search?
This is much more complex. It depends on many factors. To keep things focussed I am going to base the rest of this post on the assumption that the site is built in WordPress. Given that recent figures suggest WordPress hosts over 78 million websites and is, by some way, the single most popular web development platform, I reckon this is reasonable!
Regarding search optimisation, WordPress takes care of much of the technical stuff:
- Delivers search-friendly URLs that you can edit to include keyword text
- Allows full control over page titles & descriptions
- Has a great SEO tool available in the Yoast plugin
So WordPress is a great start, but what else should we consider?
The “competitiveness” of your market
By competitiveness, I am talking about the number of companies you are competing with to be found on Google.
It goes without saying that if you are the only person working to list on a particular search keyword, then appearing on Search Page one won’t be difficult! On the flip side, if you are faced with thousands of competitors, then getting a 1st-page listing is significantly more challenging.
The range of keywords you are targeting
The traditional SEO pitch is – we can get you onto page one of Google for keyword XXX.
Whilst this has never been a good approach to SEO, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if you are on page 1 for keyword XXX then all will be good. But this is not a good approach as this post suggests (I wrote it a while ago, but the principle is still valid).
Another example is a case we are working on at the moment with a client. Through their Adwords (pay=per-click) activity, we have identified over 1200 keywords that are delivering traffic to their site. Optimising for all of these would be a challenge. However, almost 70% of the actual searches are covered by only 10 keyphrases. Optimising for these 10 phrases would make sense – the other 1190, not so much!
The point here is that it is not about organic search and 1 keyword, it’s about using all the tools available (both organic and paid) to deliver the best overall result.
The Market you are in, and the scope for creating great content
In researching this post, I found 2 interesting articles that I think are very relevant:
- How to Rank in 2018: The SEO Checklist – in particular – point 4
- The Impact of 17 Factors on Google Search Rank
My takeaways from these posts are that:
- It is all about creating engaging content that will draw people to your site
- Keywords are way down the list of importance. (They don’t make an appearance until #12 in the 17 factors listed in the second article). Whilst important, keywords are far from the most important factor
The bottom line is that it’s all about content, and the more competitive the market you are in, the more important that content is. So in a more competitive market, you must have the scope and resources for creating engaging, broad-ranging content.
So the Simple Answer to this second question is – It Depends
Scenario 1 – Yours is a niche market without huge search competition
This is typical of many of the SME companies that we work with. Most are in niche Business to Business markets but even when they are in broader markets, they tend to focus on specific specialities or niches within these markets. In this environment, getting organic search ranking can be fairly straightforward, involving a process of making sure that keywords are well represented in the URLs, Titles & Descriptions of pages – As I mentioned earlier, WordPress and Yoast are great tools for doing this.
Furthermore, when it comes to keyword research, Adwords is a great tool too, and often looking at a targeted campaign in the early days can both deliver quality traffic in the short term, and valuable keyword research info in the longer term.
Scenario 2 – You are in a niche market but with greater competition for search rankings
In this scenario, simply focusing on optimising your existing content using WordPress & Yoast tools is probably only part of the answer. To really deliver in this scenario, you will need to have a content strategy. You should also be committed to delivering focused, well written and engaging content.
While delivering on these this can benefit from external specialist help, this is usually in the form of copywriting and social media management rather than technical SEO. Looking back at the The Impact of 17 Factors on Google Search Rank I mentioned earlier, most focus on content, and the ability for that content to engage people and keep them on your site. In reality, optimising for search should be a secondary objective of this strategy.
The primary goal should be to deliver engaging content and to use this content to connect with your audience through non-search channels such as email, and social media. This approach, coupled with an underlying consideration of the search terms you want to target, should lead to an improvement in search traffic – almost as a by-product of your activity.
So to go back to the two questions I posed at the beginning…
There is no question that search ranking and organic traffic is an important part of the marketing mix. In many cases getting external specialist help in driving this can be valuable. However, in today’s Search environment, that specialist help is likely to be a Marketing/Content specialist rather than someone focussed on the technical aspects of SEO.