How to get the best returns from SEO
Investing in SEO is a sensible choice for many businesses aiming to establish or expand their organic search presence. But it’s not enough to simply throw some money at an SEO agency and expect this to deliver great returns. To get the most from search engine optimisation takes consideration, planning and commitment. This article aims to break this challenge down and provide concrete guidance that will help businesses achieve the best possible results from their SEO investment.
Here is our ten point list of key action areas that will achieve great returns on your SEO investment.
- Translate Business Goals into SEO Targets
- Benchmark Current Performance
- Identify Available Resources
- Strategic Planning
- Tactical SEO
- Know Your Audience and Market
- Take a Holistic Approach
- In-House SEO or SEO Agency?
- Be Flexible, Agile and Adaptable
- Evolving Arena Requires Long-Term Strategy
1. Translate Business Goals into SEO Targets
Establishing clearly defined business goals is fundamental to business planning. Without identifying and defining business goals it’s impossible to determine resource requirements, allocate realistic budgets, measure progress or determine success.
Business goals are often defined with regard to:
- Customer Service
- Employee Retention
- Business Development
- Being More Competitive
- Business Growth
- Operational Efficiency
- Change Management
Clearly defined business goals enable the derivation of realistic SEO targets and objectives which will support these goals. SEO key performance indicators (KPIs) that accurately reflect the SEO campaign status can be defined and agreed. These will be used in ongoing monitoring and reporting.
Defining SMART SEO objectives is highly recommended. This simple but highly effective technique works extremely well in the context of SEO as there are not many aspects of SEO which can’t be readily measured and quantified. The SMART mnemonic stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timelined. By analysing business goals and translating these into realistic, achievable SMART SEO objectives the SEO strategies required to meet these goals can be determined.
2. Benchmark Current Performance
Establishing a clearly defined benchmark of the current SEO status is vitally important to understand both SEO strengths and weaknesses. Typically this will include determination of the existing organic search traffic, the qualities of this traffic, conversion rates, engagement metrics, specific page performances and much more. These SEO key performance indicators (KPIs) need to be evaluated and recorded.
Benchmarking performance also applies to technical aspects of the website. For example, page speed performance is a highly important aspect of website usability, employed in Google’s ranking algorithms. Google aims to present only the best performing websites at the top of their search results so it may be necessary to significantly improve the website performance in order to match or beat existing top ranking websites.
Similarly, technically optimal websites which are easy to use and make effective use of metadata have a ranking advantage over technically suboptimal websites. It is therefore important to fully evaluate the technical status of the website in order to identify valuable optimisation opportunities.
When benchmarking the current SEO performance of a website it’s important to assess all aspects which affect the attainment of defined SEO objectives and business goals.
3. Identify Available Resources
Achieving great returns on investment in SEO requires efficiency. Making appropriate and effective use of available resources is an important aspect of campaign efficiency. It is therefore important to understand the resources available and any limitations that might exist. There is little point in drafting a campaign plan which calls for resources that simply don’t exist.
The sorts of resources to identify are:
- Available budget
- Internal team resources which could be committed
- Available content (potentially content not previously used your site)
- Other agencies you’re working with (PR, web developers, branding, etc)
- Any partnerships you already have in place
- Memberships to professional bodies or other organisations you could leverage
4. Strategic Planning
Strategic planning, in the context of SEO, is all about defining where the business is going and how SEO will support the attainment of these objectives. Having derived realistic SEO goals, based upon business objectives, strategic planning will work backwards from these specified targets, identifying the strategies needed to achieve them.
Initial planning is of vital importance in a new SEO campaign. This is often the busiest phase during which the full extent of the SEO challenge is scoped, resource availability is assessed and goals are developed and refined. Typically, multiple SEO strategies will be employed to deal with technical optimisation, competition assessment, content development and promotion. By clearly defining SEO goals and working backwards the required strategies and tactics needed to achieve these goals can be identified.
5. Tactical SEO
Search Engine Journal has defined the three pillars of SEO as:
Search engines (Google) evaluate the authority of websites and pages based upon hundreds of factors. These broadly fall into two main categories:
- Content (topical relevance)
- Inbound links
Google’s algorithms are capable of analysing page content to understand the topics addressed in the page and how deeply those topics are covered. External signals from detected inbound links are used to further assess the authority, relevance and trust associated with site pages.
Your SEO campaign will aim to raise the level of authority, relevance and trust afforded to your website and content by Google. This means focusing on three main areas of tactical effort:
- Website implementation
- Site performance
- Mobile optimisation
- Metadata deployment
- Readily shareable
- Mentions and citations
- Authoritative sources
- Topically relevant sources
To achieve SEO success a business website must be technically optimal, it must render quickly in visitor’s browsers, it must be logically structured and it must be easy and intuitive to use.
Site content must be highly relevant, engaging, informative and recognised as authoritative and accurate. It should be engaging to site visitors, fulfil their intentions and encourage them to remain on the site and view other site pages. It should be recognised as stronger than top ranking, competing content and encourage visitors to share and link to it.
Inbound links from other websites continue to significantly influence organic search performance. But these days the relevance and quality of linking sites and pages is far more important than the number of inbound links. It’s therefore important to selectively gain links from topically relevant, trusted and highly authoritative sources.
6. Know Your Audience and Market
It is always important to have a clear and accurate understanding of the target market and their attributes. In the context of digital marketing, this is vitally important as we need to know exactly where the audience is, what their demographics are, which technologies they are using, how they behave online and what is most likely to engage them.
A typical buying cycle will see people progress through the phases of engagement or awareness, education, research, evaluation, justification and finally – purchase. It’s useful to understand exactly how this cycle applies to every business website and ensure that the site architecture and content optimally supports every stage of the customer journey. It’s also important to recognise how customer satisfaction affects repeat business and customer-lifetime-value. Customer retention is a top priority so the needs and desires of existing customers must be fully understood and supported.
Another notable aspect of market knowledge that must be fully understood and recognised is seasonality. Customer behaviour is often significantly influenced by seasonal factors which must be recognised and ideally supported with appropriate onsite content.
Also, marketing into different geographic regions requires special attention. International SEO presents a number of additional challenges so it’s essential to clarify exactly where the target audiences are located and devise appropriate strategies to target them effectively.
7. Take a Holistic Approach
It must be understood that SEO is only one element of a winning digital marketing strategy. It’s essential to take a holistic approach to consider everything that contributes toward achieving success. For example, through SEO stronger organic search rankings might be achieved but landing page optimisation may be needed to improve conversion rates.
It’s also prudent to consider all website traffic-driving channels including paid search, social media and direct. Relying entirely upon organic search as the single source of all website traffic and converting customers is a potential weakness. Deriving valuable traffic from multiple channels mitigates the risk of performance deterioration from the organic search source.
8. In-House SEO or SEO Agency?
We’ve discussed the challenge of deciding whether to employ the services of an SEO agency or whether to develop an in-house SEO team. For most small to medium-sized enterprises which don’t currently have any significant in-house SEO expertise, partnering with an experienced, trustworthy SEO agency is by far the most cost-effective option.
A good SEO agency will have access to a pool of resources which are way beyond that which can be quickly established in-house. These include the combined knowledge and experience of all search engine optimisers which encompasses everything from highly technical server administration through to the creation of engaging, shareable, viral site content. Another important point to keep in mind is that a good SEO agency will have a repository of tried and tested SEO tools which can be very expensive to acquire and take significant time to learn and use constructively.
9. Be Flexible, Agile and Adaptable
The ability to adapt quickly to change is vitally important for digital marketing success. Priorities change, the competitive landscape is constantly changing and search ranking algorithms are changing daily. Add to this the fact that customer behaviour is also constantly changing and it’s clear that businesses which recognise these changes and are able to respond to them quickly are those which are most likely to succeed.
Ensuring that business objectives are continuously reviewed and that derived SEO goals are always aligned with realistic business goals is critical. Similarly, it’s essential to be highly aware of ranking algorithm changes and the impact these are having on various industries and websites.
10. Evolving Arena Requires Long-Term Strategy
The internet has changed everything. But although digital marketing has exploded, it is worth noting that older forms of marketing still carry weight, as is evident from the UK TV advertising revenue of £5.11bn In 2018.
While it’s not possible to predict the future there are apparent trends which any forward-thinking organisation must be aware of. Planning for the future is vitally important as technology is changing everything. A good example is how today’s consumers are increasingly engaging with mobile devices for daily activities and content consumption.
This ever-changing, constantly evolving arena requires long-term strategies. For example, a long-term strategy would be employed to build brand awareness and establish a brand in the marketplace. SEO is a long-term process which involves realistic long-term strategies.
Making an investment in SEO is a wise choice but to get the most from that investment requires consideration. By clearly defining realistic SEO goals and deriving workable strategies which are relevant to the target audience, businesses will achieve the best return on their SEO investment. Remaining highly aware of the constantly changing digital landscape and adapting to match these changes will ensure that organisations stay ahead. And partnering with an experienced trusted SEO agency provides business-value that goes way beyond the costs involved.