SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a highly specialized (though not-regulated) online industry which uses a wide range of technical terms and KPIs. Sometimes its terminology is quite hard to comprehend by professionals that haven’t dealt with it yet.
In this article I will tackle top questions that usually arise from any SEO meeting, highlighting the critical principles of this area.
There are many guidelines and resources available online, but probably they’ll never be enough if they’re not structured properly (i.e. per user’s intent). For this reason, I am planning to build an SEO glossary with essential terms and KPIs that can be useful both for specialists but also for marketing managers that plan to invest in search engine optimization.
Now let’s focus on the top 5 questions that arise during meetings regarding digital projects and performance, adding a new perspective to the definition. In the beginning, they might seem basic, but I assure you they will help you build an SEO and foundation in your company.
What is SEO?
SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization, which includes a series of techniques and web editing processes that aim to acquire more free of charge, organic traffic via users’ search queries. It can be applied to any type of search engine, including Google, Bing, Yandex, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, and others.
👍 Practical insights
The trick with this question is in fact how to use Search Engine Optimization as a marketer or SME executive.
Some decision-makers see it as a typical marketing expense, which is a recipe for failure. Unlike any other marketing cost line, Search Engine Optimization has a fantastic long-tail gain, in spite of a delayed start.
A strong SEO presence of a website in a specific area is a won battle that feeds brand reputation and awareness. That’s why it is probably the most efficient (think ROI) in boosting a brand’s online digital footprint, and has a direct correlation with driving online revenue to a new level.
Why is SEO important?
I’ll answer this question by stressing that SEO is an investment, a commitment to build leads through editorial content (think both text and multimedia). Like any investment, it supports a company to increase its revenue and brand equity (awareness and reputation) usually on medium-term.
By comparison, Pay Per Click (PPC) lacks any long term effect, being by definition a tactical marketing cost (which evaporates immediately after the “Pause/Stop Campaign” is pressed or soon as its budget ends.
Search Engine Optimization’s importance varies a lot from one company to another and the best thing about it is that budget isn’t necessarily a barrier to be highly performant in rankings. There are many cases of companies that thrive via their highly visible online content while keeping PPC expenditure at a low level.
👍 Practical insights
You may look at SEO and PPC (pay per click) like Yin and Yang, because they work as a pair and their budget share is inversely correlated. For example, if a web store ranks first for most keywords in a specific area, the digital manager can cut PPC expenditure for those keywords and focus on conversions (which usually is cost-free) in the web store or remarketing.
So the basic idea is that SEO and PPC build a web store’s revenue in various proportions, but they always sum up 100%. The key is to know which pedal to push harder for the best results.
Moz.com, one of the most important resources on this topic claims that in the United States Search Engine Optimization has ~20X more traffic opportunities than PPC on both mobile and desktop. I am not sure how precise this ratio is, but I can certify that in most domains content management, boosted by the right SEO measures, generate more relevant traffic and net revenue than PPC.
The same source mentions that ~2.8% of people click on paid advertisements, probably because most customers are accustomed to online ads and want to have a better grip on their final purchasing decision.
How to improve SEO?
I’d start with reality, as for companies online content isn’t within their focus, so SEO is often disregarded for all channels, not only Google Search. Even for such a case, there are still channels that require SEO. For example, Google My Business and Linkedin, which both allow a certain level of optimization (check tips for GMB here and here for Linkedin) that can make your content more popular and easy to find. GMB is a critical lead generator, while the second is a multi-purpose tool, which includes employer branding, recruitment, brand reputation and more.
So basically the key to improving your Search Engine Optimization is to understand its true role and versatility in improving your digital footprint.
👍 Practical insights
SEO can also be regarded as a digital being. It can be healthy, sick, impaired or even “dead”.
Improving it would require first to have an eCommerce specialist on your side. From my experience, I recommend building these skills internally if you own a web store and if it generates > 10k monthly net profit. This specialist could cover PPC, SEO, and Content and build your first omnichannel strategy.
In any case, the scenario to improve Search Engine Optimization would include four key-stages:
- Get the Picture: Use dedicated tools such as Google Search Console or platforms that can measure your brand’s visibility vs. competition for keywords list, average positions, top pages, traffic, ranking features, dynamics;
- Discover Potential / Blue Ocean: Research with these tools which content areas have the best potential to build your visibility;
- Content Commitment: Include new content costs in your marketing budget and prepare a strong editorial plan;
- Benchmark Performance: Monitor how your brand SEO strategy performing and perform adjustments.
How long does SEO take?
Top rankings might be visible earliest in 24 hours, but usually between 2 to 5 days after publishing or its optimization process. In order to monitor ranking variations, you should start with the Google Search Console (free to use for your rankings) or competitive tools such as:
Most of these tools have free versions, so understanding their features and differences is at hand for anyone interested.
Regarding the delayed start I mentioned above, every professional should set the right expectations regarding optimization dynamics and how fast a piece of content is ranked higher or not.
👍 Practical insight: The naked truth
The naked truth about Search Engine Optimization is that nobody can guarantee that even a state-of-the-art piece of content can rank first. As a consequence, no marketing plan should put pressure on search engine optimization to rank first.
If one chooses to do so, the “dark force” of this field (called “black hat SEO”) will take over your specialist’s agenda, turning your website into a Greek Trojan Horse and heading you towards imminent disaster which usually is being banned by search engines (close to zero organic traffic).
How to learn SEO?
SEO isn’t yet a popular college course but is very well represented in online training. But most important to know is that it’s a type of marketing activity that requires 95% practice to become a real master.
👍 Practical insights
If you are on a tight budget you can try one of top Udemy SEO Classes or Coursera, but in case you wish you become a true professional, I advise to add to start your own SEO project and follow all updates from top SEO resources.
Top resources to kick-off your Search Engine Optimisation training:
In my early training I went through lots of websites and courses, so here are a few that I consider useful for a quick start:
- Google – Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide
- Yoast (useful for WordPress users, a free version included) – Yoast Academy
- Moz – The Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization (Moz)
- Buffer – The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization
- Search Engine Land – Search Engine Land’s Guide To SEO
Although SEO is not rocket science it requires dedication, access to premium tools and 24/7 monitoring (including automation for reporting and analysis).
However, when you manage simultaneously more than 10 sites, SEO resembles a Stock Exchange given the over 200+ dynamic factors that only Google, for example, takes into consideration to index a page.
That being said, SEO is probably the most dynamic and adrenaline rush domain in digital marketing, but it requires specific (realistic) purchasing procedures by companies and lots of flexibility.
The latter is requires because of on-going changes happening in algorithm rating/ranking factors, competitors’ SEO activity, technologies, and consumer expectations.