Let’s Start a Fire
I love marketing. It not only provides me with the most engaging and exciting conversations on a daily basis, but it also brings together the most diverse group of people and skillsets that you could ever wish to combine. From the artistic creative, to the deeply analytical, to the project manager, to the strategic machinations of the CMO – marketing has it all. But, almost inevitably, that diversity and cultural mix sometimes causes friction, and search engine optimisation (or SEO) is one of the topics that really lights the touchpaper.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Primer
Now trust me – I’ve got a lot of experience with search engines. Darn it – I’ve been around longer than most of the tools have, and I’ve had to evolve my learning and skillsets with them over the years. Does that mean that I am an expert in this field – no, it does not. However, I do know my target audience, I know my topics, and I know what makes for engaging content (I hope – otherwise you’ll be on another page by now).
In my opinion it’s all about creating balance. There are things that SEO focused tools are great for, and there are things that they just don’t make sense. But the overriding point is to know where to stop looking at just data, and start applying business experience to the challenge. Let me give you an example.
Using search term analysis to identify potential topics for a blog makes perfect sense – lots of people do it, including me. But you have to apply that business logic, domain knowledge, grizzled experience – call it what you will – to the situation. Hey – If I didn’t do that then I’d spend my whole life writing about why SEO is the best way to optimise your blog. See what I just did there 😉
Where Should I Use SEO?
Yes, by all means use search term analysis to research topics, to influence some of the terms you use in your copy – but please, please, please don’t riddle the text with those terms. Yes the blog might be crazily optimised – but it won’t be readable, engaging or something that a real human being – you know, the people we are typically trying to get to read this stuff – actually wants to commit time to.
The middle ground should see you carefully inserting some of those terms into carefully crafted copy. It is NOT about JUST SEO. Optimisation forms part of the wonderful puzzle that is marketing, it forms part of the overall marketing mix. However, too many times search engine optimisation is viewed as a silver bullet to drive traffic and, way too often in tech firms, seen as THE most important thing a marketing department can deliver.
Let me give you an example of why this is wrong when it comes to marketing strategy.
SEO Is Not Always The Answer
A company that I’ve worked with recently had some great SEO in action. No – I’m being serious. One particular blog for example talked about a specific term within the life sciences and pharmaceutical industry, and with pure organic effort, regularly listed in the top 5 results returned for the core search term. Now THAT is a great result. The CEO was delighted that he was seeing over 1,000 visits to that blog every single month, without fail. And then in came yours truly.
My first question was to ask what about the objective of the business, and more specifically the website which was hosting the blog. Sales, revenue, getting new customers – were the answers I got back. So I dug a little deeper.
We could see that the organic search traffic to the site was based around this specific topic, which in turn was related to a SaaS software solution that the company sold. So I asked how many customers had been influenced by the blog. None.
From Search to Revenue
Ok, so how many opportunities or MQLs? None.
Leads? Contacts? Still none.
By this point, the CEO was starting to see where I was going, and was not happy. How on earth could a blog that was so successful at generating traffic to their website, NOT be turning that traffic into business? I’m not going to blame the complete over-reliance on SEO for this totally.
What was at fault was the myopic focus on JUST SEO. The great work that was done on identifying the blog topic, writing the blog, keyword enabling the copy, and so on was going to waste because the wider marketing picture had not been considered. In this specific case, no thought had gone into the onward customer journey – there were no obvious places for readers to go next from the blog – so most left. A few quick fixes later and the blog is now delivering much stronger contact registrations, and yes, even some revenue!
Balance is the Goal
So what’s my point? Well, hopefully you’ll have got it by now, but my point is that marketing is all about balance. Think back to the days of old when marketing was all about the 5 Ps. Product, Price, Placement, People and Promotion. You needed ALL five of these for marketing to work, and it’s got a hell of a lot more complex in the digital world. So it’s not really fair to expect search engine optimisation to be the answer to all our prayers is it? No – it’s not! But too many people are still thinking that it is the answer, the holy grail, the single silver bullet. SEO is not the answer – even the experts at the Content Marketing Institute agree with me.
Use SEO wisely, use it widely, but use it in conjunction with the other vital parts of the marketing mix. And when you do, come back and share your stories with us here at Instinctive. We’d love to hear how you got on.