Bring up the need to perform #search Engine Optimization (#seo) with executives at many businesses and you’re likely to hear a sigh. It’s a sigh born of exhaustion – exhaustion with the entire SEO process and a feeling that they’ve been there, done that, and are uncertain if they have anything to show for it. After that sigh, you’ll often here a familiar question: “If SEO is so essential, why haven’t we gotten any results when we’ve done it in the past?”
While common, this fatigue originates from a misunderstanding of how to get the best results from SEO. SEO is not a one-time proposition that companies take on, complete, and then cross off their checklist. It’s an ongoing process and one, that when done correctly, can yield tremendous benefits to businesses of all sizes.
SEO research must be kept fresh. Companies should be performing keyword research at least every 12 to 18 months. The reasons for this are simple: search volume constantly changes, with the keywords people are typing into search engines ever-evolving. To see benefits, companies should approach SEO the same way they would approach an infrastructure or software investment. No one who buys property, builds a road, or invests in a new technology would make such a purchase without recognizing the need for ongoing investment and maintenance.
SEO falls into the same category. Continuous research updates are essential to stay ahead of market changes and competitors. Businesses need to know if search volume is shifting from one keyword to another and adjust accordingly. Moreover, companies should always know where their competitors rank.
Relevant #Content Creation = Equity
Companies that are performing SEO research on a regular basis, but who are not experiencing results should take steps to get more out of that existing research. Most importantly, SEO has to be paired with high-quality content. In the early days of SEO, companies could game the search algorithms to get higher placement. That’s simply no longer possible. What matters today is that companies back up SEO with a value proposition of insightful content customers will find useful and shareable.
In its essence, the goal of SEO is to build up a company’s content equity. The more search terms that relate to a company, the more content equity can be established. And those who do it right experience a virtuous feedback cycle. Customers find their content valuable for one search term, which boosts the overall company brand and online presence, leading to more hits for other terms, and the process builds on itself.
Today, search engines ultimately rank based on content quality. They’re judging content on how often people are tweeting about it or linking to it on their FaceBook page. Now, obviously, creating this type of valuable content is time-consuming. But businesses need to invest in it, whether in-house or via contracting, to boost their SEO performance. If people come to your site hungry, you better have the stock on hand to provide them with a satisfying meal.
Most businesses should also realign their SEO targets. Just as a one-on-one game between Lebron James and me would not be fair (LBJ would lose in OT), small businesses cannot compete with the IBMs, Amazons, and Microsoft’s of the world when it comes to overly broad search terms like “the cloud” or “data analysis.” Far more beneficial, and cost-effective, is to target long-tail search terms. These may only have 100 people search them in any given month, but those searches are far more likely to lead to conversions. Done correctly, there is no reason companies cannot get into the top ten rankings with these less generic terms. But companies should know at all times where they currently rank for the terms that are most important to their business – it’s a lot easier to break into the top ten if you’re sitting at 12 than it is if you’re at 1,012.
Being in the top ten is key. People just do not generally click through to a second page. If getting into the top ten is impossible, then quite honestly, SEO should not be done. Pinpointing highly relevant keywords is thus the best #SEO strategy.
Patience for the Win
All of this takes time and companies should be patient. SEO is a relationship that companies use to connect with consumers. Trust and brand identity cannot be gained overnight. A reasonable expectation is to see results within six months. Even if companies have tried and failed at SEO before, they should not give up. With the right content, the right approach, and persistence, SEO can enable companies to create enviable online traffic, which should lead to new clients.