I started Easyodds in 2000 and I only woke up to the importance of natural google search results in 2004. By that stage we were behind the game and had a lot of ground to make up.
Initially I spoke to various agencies, but then opted for an in-house SEO specialist. Much of his advice required operational and web site changes but he didn’t know how to communicate his message and frustrated, he moved on. But it struck me that if the rest of the team needed to be involved, I had better understand why. So an expert was hired with the remit of strategy and education.
A year later, with key changes having been made and SEO best practise integrated across the business, we had gone from zero to hero. 50%+ of our growing traffic and conversions were coming through natural search. Better still, our recurring costs had barely increase.
After his initial strategy project, our expert was just working 1-2 days a month (helping us with stats, issues, next growth steps). Other than that we had the same staff costs as before – we were just working smarter, with search engines as well as customers in mind.
This is how I became a believer in integrated SEO. Based on my own experiences and talking to peers, I saw integrated SEO winning over other approaches in the following ways:
|Out-sourcing||In-house Specialists||Integrated Across Team||Comments|
|Rankings first 6-12 months||Outsourced agencies will be focussed more on the short term results they have promised.|
|Longer term rankings||Integration gives knowledge and operational platform to keep going to the next level.|
|Risk Control||In-house / integration means total transparency so you know that risky short cuts are being avoided.|
|Revenue||Integration can lead to better conversion rate focus and quicker remedies.|
|Impact on business||Internal focus on content strategy and outreach benefits brand development and customer acquision.|
|Costs first 3-6 months||Strategy development and training requires some additional investment in the early stages.|
|Longer term costs||Once integration is complete, longer term staff costs and retainers are minimised.|
What are the key requirements for SEO success?
Today I believe the benefits of integrated SEO are even greater. To help explain why, it is worth taking a step back and looking at what is needed to succeed with natural search.
1) Strong content: The search engines crawl your site pouring through it’s content to find terms and topics to rank you for. So it is imperative that your site contains relevant, high quality content for your target market.
2) Content optimisation / technical SEO: In order to help search engines spider your site effectively (and therefore rank you better) your content needs to be well organised and structured. Each page needs to certain HTML tags which are key labels designed primarily for search engine consumption. Certain overall sign-posts need to exist too (like an XML sitemap and a robots.txt file) so that search engines read all the content you want them to and ignore other content that you don’t need to rank for (typically this may include T+Cs pages for example).
3) Content Marketing: Search engines look for links into your site and your individual pages as a key indicator of the authority of that content. Assuming the right type of content is in place and is well structured and labelled, the volume of high quality relevant links to an overall domain and a specific page will determine how well you rank for the keywords set out on that page relative to your competitors.
So do you see why integration is so important?
By simply having your editorial staff working to a clear, search engine savvy strategy, significant progress can be made. With the right tools in place these same staff can be the hard yards of the technical SEO too – once trained, they can write and use the labels the search engines need.
The technical team needs to be engaged to put these tools in place and to make sure the key overall site elements are in place and maintained. Other key technical questions like best use of domains and structural issues that affect search engine spidering also need to considered at the outset and to form part of their thinking with each significant site change.
The design and marketing resources involved in site navigational planning are critical to organising and structuring the site correctly at the outset. They can also make search engine traffic a part of their performance tracking and their decision making for improving pages over time.
Sales and marketing resources can make content marketing a key part of their thinking and approach. PR teams can be engaged not just to garner brand awareness but also to drive links to the site as a part of their remit. Marketing and PR teams can work together to make best use of surveys, infographics and other engaging data to create and market unique and highly linkable content. Business development personnel, when forming and improving relationships, can be trained to look for angles to drive links from key partners back to your site.
Why integrated SEO is definitely worth the hassle
So the benefits are clear – but of course it requires investment in education and training and it needs time and dedication. Naturally there are many other areas of focus for any business but here’s why this this is worth the priority
1) As much as 82% of Google and Bing clicks go to natural search: Natural search listings are free. Paid search listing come at a cost per click and are inherently less trusted by users. Ebay recently turned their backs on paid search altogether.
2) In 2013, Shortcuts to SEO can cost you everything: Since 2011, Google, in an effort to improve its rankings, has been getting very tough on spam with its Panda algorithm updates designed to penalise poor quality content and its Penguin changes designed to penalise dodgy links and other spammy techniques. Companies that fall foul of these updates have been penalised and have often seen their natural search traffic fall off a cliff. As this blog on top brands penalised shows, penalties were inflicted before Panda and Penguin too, but since 2011, the penalties are harsher and much more widespread. Knowledge and control of best practise methods has never been more important.
3) In 2013 and beyond, doing the right things for SEO will have other huge benefits for you business: To succeed with SEO, ultimately you need well positioned content that reaches, engages and registers positively with your target audience. There is a wider context here. As Jake Sofroman wrote in his excellent recent blog on the rise of the Digital CMO: “Digital experiences and engagement draw consumers closer to a brand and more efficiently drive conversions and transactions, both online and off.” As the digital revolution unfolds, those who succeed in creating and marketing great content are reaping brand and commercial benefits that go well beyond the lucrative returns from strong SEO.