Because SEO is highly technical and rapidly changing, many firms have difficulty keeping their programs on track. The three most important questions firms grapple with:
- How much should we spend on SEO?
- What type of specific SEO tasks should we be doing?
- How should we measure results?
Let's take a quick overview of each one of these.
Budgeting for SEO
Primary factors to consider include the competitiveness of your niche and the importance of online visibility to your business.
Competition. If your firm sells air conditioners in Nome, Alaska, you won't have to invest a dime in SEO: chances are strong that people searching on Google for your product will find your site simply because it's the only one there. On the other hand, if you sell appliances across the U.S., you face huge competition from major retailers with vast online marketing budgets. Establishing first- or second-page visibility on Google could take a six-figure annual spend.
Importance of organic visibility. If you're engaged in e-commerce, SEO is a necessity, since there's a direct connection between search visibility and revenue. If you're main purpose is lead generation, SEO can still be tremendously important, especially when the lifetime value of a customer is high. In B2B, establishing credibility is often an SEO driver, since an absence of organic search visibility may raise a red flag with potential customers.
Key SEO Tasks
Keyword research is at the heart of SEO, as it identifies the important terms used by people looking online for what you sell. Keyword research is not a one-and-done activity; it must be reviewed and tweaked on a regular basis.
Onsite SEO is partly a set of tasks that ensure Google and other search engines can understand what your site is about and the relative importance of each page of content. It also involves creating new content for your site. Both aspects are vital.
Offsite SEO in today's environment is largely a matter of publishing useful, authoritative content on relevant websites and blogs. Offsite content generates links back to your site, which is an important weighting factor for Google.
A strong SEO program devotes time to onsite and offsite activities. Neglecting one may cancel out the benefits of doing the other.
Rankings are not nearly as useful as they once were in gauging success. Today, users see different search results depending on their geographic location, personal search history and other factors. As a result, it's become very hard to determine a pure ranking for any given search term you've targeted.
WIth that in mind, unbranded search traffic is probably the best number to track. If you're getting more visitors to your site from searchers who have not used your company or product name in their search queries, it's an indicator that your search visibility is improving. Other useful indicators include the number of links back to your site, the number of keyword phrases generating site traffic, and the number of social media shares your content is capturing.