The digital landscape has changed a lot over the last 15 years. In 2003, if you were a bit tech savvy, chances are you’d be able to do a bit of on-site SEO work, get a backlink or two, throw a bit of budget on AdWords, and then head off home for the day, safe in the knowledge that the enquiries and sales would soon start rolling in. However, in October 2003, Tony Blair was Prime Minister, Arsenal were embarking on their Invincibles season, and Alex Turner was still doing his A-Levels. A lot has changed since then, and arguably the e-commerce landscape has changed more than almost anything else. Back in 2003, less than 1bn people were online. Now there are over 4bn people using the web to research and buy products and services. In this ever changing climate, it’s well worth considering whether or not SEO is right for your business. After all, 4bn potential customers is a huge pool to tap into.
So, is SEO still worthwhile overall?
In short, yes.
It’s still obvious to anyone working in the industry that SEO still has a tangible effect. SEOs have been worriedly predicting in recent years that Google will eventually outsmart all of us, leading to the extinction of SEO as an effective marketing tool. These gloomy predictions may eventually come true, but they couldn’t be further from the truth right now. At my digital marketing agency, we send reports detailing rises in traffic month on month, which is largely down to our SEO work.
However, the reality is that it’s more competitive than ever. Yes, there is a bigger pool of potential customers online now than there was before, but we now live in an age where every single successful brand has a savvy digital strategy. I’ve worked in SEO for many years now, and rising up the rankings has been getting steadily tougher for a good few years. If you’re not prepared to put the work in, you will fall behind.
Remember that good SEO requires investment
If you’re going to use SEO as part of your digital marketing strategy, and succeed at it, you’re going to need to invest in it. It’s no good telling your web team to optimise a few pages, see that you’ve shot up in the rankings, pat each other on the back and chalk it down as a job well done. I guarantee that there are competitors out there that will be way more engaged with their SEO strategy, and before you know it your SEO gains will be history.
It has never been harder to rank on page one of Google’s search results, so if you’re serious about getting the results, you need to get serious about the process. Whether your SEO team is in-house or external, you need people on your payroll who have SEO as their sole focus. This is because you’re going to need a steady stream of well crafted video and written content, and a steady supply of backlinks if you want to stay on top. None of those things are easy or cheap to achieve, so if you want that top spot, you’re going to have to pay for it.
At this point you might be wondering; what is even the point of SEO in this case? Why don’t I just try other methods of marketing? The point is that the return on investment can be huge. Getting your site in the top spots for a highly targeted, competitive keyword can bring many thousands of new visitors to your site every month. The rewards can be incredible, for those willing to put in the legwork.
Keep on top of the Search landscape
Search has come a long way since the days of the ‘ten blue links’. You now have so much more to think about if you want to do effective SEO. Mobile and voice are two huge developments, but let’s stick to web for now. Let’s say you do loads of great SEO work, and your site ends up on page one. It then turns out you’re not getting many clicks through, and that when people do click through they’re not sticking around for very long. Your rankings are going to plummet, because Google RankBrain – the technology that monitors how users interact with search results – will realise that people aren’t interacting with your site. There’s much more to it than getting your site on top and keeping it there; you need to keep people engaged.
Then there’s mobile. These days, if your site isn’t mobile-first, your rankings are going to suffer as a result. In recent years, the general rule on mobile has been to make sure your site is mobile optimised. That isn’t enough anymore, you now need to make sure mobile is your primary focus if you want to achieve the highest rankings.
Voice is the future
If you know me personally, or if you’ve read my blog before, it should be no surprise that I think voice should be the main focus of all SEOs moving forward. It is also a very different discipline to traditional web or mobile SEO. What reads well in the SERPs on your phone or laptop won’t sound good when read aloud by your Alexa device. A sound voice strategy will look totally different to a sound web strategy, so you can’t just have a one-size-fits-all approach.
My point is that the search landscape is constantly changing, and you need to keep on top of it if you’re going to succeed. There’s absolutely no point carrying out an SEO strategy that’s 12 months out of date, you’re just wasting time and energy.
Remember that SEO does not exist in a vacuum
Even if you have the shrewdest SEO strategy going, SEO strategy isn’t a silver bullet. You need to add other tools to your arsenal, such as digital advertising, social media, public relations and other similar strategies. Search is great for when customers know what they are looking for, and if they happen to know what they’re looking for and you’re on top, they’ll find you. The other strategies listed above are great for reaching customers who are likely to buy your product, but don’t know they want it yet. Put simply, SEO is an impactful