Should I or my company spend our digital marketing dollars on SEO? If you’re a business owner, that’s a question you should be asking yourself – but before making a decision, it’s important to understand how that money is spent. If you’re talking with an agency about SEO in 2020, you should confirm what approach they are taking because not all digital marketing efforts are equal. If you or the agency are still using SEO tactics that worked 10 years ago like keyword stuffing and spammy backlinks, don’t be surprised if you actually see negative results.
SEO tactics have evolved greatly over the last decade and will continue to change as search engines improve their algorithms, adjust what signals they monitor, along with the value they put on each of those signals. Through the use of AI, they have also gotten exceptionally good at distinguishing authentic, valid data from efforts to manipulate rankings.
Does all that mean SEO is dead? Not at all, it just means that your digital marketing efforts should involve more than just SEO. Luckily, there are new and better traffic generating methods available to digital marketers today. These methods are battle-tested and do not require tricking search engines – instead, they send a message to search engines that your site is valued, that you are an authority in your field, and that you provide useful information that is shared across the Internet and social media platforms. For SEO to work better, you will have to adopt a holistic approach; taking advantage of the dominance of search engines in web traffic, but also profiting from the alternative traffic offered by newer channels.
There is still a very strong case for SEO today and into the future as SEO is likely to remain relevant for a long time to come. Here are some of the continued benefits:
- Search engine traffic dominates the Internet. Web statistics site 99firms, reports that over 90% of web traffic originates from search engines. Google alone accounts for 76% of desktop traffic and over 85% of mobile web traffic. Keep in mind that mobile traffic has overtaken desktop traffic. Good SEO means that your website remains visible to this traffic.
- Product searches still start from search engines. Most web users will start with a search engine to look up product information, reviews, and the best bargains. Pulling this type of traffic has a direct positive impact on conversion rates.
That said, here are some of the dead SEO tactics that no longer work and will actually have the opposite effect you had hoped for. If search engines pick up these underhanded tactics, they may negatively impact your rankings and domain authority scores.
Keyword stuffing – Trying to rank for a keyword too much can make the rest of your content disjointed, which is easily picked up by search engines that have become smarter by using natural language processing.
Spammy links – High quantity of links on low authority sites are not effective. Spamming links on high authority websites is picked up by search engines as well because they can spot the irrelevance.
Voluminous but unoptimized content – While many pages and long posts can hold thousands of keywords, they must be relevant. Search engines have become better at rewording relevance.
Focusing too much on discoverability – Structuring content for search engines rather than a good user experience is counterproductive since web traffic that lands on the site bounce off if the site is not user-friendly. If your site’s bounce rate is greater than 50%, that’s a red flag that your site is not structured properly.
Instead of the outdated SEO tactics above, what works best today is a more holistic approach to improving rankings that combine trusted SEO methods along with a solid website foundation and providing search engines the data they are looking for through optimized & relevant content, a social media presence, and local citation. This allows Google to qualify your site and your content for the value and information it provides. But let’s be very clear about one critical and important point – no amount of money spent on SEO and the right digital marketing strategies will help you if are offering a bad product or service. If you want to be rated the best Italian restaurant in your town, then serve the best Italian food and provide the best service first, then use SEO to tell the world about it. Doing it the other way around will simply not work.
What SEO tactics work in the present and how can you combine them with other traffic generating methods for a more effective strategy?
Local Citation also called Local SEO – Simply put, this is having your company contact information getting mentioned in your local business area. This includes the mention of the business name, address, email, and telephone number in local directories, reviews, and other websites in your local area but not necessarily linking back to your site. Local SEO has become pivotal because Google has shifted to showing local searches on top. Web stats blog Moz lists Google My Business ranking factors as the top in ranking metrics by Google today. Your business is likely to see a rise in walk-in traffic originating from these local searches. Improve your local listing on Google My Business and ensure you get mentions on location-focus sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, etc..
Social Media Visibility – While search engines dominate web traffic, social media is where most web users spend their time. Statistics site Statista reported that the average web user spent 144 minutes per day on social media. Developing a sound social media marketing strategy is mandatory for any brand that wishes to remain visible and relevant. A sound strategy will include content generation, placement, timing, and constant engagement with customers, social media followers, and other connections.
Written Content Creation – Blogs, White Papers, Press Releases, FAQs – Content is king! It always has been but is so much more important today as previously used SEO tricks will no longer generate the results they used to. Content gives search engines a reason to visit and index your site. It tells them that your site is active and the content tells search engines what you are an authority on. This is where you can explain in detail the merits of your product or service, explain why you’re better than the competition, and why visitors should listen and trust you.
Quality content on blogs, white papers, press releases, and new web pages builds site authority, which in turn pulls more web traffic, and gradually improves your ranking in the long term.
A blog is also a good entry point for engagement on other platforms. You can share your blog post on Facebook, attracting readers who could end up viewing and buying your products. The biggest advantage of a blog is that you have a free hand in content generation. Your articles, videos, and infographics can be as detailed as you wish, giving you ample space for optimization.
Content Optimization – High-quality content is the first step in optimizing content. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, search engines tend to reward sites that pull and retain visitors, with more traffic. Look at what is attracting most visitors and create more of it.
Keywords are still important in 2020 but in the form of keyword phrases. The trick is to rank for keywords that blend well into the larger content to make it relevant, unique, and authoritative. Look for content on your site that is already attracting views and research keyword difficulty. You can then rank for these keywords to make richer content of what was already working.
There are more content optimization techniques including properly tagging videos and images, using proper headings, meta descriptions, linking, optimized URLs, and so on. But most important of all is generating well-researched readable content, which viewers will love and keep coming back to.
Topic ranking (authority) – For every website today, there are thousands if not millions of others in the same industry or niche. This means that readers are likely to have read what you are peddling and are in search of more unique content. Topic research gives content an edge over the competition. In this approach, you are ranking as an authority in a topic rather than a keyword. Present newer and fresher information than what is already available. Rework older high-ranking content with videos and infographics, for example, and add more recent and relevant information to pull in a new batch of visitors.
SEO is very much alive, only that you have to approach it in a more holistic and genuine way. The SEO techniques of 10 years ago no longer work alone. If you want to drive more traffic to your site, you need a marketing plan that consists of smart SEO techniques, coupled with great content that is authentic & optimized, a social media presence, local citation, and most importantly a well-built website. All the time, money and effort you put into SEO and digital marketing will not pay off unless your website is set up properly. If that sounds like a lot of work, it is. That’s why it’s valuable to have a team focused on the proper strategy to ensure everything is done correctly so you can focus on your business.