As long as there are search engines, Search Engine Optimisation will remain an absolutely critical activity for almost all sites that wish to attract visitors through organic means. But how do you know if you’re investing enough into it?
There is a big difference , compared to early days of SEO which pretty much allowed webmasters (or their marketing agencies) to manipulate search results to such an extent that allowed even the most average of sites and businesses to raise up the rankings and attract huge volumes of traffic at very little cost. It’s also why there remains the stubborn stains of “guaranteed rankings for £sodall” services in the market. A pox on their houses!
We’ve discussed some of these issues as to whether SEO is still worth it before. But assuming the question is not whether or not you should be trying to attract organic traffic, but rather how much effort do you now need to put in to meet your business goals.
This basically means keeping a site healthy. By that, we mean making sure there are no crawling & indexation issues, ensuring that we’re relevant for search terms that are important to the business and generally adhering to best practices. That in itself is a moving target with changes to search engines being a regular thing and particularly with regards to how technologies change.
It’s tough, but to simply stand still, a site owners need to be investing time making sure their site is in good health. The uptick in traffic from this is likely to be marginal – after all, not all the competition out there is standing still. But what it does do is avoid problems that could prove critical if not recognised and tackled early.
It’s an ideal approach if you don’t necessarily critically rely on organic traffic for your business success. Certainly we advocate a multichannel approach and for many businesses, and there may be other channels that offer much higher ROI’s in the short term. But long term, with patience and a sound business model, there is nothing more important you can do for for your organisation.
The next stage on from simply keeping a site healthy is an active attempt to increase the amount of organic traffic that a site is attracting. That can be done in two broad ways – by increasing the value/authority of a site and/or increasing its relevance to new search terms.
Value & Authority
The value of your site, as determined by search engines is generally agreed to be closely associated with inbound links. These are links from other sites to yours. In the past, it was easy to manipulate these signals but Google in particular waged war on this practice with major algorithm updates. So generating links is, like all things, a much more involved process.
The very best way of attracting links of course, is to offer goods, services and information that naturally attract links. Be worthy of a someone saying “yeah these guys are ace” and you will be OK. This is just as much to do with the 4 P’s as it is with SEO. But ensuring you’ve an amazing User eXperience (UX) and great content (both part of a multichannel approach) do of course help.
There are also some shortcuts you can take to finding and obtaining links and this is what you’re likely to be paying an agency for. This will involve things like reverse engineering of your competitors link profile to find easy opportunities to manually build links or an outreach program to garner them editorially. It’s perfectly possible to do link building full time, but even just a day or two of time spent link building a month can make a big difference.
Why would Google display your site in their results if you don’t have a page relevant to the search query? The answer is of course it won’t. So a relatively simple way to gain more search traffic is to find new opportunities and produce new content or edit existing content to cater for those search phrases you’re missing out on. Again, spending time on this every month, to uncover new keyword opportunities and find shortfalls and it is a sensible part of any long term SEO campaign.
It’s also a good idea to consider how you’re current content is performing – getting a search traffic to a page but seeing a high bounce rate probably means you’re probably semantically relevant but not “intent” relevant. In other words, your page content sucks. Whether fixing this is UX or SEO is questionable; but tackling it will certainly help you rank higher in the long term.
Full Fat SEO
What used to be SEO, is now marketing. The two are synonymous – to get the sorts of results old school SEO used to produce takes a lot more time, effort and requires the support of an holistic multichannel approach. If the goal of Google and Bing is to deliver the very best resources on the web for a search phrase, then then your goal has to be to become the very best resource for that search phrase. This isn’t tautology – it’s common sense.
To achieve this, you need to do a lot of things, but these are probably some essentials…
The biggest thing you can do, to make your website perform well, is to invest in it’s ongoing development. It’s the best investment you can possibly make and the more the better – it’ll keep your site running fast, keep implementation of ongoing best practices and keep up with technology changes – all of which will provide the very best site possible to users. All these things are essential for high search rankings in competitive niches. Neglect your development, and you’re neglecting your business.
The phrase de jour is Content is King. Whether this is true is or not is up for debate – but without good content it’s unlikely that your site is going to be the engaging enough to warrant high search rankings. So awesome copy, sharp images, interesting videos and a fun user experience are all investments that will reap rewards over the long term. Shitty site – shitty rankings. Seems fair does it not…
Clever content also fits into multiple stages of the buying cycle – so it works to attract people at the awareness stage (through long tail searches for example), during consideration (to increase conversion) and onto advocacy (to get shared/linked too). Two out of these three of course being core parts of SEO.
With social, we’ll also bung in PR: The two are pretty closely aligned and work together well and both are part and parcel of good Marketing – which is SEO To be explicit, there is zero reason to believe that Google is taking people sharing/talking about/with your brand on Facebook or Twitter is going to increase your rankings. It just doesn’t (almost certainly) work like that.
However, there is a correlation between high rankings sites and high social engagement. Part of this is that social media is a big part of how people discover and share content they find on the web. If you imagine the funnel from huge reach, down to big engagement, down to a bit of consideration to a soupcon of sharing/linking, you can see how social helps your site over the long term become more authoritative and popular.
Notwithstanding, having a good social media presence dovetails extremely well with all other aspects of SEO.
How Much Does This Cost?
You can spend an unlimited amount of SEO really. On a personal level I’ve delivered everything from £50 a month retainers to £50,000 one-off reports. From experience, the lower end always seem to be the more stressful as the gap between expectations and reality is inversely proportional to commitment. But choosing your budgets is different for every business and as discussed in Tactics vs Strategy, you should be allying your goals to your digital marketing activity.
But as a ready reckoner, finger-in-the-air figure, to keep your site healthy and organic traffic growing you should be spending between £200-£500 a month on SEO depending on the size and complexity of the site. Any less and you should really consider what it is that person is able to do for you. If you really want to grow your organic traffic the biggest gain is to have some sort of development resources in place as well as employing someone for at least a day per week to focus not only on your site health, but to also look for new opportunities. The topic of cost though, is one discussed regularly including by Forbes and Search Engine Watch.
After that, having a dedicated digital marketing bod is the only way to do full scale organic marketing which will of course include a whole lot more than SEO. There’s a reason why we offer dedicated marketing contracts you know 😉