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Search Engine Optimization: A Reality Check for Company Decision Makers

SEO

16/05/2021

46

Search Engine Optimization: A Reality Check for Company Decision Makers.

A “household name” in marketing sphere, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) revolves around search engines, which most of the time means Google, to increase traffic from organic search engine results, hence (hopefully) boost conversions and sales.
However, popularity doesn’t mean quality. In fact, many SEO myths still lurk around to cloud the judgment of its users, e.g. marketers, and its “beneficiaries”, e.g. company decision makers. It’s time to have a reality check to truly understand and leverage the power of SEO.

Recount the Tale of Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization has claimed many headlines and appeared in numerous digital marketing guidebooks. The resulting overhype has fueled both naysayers and advocates, leading to a constant battle over SEO’s uses and benefits. Let’s go over the history of SEO to get the big picture before addressing prevalent SEO rumors.

1990s: The Dawn of SEO – When It All Started

In the last decade of the 20th century, there was only on-page SEO, which focuses on optimizing the webpage, including content, keywords, internal links and external links. This era was marked with “keyword stuffing” – a now well-known black hat SEO technique – which involves overusing the same keywords on a webpage.

2000s: The Surge and the Chaos – When Google Steps Up

Then came the 21st century. On-page SEO ceased to be the only way to gain traffic, as off-page SEO made its entrance. At this point, the number and quality of external links directing to a webpage did matter, hence the birth of an SEO technique called link building, and its dark counterpart called “paid links”.
Meanwhile, the monetization of SEO content regardless of quality kicked in. Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) were flooded with ads and “content farms” – websites with content of low quality yet high quantity.

2010s and beyond: The Turn – When Everything Goes Social and Mobile

The second decade of the 21st century rushed in with social media activities becoming integral to most online behaviors, and going mobile becoming the norm. In 2015, there were more Google searches on mobile devices than desktop, tipping the SEO focus.
Intelligent search and voice search surface, with AIs, machine learning and smarter algorithms to better understand natural language and user intent.

In March, 2021, Google launched mobile-first indexing, which “predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking”.

SEO has come a long way with exciting turns and twists. It deserves to be understood properly and treated fairly. And as technology evolves, SEO optimization awaits to unleash more potential to bring unprecedented results to respectable brands and businesses.

Dispel the Illusion of Search Engine Optimization

It’s time to sweep away the illusion made by SEO common myths, leaving a clear view of the future for company decision makers. First, we’ll take care of the most common misunderstandings – usually empty promises from unreliable SEO providers to tempt companies into sub-optimal investment and unrealistic expectations.

Illusion 1: “We only need SEO”

This assertive claim is usually followed by one (or more) reason listed below.

SEO = #1 on GoogleThough the ultimate goal of SEO is the first place on SERPs, this should not be the metrics for SEO’s true effectiveness, as constant improvement and frequent updates are much more effective at doing this important task. And with Google constantly updating their algorithms, looking for shortcuts to push your page to the absolute top is as easy as finding a needle in a haystack.We want to be the first result on Google because it means higher click-through rate (CTR) and greater brand awareness, but it doesn’t mean high(er) retention nor conversion. Irrelevant and low-quality content will turn the users off and eventually cost you both ranking and credit.

Remember, your target should also be your audience, not only Google. Trying to “trick” the search engine to appear all shiny on the 1st place while ignoring user experience will do you more harm than good

SEO = Rocketing Sales/ Immediate ResultsSome decision makers expect SEO to bring over-the-night results in terms of traffic and even sales. This is simply unrealistic and impossible, as the right SEO optimization takes time to grow. Also, increased traffic doesn’t equate more sales, just an improvement in the possibility of making more sales.

SEO is not a silver bullet in marketing, let alone the whole business. It is nevertheless a hidden gem waiting to be polished on your crown when you approach the throne in the digital world.

Illusion 2: “SEO is easy”

Generally followed by a variant of “You only need to…”, this promise sways you into thinking that you can invest minimal and reap maximal; or at least if it doesn’t work, you don’t have much to lose. To many souls’ dismay, the truth begs to differ.

You only need to stuff keywords and links into your contentAs mentioned, this is a black-hat SEO technique, and even so outdated. Doing keyword stuffing these days will result in worse ranking, because Google does check your keyword density – the frequency of a specific keyword used on a page.

You only need to invest in it once (and Google will take care of it)SEO is not a quick fix, it is a strategy that takes time and effort to bear results. If Google never stops updating their algorithms, and your audience never stays the same, what makes you think a one-time effort in SEO will grant you a permanent high ranking?This leads to another misunderstanding about SEO: it is costly. Actually, SEO doesn’t need to be expensive to be effective. Its cost pales in comparison with other marketing practices, such as paid ads. And SEO creates 20 times more traffic opportunities on mobile and desktop than PPC.

You only need to optimize your website, e.g. on-page SEONearly 60% of marketers consider on-page content development as “the most effective SEO” practice. However, ignoring off-page SEO means throwing away the golden opportunity to increase your page authority, which is your ratings of reliability and relevance.Whether you choose link building, content marketing, social media, guest blogging, or all of them, off-page SEO is a worthy investment.

According to Hubspot, half of marketers report positive effects of link building after 1-3 months of implementation.
So, SEO is not easy, but it doesn’t need to be so tough. Equip yourself with the fundamentals and best practices, and consider looking for help from a legitimate agency who truly knows your local market and audience.

Illusion 3: “SEO is dead”

Before going any further, let’s clarify one fact: SEO is NOT dead, it is changing.
But why is there such a claim? The naysayers of SEO present 3 purportedly sound reasons:

In 2020, nearly 65% of Google searches result in no click. Forbes considered this one of the top 3 SEO trends: zero-click searches for impatient users as they can read the answers they need directly on the SERPs, and there’s no need to visit any specific website.
Google makes algorithm changes every day, making it much harder to “fool” the search engine.
Only companies without quality services/products rely on SEO to have customers.

The statistics don’t lie, but they can surely mislead. This is hardly the end of SEO. There are brands which adapted their SEO approach and reaped great results, as in a success story on ThinkwithGoogle. Their CTR and conversions increased, while average CPC decreased. The secret is they “see search as a direct dialogue with the customer”, not a tool to manipulate the audience’s behaviors anymore.

Also, using SEO doesn’t make your company any less honorable, but more convenient for customers to look for the right solutions. Just stay alert when your agency promises quick and big gains when doing SEO. If it sounds too good to be true, most of the time it is.
And remember, as long as search engines exist, SEO remains relevant.

Expand Your Territory with the True SEO Strategy in 2021

As of March, 2021, Google accounted for more than 70% of desktop search and nearly 90% of mobile search, followed by Baidu (12.6% for desktop, 7.5% for mobile) and Bing (12.1% for desktop, 1.1% for mobile).

Many consider SEO to be a tradeoff between the needs of the audience and those of search engine algorithms. Marketers need to create content which is (a) compelling and relevant to the audience, and (b) able to satisfy the highest possible number of ranking factors of Google.

However, this doesn’t need to be an either-or situation. As Google makes changes to serve their users better, companies that choose to move in the same direction won’t lose their opportunity at getting the right customers online.

No matter which SEO practices you implement, there are 3 elements to keep in mind for long-term success:

Content – Insightful information that your audience craves.Do you know people are taking longer to make buying decisions? According to Google, it increased by 9 days from 2015 to 2019. It seems easier access to all kinds of information has delayed the purchase decision, making it all harder for digital marketers to attract and retain users by relying only on rankings on SERPs.Optimizing your content around the search intent is one sure way to gain the upper hand. It’s no longer enough to do “good” content, you need a thoughtful content marketing plan, targeting the right niche and following best local practices.

Design – A neat look with responsiveness for higher retention.When ranking pages, Google takes into account numerous factors, including the navigation (how easy to move around among your pages), speed (how long it takes to load your page), content and links, and responsive design (how it displays on different devices) among many others.When people spend more and more time on mobile devices, a mobile-first design approach may be more desirable, but it doesn’t mean to neglect the desktop version. Investing in responsive UX/UI design will increase your chance of retaining visitors once they click through it.

Reach – Social media to amplify your influence. SEO is a process with the ultimate goal of creating sales, so nurturing leads is not to be overlooked. Social media marketing is an effective way to keep your audience engaged, updated and motivated to move to the next stage of the buyer journey.Though it’s not known how much impact content on social media has on search engine algorithms, this communication channel still remains one of the pillars in lead generation and beyond.

Do you know that Google and other search engines have included the value of video content in SEO when updating their algorithms? It’s your opportunity to create both appealing and SEO-optimized video content to tempt regular guests on social media channels.

Remember, marketing success on social media means cultural relevance. You need to really understand your local market to leverage this popular yet fickle channel.

Having a comprehensive digital marketing strategy in which SEO optimization, both on-page and off-page, takes an important role will increase your odds. It’s no longer the time for a hero to single-handedly take down the giant. The winners know how to best combine their tools and adapt to evolve with the market.

Take your SEO to the Next Level

Having existed longer than most businesses, Search Engine Optimization has its ups and downs as a digital marketing tool. With virtually no entry barriers, SEO is a practice that anyone can take a look at, have a try and make a comment about its value. Consequently, for a long time, SEO purposes are misinterpreted, SEO benefits are undermined, and SEO results are condemned as no longer worthy of the investment.

It’s time to ward off the negative vibe (and wishful thinking) and take SEO for its true worth. In the digital world, your audience should be the center of your attention, and SEO practices that serve your audience will prove to be the most successful. Coupled with the right content, design and communication channel strategies, your company will surely gain the edge in this constant chaotic online war and head directly to your rightful place.

If you have changed your opinions about how to do SEO and would like a transformation, or you want to do it right at the get-go, don’t hesitate to contact On Digitals. With proven track records, we provide insightful consultancy and services tailored to your unique needs and objectives, especially if you’re looking to expand your business to Vietnam.


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