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Acquisition Marketers And The SEO ROI Dilemma
After over 12 years practicing the art of SEO, and selling SEO services to clients, I thought the industry had reached a stage of “acceptance”.
But there is still a very smart group of people out there that are doubters – The Acquisition Marketers.
SEO Personality Types
Company executives and owners have varying degrees of sophistication when it comes to understanding why SEO is important, or why it should be an important part of the marketing mix. I would break down the most common personality types as follows:
- Me Too – My competitors are doing it, I will too.
- The Rank Hound – I want to be #1 for my favorite keyword because I know it’s important (without any proof to back it up).
- The Small Portfolio Ranker – I understand that there are a number of relevant keywords that appear to drive business for us, let’s attack them as a group.
- The More, The Merrier – Capturing the long-tail is an important part of driving relevant visitors to our site, and they are more likely to be buyers.
- Doing Great, Just Need A Bit More – Our SEO is performing well for us. It would be nice to push it up a notch or two, what’s the latest and greatest?
- Been There, Done That – I’ve hired consultants before, and we just haven’t see the results we needed.
The “Been There, Done That” group is the closest to The Acquisition Marketers in terms of mindset. For the most part, these are sophisticated marketers, who use tight measurements to determine where to spend their marketing dollars.
ROI Focused Marketers Still Doubt
The surprising part for me in recent weeks is that there are many Acquisition Marketers who still doubt that investing in SEO is even worth the effort. And, they have not even given it a try.
In some sense, it’s the “paralysis by analysis” conundrum. As SEO practitioners, we have all been faced with the question of “what’s the ROI?”
In my last article, 10 Quick & Dirty SEO Success Metrics, I made the case that tracking SEO success can get messy when you look at attribution tracking, and that you may have to resort to some more basic measurements to prove success.
It is exactly this messy success tracking that makes Acquisition Marketers hesitant to invest in SEO.
The Case For SEO As An Acquisition Vehicle
So, here’s my case for why SEO is a necessary piece of Acquisition Marketing:
A well-executed SEO strategy requires crafting and generating valuable content, promoting that content, and finding ways for trusted resources to link to that content. It takes time to see organic search results.
In this process, the most likely scenario is that “The Rank Hound” will be disappointed, and the “The Small Portfolio Ranker” will begin to have doubts, but may see some positive signs. “The More, The Merrier” will see the breadth of keyword traffic begin to expand, and will be happy to see that progress. But, even “The More, The Merrier” will begin to question if the right tail keywords are bringing in traffic.
However, this entire SEO process is moving the acquisition dial in the right direction!
Acquisition benefits include:
- Purchase Influencing. Quality content that is generated is positively influencing buyer behavior. Whether or not the content is found via a search engine (at the beginning), the content is still pushing website visitors closer to being buyers. By “content”, I don’t just mean written text (which is of course valuable) – great content will take many forms, including video, images, graphical depictions (including infographics), webinars, contests & promotions, local search assets (e.g. Google Places), and many other forms of great, creative, and convincing content.
- Awareness. Visits from long-tail keywords, even if not the best-converting keywords, are building brand awareness, and planting the seed that your site is there for them to come back to. You may see this traffic come back to you in future visits in your analyitcs as “Direct/Bookmark” or search queries for your brand name. But, it was the initial visit, for a very specific phrase that even gave you the opportunity for that second visit.
- Creating A Voice. In order to promote the content, you need a voice. That voice is a combination of social media engagement, PR, and traditional link building. These traffic channels, and communication processes, will be there even when Google changes the search game on us all again. People will be finding you not just via search, but through good-old-fashioned communication. But, you did the groundwork, in part, to improve SEO results.
- Competitive Keywords Will Come To You. Your quest for ranking for the best-converting, and more competitive, keywords will provide results. It will just take more time than many Acquisition Marketers are typically comfortable with. But, without making the investment in organic search, your competitors will keep taking your customers away from you.
As organic search traffic, and traffic from related sources, flows in, Acquisition Marketers can do one of the things they do best – test and optimize the user experience to capture customers and prospects, and build marketing lists to nurture with care.
Every Industry Evolves & Requires Convincing Doubters In Order To Grow
As I was drafting this article, I was bouncing ideas off of a trusted adviser, Mike Schultz, from the Rain Group. Mike’s specialty is sales training.
As I talked about my surprise at still finding so many “doubters” who have not yet invested in SEO, Mike drew an analogy to how even “mature” industries need to be re-introduced to how to sell their own services. He talked about how roughly 20 years ago, law firms began to revolutionize the way they market and sell their services (even though lawyers have been around for centuries).
It became evident, that if a competitive law firm did not engage in more aggressive marketing and demand generation, then not only were they leaving potential business on the table, the perception was that they were behind the curve.
While the SEO industry is far from mature, it is true that the speed of adoption has been at a much more rapid rate than many other marketing channels. In fact, Brian Halligan and the rest of the Hubspot team, have proven how fast a new marketing concept, such as inbound marketing, can take hold.
So, my hope is that the sophisticated, ROI-driven Acquisition Marketers will take note of the broad benefits of SEO, and invest time and money in building organic search as an acquisition channel. Even when ROI measurement is not immediately available.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.