Organic SEO As Another Marketing Channel

SEO is confusing to many. It’s shrouded in mystery, often has a bad reputation and is not generally understood by traditional marketers. Heck, it’s not even understood by website developers nor some who sell SEO as a service.

Yet SEO is nothing more or less than an additional marketing channel for your business. Let me explain, with a story.

We have a client who had not had any SEO work performed until they hired our company. They’re not in a hugely competitive space, but they do have competitors. We originally researched and found all the keyword phrases that people looking for the type of product this company manufactured would type into the search engines, and we optimized the website for those keywords. Within a few months, they began seeing search engine traffic for those keyword phrases (and numerous variations of them), and traffic continued to grow each month.

Since this company is a manufacturer and doesn’t sell their products directly, it’s difficult to measure conversions at the keyword level. For this site, a conversion would be a search for a local dealer and/or a phone call, rather than any direct contact with the manufacturing company. Over the next 2 years, however, targeted keyword traffic continued to go up, more phone calls were coming in, and the company’s dealers were getting more leads than ever before. Until they implemented a redesign.

We knew they were in the process of redesigning and provided them with information on what to watch out for during a redesign. We also asked to be kept in the loop during this critical stage. About a week before they were ready to go live, they showed us the new site.

Most of the SEO work we had done was gone!

Title tags were missing and the content had been completely rewritten without regard to the keyword phrases that had been carefully selected for each page.

We scheduled a call and gave them the bad news. They spoke to their developers and were able to retrieve the old Titles and Meta descriptions. In addition, they were keeping the same basic site structure and page URLs. But they were not keen on rewriting their content with keyword phrases in mind at this time. Unfortunately, most of their new content had been shortened from the previous version and was not as descriptive.

Would the lack of keyword phrases in the content really make a difference?

That’s a tough question because you can never be positive what the search engines will do with any particular page. They did now have the same Titles as before and we knew from experience that sometimes Title tags alone can work wonders with the search engines. So my answer to the client was that they would most likely lose targeted search engine traffic for the previously optimized keyword phrases since they were no longer in the content. I provided the caveat that I couldn’t be 100% sure of this, but I recommended that they didn’t risk it and that we re-optimize the content before going live.

They decided to move forward with the un-optimized content and take the risk.

We continued to monitor their analytics very closely to look for declines in traffic. After the first month, there didn’t seem to be much of a difference, and in fact, traffic overall was up. We were hopeful that perhaps the Title tags and their links would prevail and all would be fine.

But by the next month. targeted keyword phrase traffic was substantially down (even though all-around traffic was up). We provided them with a report on this and voiced our concern. The month after that, keyword traffic continued to decline, while traffic for their brand name was up.

Is brand traffic all you want?

We decided to meet with them to explain our concerns. While it’s great to have lots of traffic for your brand name because those people will be your best converters – you don’t need SEO to achieve that. Your other marketing channels should do that for you. They had been doing a great job of getting the word out about their company as a whole, thus, the increase in brand traffic.

But what they and others who don’t implement SEO on their sites are missing out on are those people who don’t already know their brand. That is, the people who know they want a product or a service that solves their problem or fills their need, but don’t know who offers it.

SEO is the marketing channel that brings potential customers to your site who want what you offer, but don’t know how to find you. These are people that will browse through the search engine listings of websites that show up for the product or service they’re looking for, and choose one to purchase from. If your site only shows up for your brand name, you’re not even in the game; the sale will likely go to one of your competitors who have an optimized website.

If you only want to serve the needs of people who already know your brand and aren’t interested in new customers, then you don’t need SEO. But if you want to use every marketing channel at your disposal, SEO is one of the most cost-effective marketing channels to bring in people who don’t already know about you but want exactly what you offer.

(Hat tip to my High Rankings colleague Pauline Jakober who explained to our client this concept of SEO as being just another marketing channel, which inspired me to write this article.)

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO


About The Author: is a pioneer in SEO, beginning in the field in the early 1990s and founding High Rankings in 1995. If you enjoy Jill's articles at Search Engine Land, be sure to subscribe to her High Rankings Advisor Search Marketing Newsletter for SEO articles, SEM advice and discounts on industry events and products.

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  • nickstamoulis

    Hi Jill – Excellent article. I have been in this situation many times in the past and have always tried to hold on tight when a client tell us they want a resdesign. Espically when a web designer claims they know SEO better (usually not the case!).

    That said, SEO is indeed a marketing channel and is NOT the end all be all but is a major source for visitors for most sights. It is about bringing in new visitors, leads and sales and supporting your branded keywords via other online and offline marketing channels that lead a visitor to search for a company’s branded terms. I think clients some times loose sight of this and are either all one way or all the other, there should be a nice appriopriate balance of new and brand visitors.

  • hugoguzman

    Hey Jill! My favorite part of the article is the point about branded vs. non-branded traffic.

    It’s amazing to see even large organizations with sophisticated marketing programs (and budgets) fail to grasp this concept.

    One of our standard analytics/reporting deliverables is a breakout of monthly and year-over-year trending for non-branded natural search referrals and conversions, but when we first present this to clients they’re often astonished, because all they’ve ever seen was the old run-of-the-mill aggregate report that includes all of those branded search terms.

    And that’s when we end up explaining that those branded terms have little to nothing to do with SEO and should therefore not be included as a primary metric of success. Why? BECAUSE 99% of the time, THEY ALREADY RANK NO. 1 FOR THEM, ALWAYS DID, AND ALWAYS WILL! (i.e. there’s nothing to optimize…it’s a function of branding efforts, etc).

  • Jill Whalen

    @hugoguzman EXACTLY!

  • danmayna

    Hi Jill,

    Great article. What is interesting is that in some cases you can have the keyword phrase in your title tag and have backlinks to the page with the keyword phrase and you can still rank in the SERP for the keyword phrase without it appearing in the content.

    I would have assumed this possible in the above case. I guess it depends on the degree of comeptitiveness of the keyword phrase, the quality/quantity of backlinks with that keyword phrase and where that backlink resides in terms of relevance.

  • sm911

    SEO = The unique key of the door which provides access to millions

    SEO is the most valuable key of digital marketing. The most important part of digital marketing is the search engine marketing. The most valuable key in search engine marketing which brings millions of internet users to your website is SEO. SEO stands for search engine optimization.

    Google is by far the best search engine of the world, Google is the digital marketing itself. SEO and Google has a lock and key relationship. Whereas the most valuable lock to the worlds digital market is Google, the key of this lock is SEO. Therefore when Google is named in this digital market, SEO should be flashed and vice versa.

    Taken from SEOBORG


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