SEO is marketing
SEO should be solidly considered a marketing function. That's because SEO is, perhaps, the best form of marketing available.
SEO often exists on an island of its own.
Getting buy-in for an SEO investment is already difficult enough. But we also face the challenge that many companies still question where it fits in with their overall marketing budget.
You’d think we’d have this figured out by now.
- Are there technical aspects to SEO? Absolutely. But is technical all SEO is? Absolutely not. Not even close.
- SEO isn’t advertising. Most companies have PPC budgets in their overall marketing budget. One client I’ve worked with for several years gets about 60% of their traffic from organic search, yet they spend approximately 7x-10x more on paid search efforts which is driving 20% of their traffic. I don’t think this is an unusual case. I think this is more likely the norm.
- Website “stuff” is still typically an IT expense, not marketing. But, creating content for the website might fit into the IT, PR or social (marketing) departments.
While SEO has come a long way and developed legitimacy, I think until company leaders see SEO as “marketing,” we will not have earned the due respect that the field plays in a digital marketing effort.
Until SEO is solidly considered a “marketing” function, we won’t realize the requisite budgets to do this stuff right and have an appropriate amount of time/budget invested, considering the potential value/ROI of a solid SEO effort.
What is marketing?
Do a Google search and you’ll find the following definition of marketing, or something similar:
- “The action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.”
I could stop the argument here. That’s exactly what SEO is here for: to promote a company and to assist in the sales of products and services, including market (keyword/competitive) research.
What encompasses an SEO effort in 2022?
Everyone has their own approach to SEO. Some might say SEO involves meta data. Some might say “technical,” including things like addressing page speed.
While those things are certainly true, they’re small pieces of an all-encompassing approach to SEO.
Put simply, SEO is the process of building your business’s web presence to connect with consumers.
This process may begin with keyword research, but even that small task/deliverable is an involved process.
- How do we want to position the business, its products and/or its services?
- Which competitors seem most aligned to our aspirations and appear to be performing best against those keywords which we’ve identified?
- Have we identified keywords – from all of our analysis – which we deem “very important”, yet we have no pages/content relevant enough to Google/searchers to fulfill the intent of the search?
- If so, how do we intuitively build new pages/content into our website to provide for a better user experience and gain organic search presence?
- How do we cross-promote (link) content, so that it might perform (rank) better?
Do you notice what hasn’t been mentioned?
SEO is not just technical
Certainly, there have been many instances of stepping into a new SEO engagement and addressing a technical glitch and having this be “the thing” that has been preventing success. Those instances are few and far between. The commonly found “you have a disallow: / in your robots.txt” comes to mind.
The technical elements of a new SEO engagement will certainly involve a technical audit (or should). And this isn’t just using one tool to tell you everything that’s broken.
But the technical elements that should exist in an SEO effort might include items such as:
- Technical crawls via any number of tools (Semrush, DeepCrawl, Screaming Frog, etc.).
- Mobile-friendly checks, to ensure that your pages are displaying correctly across multiple devices, loading correctly, content recognized, etc.
- URL reviews, making sure that, when possible, your URL structures are aligned with the keywords that you’re targeting for any given page and don’t have oddities that may impact a page’s ability to rank.
- Canonical reviews.
- Page speed.
Technical SEO is still important, but it’s certainly different than 20 years ago when there were many hand-coded websites.
Nowadays, many off-the-shelf content management systems do a decent job of delivering a “search engine friendly” platform. And, aside from that, there are many plug-ins that can help you to keep things in check.
More often, an SEO effort is truly ‘marketing’
You are working to align pages/content of your website to address known searches performed (and the intent of those searches) based upon a lot of marketing research.
Do we want our “money pages” to rank? Of course, 100% of the time, if we can manage it.
But is that the content we often identify as being “what Google/searchers like/want”? Not always.
Google often groups keywords with intent and groups them as follows:
- Informational results (We may need to create some resourceful content and/or a blog post to address a question that searchers may be asking)
- Transactional results (These folks are looking to buy something/convert; are our pages informative enough, content-rich, etc.?)
- Commercial results (These folks are researching brands and services; do we have strong category pages?)
A larger share of time is being spent on those things “non-technical” in an SEO engagement.
More often, we are seeking ways to optimize:
- Information architecture.
- User experience.
- Conversion rate optimization.
- Video content/YouTube.
- Local organic presence.
- Items related to online reputation management.
- And more.
Using Google Analytics, other tools and measurements, we then optimize our efforts toward specific goals that we’re trying to reach.
Ideally, at the start of an SEO engagement, we’re able to address many of the large technical roadblocks. Often, new “things” will pop up that will require a technical review.
But what will drive the SEO engagement more than anything is a strategic approach to content and helping clients better position their website (and other assets related to their organic presence) and “drive the action of promoting a business’s products or services, including performing market research.”
Which is…. marketing.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.