How often do you Google your own business, checking rankings for various keywords and comparing them to your competition?
Some CEOs check several times a week, or even daily. This is a good way to drive you and your marketing staff crazy, and it’s not necessary.
Like most aspects of digital marketing, search engine optimization has evolved a great deal over the last several years, while common understanding of how it works has lagged far behind. Most executives who aren’t actively engaged in this space still think of SEO as some kind of magic feather, a vault of unspeakable treasures waiting for the business that wins the war over keywords and links, at least until Google releases the next dream-crushing algorithm update.
Contrary to what some bloggers claim, SEO is not dead. It is still a vital part of a good online strategy, but the role it plays is different from what we once thought it was. It’s time to stop obsessing over SEO, and start worrying about lead generation.
Many businesses get so focused on boosting their rankings they forget all about putting the right mechanisms in place that allow them to benefit from increased traffic.
Suppose you rank well for a certain keyword. What proof do you have that it is putting money in your pocket? Unless you are measuring lead generation, the evidence is usually not there.
CEOs have a tendency to place way too much faith in user behavior, assuming that increased traffic automatically equates to boosted revenue. This is not the case, and a quick examination of your marketing analytics will likely confirm there is more work to do. Attracting visitors is only the first of many steps that lead to a sale.
SEO is a content distribution tactic and nothing more. Its sole purpose is helping you convert visitors into leads or customers.
Search engines are channels that deliver traffic – just like social media, email marketing and paid advertising – allowing you to move people into your sales process, and if proper mechanisms are put in place to gather and nurture leads on your website, you will make your investment in SEO a good one.
“Can you get my website to rank first for (insert keyword phrase)?”
There is no question an SEO specialist dreads more than that one, because unless your website already has some authority on the subject, including a lot of content equity, you are facing a long, uphill battle to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). Even the best content for any search phrase often ranks third or fourth behind various lists and directories.
This should be common knowledge by now, but I’ll say it anyway: Anyone who guarantees top rankings on Google is either selling you snake oil or using black hat tactics that will get your website penalized or banned. Believe it.
When it comes to SEO, there are no shortcuts. You need to carefully select niche long-tail keyword phrases, plot out a long term content strategy, and start pouring your knowledge and experience out onto the page. You have to write and write and write some more – updating your blog at least once a week – if you want to start gaining organic search traffic.
Another outdated concern we need to cast aside is the ever-present fear of Google algorithm updates. I honestly think some SEO specialists talk about algorithm updates to make their work sound more complicated than it is, and it makes business owners unnecesarily anxious. Here are a few points that help will ease your mind:
1. Google has one goal – improving search results for users.
Every highly publicized Google update is intended to improve results for the users. Their engineers are constantly fine tuning the way content is indexed, interpreted and presented to users, in hopes of giving people fast access to the best information available.
Their goal is not to penalize websites, although penalties are used to keep people from trying to game the system and cheat their way to the top of search results when they really don’t belong there.
2. If you aren’t trying to manipulate rankings, you have little to worry about.
If you aren’t taking shortcuts or using marketing gimmicks to boost your rankings, you are in the clear. Stay away from shady link building practices and content duplication, and focus on publishing as much quality information as you can on your website. You should also work on smart distribution tactics and networking with other influential websites, gathering inbound links by showing people your content is amazing.
We used to think of search engine optimization as the Holy Grail of online marketing, when today it’s only one tool among many that bring qualified traffic to a website. What makes SEO special is the trust people place in the links they find in organic search results. Google has been cultivating that trust for almost two decades, and you should too. Because nothing sells like trust.