Although there may not be a one-size-fits-all SEO strategy — due to the fact that ideal strategies will vary greatly between industries, company capabilities and business models — one thing remains true for everyone regardless of the size of the search team: ruthless prioritization of SEO efforts remains a critical component of SEO planning tasks.
Still, prioritizing SEO efforts often presents itself as a common challenge, especially for those that lack direct experience managing both SEO and analytics regularly enough to gauge the impact of potential SEO changes.
Proficiency in SEO prioritization depends on one’s ability to correctly assess the impact of changes within an increasingly ambiguous data model, so it requires not only a deep understanding of technical SEO and SEO best practices but also solid statistical analysis capabilities to boot.
In fact, it has been estimated that although nearly 80 percent of employees collect data or use data for decision-making, only 38 percent have the skills and judgment to use data successfully.
Expert proficiency assessing the priority of SEO tasks also requires being more of what I like to call a “right-brain analyst,” blending creativity with knowledge of SEO and a firm grasp of what drives your business in order to build out a comprehensive list of SEO opportunities. If your SEO team (or agency supporting your SEO efforts) does not understand your audience and business model, then definitely start there.
There are a number of areas where you can focus SEO efforts and literally hundreds of tactics that can be deployed. So how will you chose where to prioritize your energy to maximize your results? If you already have a large percentage of your overall website traffic and/or conversions coming from SEO, then you will also need to consider how to incorporate SEO defensive strategies as a top priority within your overall SEO plan.
In addition to SEO defense, here are a few areas that may be top priorities for your SEO program in 2014.
Experts have been going on about the increasing importance of mobile marketing ad-nauseum over the last few years, and the data certainly suggest that those heralding the importance of Mobile SEO have been right all along.
Research conducted with Nielsen shows that 48% of mobile consumers start their purchase journey with paid and organic search results. And according to BI Intelligence, to date, approximately 60% of all online devices are now smartphones or tablets.
Mobile usage continues to rise. In fact, data from Emarketer suggests that in 2013, mobile device usage was the only media device type that showed year-over-year increases in consumer usage. If you don’t already have a mobile optimized site or mobile strategies in place then check out this excellent resource.
According to eMarketer, by 2017, internet users that use a social network will reach 2.55 billion people. That’s staggering considering that the US census bureau estimates the world population to be just over 7 billion. Globally, 1 in 4 people use a social media network, and nearly 88% of marketers will use social media marketing this year.
Social media adds value in many areas beyond search that include research and development, customer support, demand generation, branding, HR and sales. With all of the value-add opportunities that social media presents and the plethora of technology and data available, it can be easy for marketers to lose focus, and it can be challenging to keep SEO and social media aligned effectively.
Thus, social media also presents its own unique prioritization challenges. The companies that will get the most value out of their social media efforts will be those that are able to overcome the challenge of effectively scaling social media across the organization with a clear understanding of the key areas of value that social media brings.
It never ceases to fascinate me that, in general, although organic marketing drives 90% of traffic and paid efforts drive less than 10%, no matter where you go, organic marketing remains heavily under-invested compared with paid marketing activities.
SEO has the power to bring massive efficiencies to your overall marketing program. However, in a do-more-with-less world, in order to build more “free” traffic, you need people to scale. Not to mention these people need to be able to effectively leverage the amazing data and tools available to us today.
Hiring SEO talent with technical and analytical backgrounds can be a challenge, but when you have the right folks in place, some of the biggest search marketing wins you can achieve will be realized by combining your paid search data with your SEO data to improve your results. If you are not looking at paid and SEO data side by side, definitely start there.
Understanding your audience is critical to the success of your marketing efforts, and search marketing is no different. At Adobe, we use our own tools to help us test and customize our messaging so that it is most relevant and engaging to our audience with special consideration to where they are in the customer life cycle.
Beyond audience segmentation based on the phases of the customer life cycle, you may even consider another method of segmenting your audience into other groups, often referred to as cohorts. By taking this next step, you can identify what types of products or website content appeals most toward specific audience members. You can also craft messaging that resonates most with different types of visitors by testing psychology-based behavioral targeting to improve your results.
Whatever approach or combination of methods you employ toward crafting your messaging and behavioral targeting, testing the impact across multiple marketing vehicles such as paid search and SEO continues the yield the best results.
How are you scaling your SEO efforts in 2014? If you do not have an in-house search team, then perhaps 2014 is the year to make bringing SEO in-house a priority. If you already have SEO in-house, then consider the many opportunities to be found by aligning the team appropriately with the right cross-functional colleagues within your own organization to help you scale your SEO efforts.
I was fortunate to be one of the first in-house SEO team members when Adobe decided to bring all of search marketing in-house, almost three years ago. I’ve seen firsthand that the benefits of an in-house SEO team include improved ROI and cost savings. Additional intangible benefits include sales support, product support, regional support, tighter stakeholder support and improved speed to market.
Additional considerations to help scale your SEO efforts in 2014 include investment in SEO tools and technology while finalizing your SEO budget. If at all possible, I always advocate making room in your budgets for SEO training for key employees that will impact your SEO results which includes non-SEO folk like engineers and interaction designers.
There are many other SEO tactics and strategies to consider for 2014, but what are your top priorities this year for SEO? Let’s continue this conversation in the comments — I’d love to hear where you are focusing your efforts in 2014. And I’ll continue to share top strategies and SEO tactics on my Twitter stream @warrenleemedia as I come across them, as well.
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