By: Andrew Lane, Salmat
SEO, SEM and search in general are some of the most misunderstood tools for marketers in the mid-tier sector. But, search is one of the most important ways to get your website found.
We know that the company website is the single most important channel for marketing.
Most mid-tier marketers agree.
Three quarters (72.7 per cent) of marketers in the mid-tier sector invested in their website in 2016. And one in three (36.1 per cent) would invest more if they had the time or money.
Those statistics are understandable. Your website is, of course, the most valuable asset of a marketing strategy.
Your website should:
- Define the online experience for customers with your brand (and for those in eCommerce, directly influence sales.)
- Offer a seamless, fast and appealing online experience.
However, a website is not a simple channel; it’s effectively a company’s digital doorway that allows people to enter its universe.
And while social media and email are key tools for driving people through the door, our research has found that some marketers are currently placing little or no investment in ensuring their website can be found in search.
It’s a huge missed opportunity.
In 2016, only 12.4 per cent of marketers in the mid-tier sector invested in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), and only 6 per cent invested in Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
Even more shocking is how little interest there is in training on Search. Only 8 per cent and 5.6 per cent of respondents told us that training in SEO and SEM respectively was a priority for them in the year ahead.
Back up, what is SEO; what is SEM?
SEO and SEM are different practices, but they serve the same objective.
The objective of Search is simple: be positioned high-up on the first page of results in search engines to increase visibility and drive qualified traffic from interested people. The more competitive the market, the more challenging it is to achieve this.
SEO focuses on optimising websites to be more search-engine friendly, which means creating relevant and authoritative content that will help users and improve the website’s organic visibility and indexing.
SEM focuses on buying keywords in an auction-based bidding system so when customers type those keywords into Google, a company’s website appears in the ad section found above the organic search results.
Why SEO and SEM investment is essential
So, why does this matter?
It matters because Australians spent 552 million hours googling in 2015, according to Roy Morgan. In fact, 86 per cent of Australians aged 14+ visited the Google Search page at least once during an average four-week period in 2015.
And they’ve also found that when searching more than 90% of people don’t click past the first page of results.
So unless your company is addressing a very niche segment of the market (and I mean super niche; “Christmas outfits for alpacas” niche), it is unlikely a website with no SEO/SEM investment behind it will appear on the first page of Google’s search results for searched outside of their own brand name.
Why do marketers neglect search?
Our data shows that Search is where marketers feel their skills are most lacking. And it appears that this lack of skills and knowledge is driving their decision to not invest in this important tool.
Mastering the basics of SEO and SEM can be complicated without having to effectively apply it to a 360-degree marketing strategy, too.
For one, the search landscape is constantly changing. It used to be that Google would update their algorithm once or twice a year and the internet would go crazy analysing what it meant – and updating best practice. These days, the algorithm is in a state of constant flux.
However, in the online market, mid-tier companies need to understand the importance of SEO/SEM and start to educate themselves if they want to improve the performance of their online business.
Imagine you’ve just invested a considerable amount of money in the best car on the market for your needs. You’ve spent the entire day polishing the bonnet and wiping clean the glass, all ready for a big outing to show it off around the neighbourhood. The time comes for you to set off … and you realise that you’ve forgotten to buy petrol. Nobody but you and the cat will be seeing the car tonight.
That’s what you’re doing when you neglect search.
How can marketers improve their knowledge and skills when it comes to search?
I’ll admit that it’s not always easy to weed out the noise from the facts online. Plus, there are a million short courses claiming to illuminate Search that aren’t always worth the investment.
The good news is that you don’t need a huge amount of money or resources to develop good search practices; it’s a common misconception that understanding search data is only for a select few, or requires a huge financial investment.
What can help is a partner to help you connect the dots, build on your knowledge and get started with a plan.
SEO and SEM are complex, which is why so many specialty digital and Search agencies exist to help and guide marketers on strategies.
It’s also why choosing the right partner is crucial. As I said before, there’s a lot of noise out there and any misjudgment on the keywords to use, or the editorial line or semantic to use for website copy can end up costing you money.
The first step is to recognise the importance of Search to your marketing strategy.
The second is to find the right partner to learn the basics of Search and how they can be efficiently combined with existing investments and traditional channels.
The third is to work with that partner to develop a Search strategy that will place you at number one in a Google search with your core customer.