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SEO Isn’t Always a Required Marketing Channel

Many marketing leaders believe that investing in SEO is a requirement, but in many cases it is unnecessary and will not generate a positive return.

There is a fundamental misunderstanding in exactly what is expected from SEO, and its black box nature makes it seem almost magical. SEO is not an ATM machine and making a substantial investment in no way guarantees that it will provide the sought-after value.

Investing in SEO requires a strategic approach to attract users, and churning out blog posts towards keywords might achieve some search engine visibility, but not profitability.

Additionally, making a website perfectly compliant with SEO best practices also doesn’t guarantee a result, and making technical investments to achieve this outcome might not be the wisest use of resources.

What’s the Desired User Persona?

To determine whether SEO investment makes sense, a marketing leader must first understand the desired user persona from search engines and whether this persona is even viable. There are many genres, for example long sales cycle B2B products, that simply will not ever have this persona seeking them out on search.

Only once you have identified that your site is a great candidate for an SEO investment can you decide how to deploy that investment. Armed with the knowledge that there is an audience likely looking for your product and service on search engines and not finding you, you can then brainstorm ideas about how to be visible for those users.

In what I term Product-Led SEO, there are many tactics for building an entire product offering around prospective users. The right approach will be contingent on the business category, user persona, and most importantly, what the users might be seeking on a search engine.

User needs could be addressed with a handful of blog posts, a photo library, a video series — but keep in mind, when it comes to users there will never be a one-size-fits all approach. All users and all businesses are different. Even if you think an approach works for a competitor, there is no guarantee that it will work for you, too.

Driving Sales, Not Just Views

In many cases, a competitor might be highly visible on search due to the investments they have made, but it may only be driving eyeballs not sales. Successful SEO requires a holistic strategy that incorporates all aspects of a business, from sales to messaging to product.

  • The best SEO efforts go to market with the same messaging approach that works for every other channel. If there is something that makes your product unique, even within a commoditized market, make this a key part of the SEO effort. There is no reason to have different personas and performance metrics from a paid search channel.
  • Just as your SEO efforts should not be a copy of a competitor, nor should it be easy for someone else to copy you. Keyword driven content is easy to copy by anyone who has the same ability as you to do keyword research.
  • As you build your strategy and develop the content for SEO, use queries that real humans and actual buyers would search, not just words that are suggested by tools. Always ask yourself, what would a user who searched these keywords expect to see on the results page, and that is what you should create.
  • To determine if your expectations are grounded in reality, put your queries into Google and see what else shows up. If these queries bring up substantially different results than you had hoped for, you may want to pivot your strategy. All of your efforts should be focused on the user experience and not a search engine’s requirements.

Business impact should be paramount and should drive all of your decision making. SEO is an investment and this investment should be justified next to other investments. The funds and resources you devote to SEO could just as well be more effective if you deployed them elsewhere, so justify your investment in that light. SEO should only be undertaken if it adds value and marginal impact to your user acquisition efforts.

Author

  • Eli Schwartz is an SEO expert and consultant with more than a decade of experience working for leading B2B and B2C companies. His work has been featured by TechCrunch, Entrepreneur.com, and Y Combinator, and he has given talks at business schools and keynote conferences around the world. His new book is “Product-Led SEO: The Why Behind Building Your Organic Growth Strategy.” Learn more at elischwartz.co.

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Eli Schwartz
Eli Schwartzhttps://www.elischwartz.co/
Eli Schwartz is an SEO expert and consultant with more than a decade of experience working for leading B2B and B2C companies. His work has been featured by TechCrunch, Entrepreneur.com, and Y Combinator, and he has given talks at business schools and keynote conferences around the world. His new book is “Product-Led SEO: The Why Behind Building Your Organic Growth Strategy.” Learn more at elischwartz.co.

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