Search engine optimization (SEO) has long been recognized as one of the most impactful, highest ROI marketing channels.
Search is the starting point for 68% of online experiences, and ROI of SEO can be over 12 times greater than other types of marketing spend.
The past 12 to 18 months and all of the uncertainty around the Coronavirus pandemic has really demonstrated the value of SEO beyond its traditional positioning as a set of tactics specific to one channel.
Today, leaders are incorporating SEO insights into all areas of the business, from R&D and product to sales, customer service, strategic planning, and beyond.
SEO Adds Incremental Value Across the Organization
Conversion is a key performance metric in digital marketing, across the board. And search does, in fact, convert motivated consumers to visit a site, click an ad, call a business, and even place or order or book an appointment in ways that are tangible and measurable.
The incremental value of SEO is more difficult to quantify. Search rankings and traffic are straightforward metrics -- but the measurements of brand awareness and sentiment are not so straightforward. And yet the brand’s visibility in search -- and the way consumers interact and are impacted by it -- can tell us a great deal.
SEO data, when analyzed at scale, becomes insights that are as close to the real-time voice of the customer as we can get. The pandemic taught us that historic performance data can only get you so far. In 2022, a BrightEdge survey (disclosure, my company) found that 79% of marketers will look to search Business Intelligence to help drive digital strategy and align to organizational objectives in 2022.
The initial knee-jerk reaction at the beginning of the pandemic to cut back quickly reversed as marketers realized the dramatically increased informational needs of their audiences and web traffic increased.
All of these search queries, clicks, site visits, and other interactions generate a massive amount of customer data that savvy organizations are learning to deploy across the business.
SEO insights are revealing the intent behind the query. They are providing critical insight into not only what consumers need but why they are motivated to purchase and use it, who else like them may be receptive, where you’re most likely to connect with them, and more.
Tapping Into SEO’s Potential
Of course, all of these touchpoints are creating a huge amount of data -- far more than even the best marketing team could analyze on its own.
Gartner reports that 51% of CIOs say they have already deployed AI or intend to do so in the next 12 months. AI and machine learning are being used to streamline processes, convert data into actionable insights, recognize patterns and predict opportunities, and even personalize content and experiences in real time.
Ensuring that all areas of the business not only understand the value of SEO insights but are set up to make good use of them is essential. The C-suite, for example, are not likely interested in ranking reports. However, this could be invaluable information for local store owners or franchisees who want to complement organic search performance with paid and other marketing channels.
Similarly, those local managers probably would not know what to do with the fact that a large percentage of people who use your product also have a related need that has become evident in your macro-level insights. That information is far more useful to your product development and marketing teams, who may use it to form new partnerships or even create new products.
In this way, SEO leaders are being challenged to bridge informational gaps across the organization. Business leaders cannot take advantage of these insights without understanding that allocating budget to SEO is no longer about simply funding search optimization tactics. The value of SEO insights for every department and channel must be factored into decisions about the people, processes, and tools required to activate these insights at scale.
In 2022, search insights will continue to permeate more of the organization -- that is, in those businesses where SEO is equipped and empowered to lead.
Staying agile and being proactive rather than reactive to changing consumer needs and market conditions means expanding SEO into all areas of the business.
Those organizations that can make this shift in mindset will be best positioned to capitalize on all of these opportunities that real-time search data presents in the coming year and beyond.