Is your business considering an organic SEO strategy to bring traffic to a new or existing website? Or have you recently kicked off a new organic SEO campaign, but are failing to see the traffic gains you were hoping for?
In either case, you’re probably wondering about SEO ROI: will the time, effort, and expense pay off?
You may have gotten motivated to try SEO for your business after talking to others who have been building organic SEO for years and are hitting it out of the park. But the unfortunate truth is, those starting now are not going to see SEO value as quickly or easily as those who started even 5 years ago. It’s going to take more patience and a bigger budget. That’s because the landscape for SEO has changed so much in that time.
Here’s what you need to know about organic SEO effectiveness as we approach 2020 and what you can expect to achieve.
Why is it harder today to get results from organic SEO?
1. More competing content
Even a year ago, we heard business owners and salespeople say, “my customers are not on the internet.” It wasn’t true then, but today nobody has delusions about that. Everyone is on the internet, and almost everyone is using it to make buying decisions.
As that fact becomes more obvious even to the last holdouts, more companies are using digital content to try and attract customers. There has been an explosion in the amount of content out there, which makes it harder for a new website (or newly-optimized one) to get attention.
For organic SEO to bring you business, your content needs to rank on the first page of Google search results (and as close to the top as possible). Virtually no one looks beyond page one. And the top search result gets the vast majority of clicks.
To get an idea about how hard that is today, try searching for a phrase related to your business, and look at the top of the results page for the number of results Google has found. I just searched for “digital marketing” and there are 2,900,000,000 results for my query! That’s what you are competing against. And your content has to be better than all of them to get ranked in the top spot.
Creating content that good is a big challenge. And, you must do so on a consistent basis.
2. Increasing emphasis on authority & engagement
How does Google judge what content is the best? Well, their algorithm is a closely guarded secret and is constantly changing, but there are things we do know:
First, Google increasingly considers the “authority” of the website as a ranking criteria. That means Google prioritizes content from websites they see as trustworthy sources of information on the subject matter. A new website, or one that has just been optimized for organic SEO, typically has very little authority. It takes time to build that authority to the point where you can compete with others who have been doing it much longer.
One way to build your website’s authority is getting other quality websites to link to your content. That’s easier said than done, and of course your competitors are all doing the same thing.
Second, Google judges content quality by the amount of engagement it gets, as measured by “click throughs” (the number of searchers who click on the result and get to your website) and dwell time or time-on-page (the amount of time visitors spend on your web page).
When you don’t have much organic traffic yet, you may have to find other ways of getting people to engage with your content, such as through email or social media.
3. More elements on the search results page
In the past, there were only 10 organic listings on a Google search results page. So, if your page was in the number 4 or 5 position, you still got eyes on that result and had a good chance of getting a click.
Now, even if you are fortunate enough to get your page to the top organic position, there are as many as 5 ads, videos, and local listings that push your search result further down on the page. It’s not unusual to have to scroll down “below the fold,” even on a desktop computer, to see the top organic search result. On a mobile device, you have even less chance of getting seen.
Complicating matters further is something called “featured snippets” on the search results page. These are Google’s attempts to answer the query right on the results page, so the searcher does not need to click through to another website. Snippets are appearing more and more frequently, and sometimes they prevent searchers from getting to your website.
The point is, to get visibility and traffic to your website, you not only need content that gets ranked in the top organic positions, but you also need to appear in local listings, video listings, featured snippets, and in some cases, advertising.
4. Increasing technical requirements from Google
Ten years ago, you may have been able to get your brother in law to build you a halfway decent website using a template. Today, if you want your website to be found via organic search, you need experienced technical professionals to implement advanced features.
For example, Google has recently begun prioritizing websites in search results that are designed for viewing on mobile devices. And, Google prioritizes sites that have fast loading pages (which can require a new technology called AMP to boost speed). Plus, there are technical coding requirements to get your pages to show up in local search results.
All of these technical requirements increase the time and money required to build a website that’s optimized for organic SEO.
What to expect if you’re starting an organic SEO project now
The bottom line is, don’t expect to see SEO ROI within the first year, and even longer in highly competitive industry. It takes time, experienced talent, a significant financial investment, and of course the right strategy, to start seeing a return.
Many businesses will not be in a position to wait that long for results. So what can you do? Should you give up on organic SEO altogether?
What else can you do to get results faster?
Just a few years ago, organic SEO was considered a top priority and the backbone of any digital marketing effort. Today, that’s changing. While we don’t usually recommend abandoning SEO altogether, we are recommending a hybrid approach for those who can’t wait a year or more to see results. That often means layering in quicker-win tactics while you slowly build your SEO.
I can’t tell you in a blog post exactly what your strategy should be. There is no cookie-cutter approach, because every company has unique needs and goals. Think of marketing strategy like baking: you need the right recipe, ingredients, tools, and conditions to get the desired result.
So, the first thing you need to do is take a hard look at the result you want. Think bigger than sales and marketing numbers; consider the future of your business. What are you building toward? Once you identify those long-term goals, it’s easier to put together the best tactics to get you there.
Here are just a couple of recommendations to get you started on the path to a successful marketing strategy for your business:
- Every successful strategy starts with understanding your target audience. What interests them, motivates them and worries them? What are they doing to find solutions to their problems? Upfront work that digs deep into buyer intelligence sets the stage for developing the right strategy.
- For companies having a hard time bringing in new business, start growing your bottom line by delighting your current customers. Think your customers are happy? You don’t really know unless you ask regularly. Uncover your weaknesses and fix them, and find out how you can provide additional (revenue-generating) value to your customers.
Read these articles to learn more:
Questions? Concerns about how all of this could work for you? Contact HELLO Marketing for a free 20-minute consultation. Just call Lauren directly, at 973.214.5942 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.