While most companies understand that they must invest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in order to drive traffic to their website, many underestimate the full value of the practice. We often see brands investing in paid search, paid social and display advertising, but their investments in SEO do not match. Unless marketers are actually setting aside budgets for ongoing paid media strategies, they are only receiving temporary visibility and uplift in traffic from their efforts. Unfortunately, investments in sustainable organic channels continue to remain at a much lower level. For example, while many UAE firms in the MENA region are planning to increase their digital investments by 25%, over 75% of these investments are, again, investments in paid media.
This suggests that there is a strong bias towards paid advertising versus investing in developing long-term organic traffic. Why is this the case? From my experience, there seems to be two contributing factors. First, many marketers lack the patience to wait for long-lasting results, opting to drive instant traffic instead. Second, there is a lack of awareness surrounding the practice of SEO and the true value it can bring to your overall digital success. The latter is further muddled by myths, which cause confusion and misinformation. Below, I tackle these myths to provide greater clarity about SEO and eliminate any confusion you may have.
MYTH #1: SEO concerns only search results
Many believe that SEO is simply the practice of tweaking your website to get better rankings in search results. In reality, SEO impacts how other channels and media investments perform once the generated traffic hits the site. We found that having a good SEO strategy leads to improvements in both user engagement and website conversion rates by at least 50-100% over the course of a year. This means significant improvement on Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) and ROI, as well as reduced CPA on paid campaigns.
The on-page SEO efforts – critical components of any solid SEO strategy – are also proven to improve landing page relevancy, thereby positively impacting your overall digital efforts. Therefore, it’s important to look at SEO as a part of the whole digital approach.
MYTH #2: We must always pay for our brand terms in search
Unfortunately, many marketers still believe they need to invest heavily in paid search to achieve 100% share of voice on Google. This rationale allows them to justify spending 60%-70% of their paid budgets on branded terms. While this may be necessary for certain brands in certain scenarios, it often closes the door to sustainable, organic success. The idea behind great SEO is to, over time, let the brand terms do all the heavy lifting to achieve strong organic visibility. This creates a more balanced split between paid and organic investments online.
MYTH #3: SEO cannot be targeted like paid advertising and does not have the same reach
Paid advertising gained popularity because of the powerful targeting capabilities that ad technologies offer. Many people believe that organic search does not involve targeting. This is simply not true; every piece of content that is vetted through a good SEO process is optimized towards the intent of the user. Therefore, it is highly targeted. The only difference is how you reach your users (inbound vs. outbound marketing).
In fact, organic search has higher reach when looking at Google’s search network alone. Between 80% to 85% of search traffic goes through organic results. Therefore, when your customers are searching for your brand or your products and services online, they are more likely to reach you through organic search than through paid search. This is provided investments are the same on both.
MYTH #4: SEO is slow and takes forever to show results
Most companies prioritize paid search and other form of paid investments over organic marketing. Why? Primarily due to speed when it comes to performance. However, it is not necessarily true that SEO is slower. It is true that the practice usually takes time to provide results in terms of visibility and traffic. However, it makes conversion rates much faster. During the first phase of SEO, you get to know your customers, their intent and search behaviors better. This allows you to offer them relevant content. Also during this phase, you identify areas on your website that could benefit from technical and usability improvements.
While these tactics are generally slower at acquiring traffic, they will quickly improve your site conversion rates. Over the long term, the same level of investment in SEO will result in more customers for fewer visits than that in paid campaigns. This is because paid advertising on its own does not improve conversion rates on landing pages, since it is not its primary focus and scope. This brings me back to my earlier point. You cannot look at these different digital practices in siloes; you must look at how they complement one another.
MYTH #5: SEO is too complex to understand
With the constant changes to search algorithms taking place nowadays, and the complex technical lingo that surrounds the practice, it’s easy to see why many marketers simply give up on immersing themselves in this discipline. It’s easy to throw in the towel and say, “I’m not technical enough to understand it”. However, the underlying principles and driving forces behind SEO are very simple. It all comes down to helping search engines and users find you when they need to, and serving your customers better by giving them exactly what they need. The technical areas of SEO are simply for maintenance and housekeeping purposes. It ensures that you provide the best user experience possible by making the online customer user journey seamless.
Debunking these myths will hopefully have helped you to see SEO in a different light, allowing you to recognize its true capabilities and potential. However, I must point out that my points above do not suggest in any way that SEO is the best investment option within the digital marketing realm. To reiterate, SEO works best when combined with paid media, so that each can complement the others’ weaknesses. However, to achieve sustainable organic results in the long term, SEO is a critical component of your overall digital strategy.
If you would like to share your experience with SEO, or have any questions or comments, please get in touch. We would love to hear from you!