Not so fast! The role of SEO in online marketing
Search engine optimization, or SEO for short is the engine that powers online marketing. Without a properly optimized website, acquiring customers, buyers and visitors becomes a much more expensive task. Our company, Marketing Professzokor Kft. specializes in online marketing counseling, of which search engine optimization is only a part of.
SEO, while unquestionably the most important part of online marketing, is not enough on its own. In addition to search engine optimization, content marketing and social media marketing are also among the basic tools needed for a successful online marketing strategy, and can only function efficiently if all are utilized alongside each other. Supplemented by PPC advertisements, remarketing, and email marketing, they make up the most cost-effective marketing communication structure.
So why am I talking about search engine optimization if SEO isn’t even my profession?
Who’s best at search engine optimization?
In 2003, a book titled “Keresőmarketing” by Nebojsa Damjanovich was published (keresőmarketing is the Hungarian word for “search engine marketing”). I was so happy about it. Back in 1997, I was interested in web design and I even created the website for our department. Then, in 1998, after getting my diploma, I immediately took up marketing communications. I quickly realized that online marketing can be a cost-friendly tool for marketing communications for businesses.
I started working on search engine optimization at the businesses my company was providing consulting for. We achieved surprising results. Online quote requests started pouring in, even in business branches it was thought to be impossible for in the early 2000s. For example, we increased traffic for a funeral home by 23% in a year. We didn’t expect such results, and neither did they. In 2003, Nebojsa’s book was published. I was already working on my doctorate at the time, but never thought about writing a book. We started reading the first Hungarian book about Keresőmarketing (again, the Hungarian word for “search engine marketing”).
There was an idea in the book that I found very thought-provoking: “At the minimum, you must rank as number one in Google for everything that you do. I, Nebojsa Damjanovich, for example consider myself an online marketing consultant, and I pay close attention that, if you type “online marketing consultant” into Google, my website is the first.”
Well, after reading that, I decided I wouldn’t rest until I get that first position in Google. In 2006, we were at GlaxoSmithKline’s online marketing tender, trying to get a partnership with the company. Nebojsa was sitting among the members of the company’s acquisition committee as a marketing expert, to help decide who GSK should choose to become their supplier. I confidently talked about how important it would be for GSK to have all their pages rank as number one, for any chosen keyword. Hearing this, Nebojsa asked me: Why do I think that my company could achieve this?
All my respect is Yours, Nebojsa, as Hungarian online marketing consultants really did learn a lot from you. But please allow me to point out, that in your book, you wrote: “At the minimum, you must rank as number one in Google for everything that you do. I, Nebojsa Damjanovich, for example consider myself an online marketing consultant, and I pay close attention that, if you type “online marketing consultant” into Google, my website is the first.” Well, can we check who currently ranks as number one for this particular search? We won the tender, and we became GSK’s online marketing supplier.
SEO counseling in 2019
Much time has passed since 2006, and while creating and implementing online marketing communications for many business with my company, we had learned a lot. Ranking as number one for certain phrases is still very important, but basing SEO on words only is a mistake nowadays. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have a keyword matrix to track the words that should be optimized, but we should be aiming for the entire forest, not just a single tree. Obviously, the forest is made up of trees, and the big trees make up a bigger part of the lumber pile’s volume, than the smaller ones. All trees are important, but at the end of the day, what matters is the total amount of lumber that we can bring home.
This is the case with search engine optimization as well. There are words you’d like to rank as number one for, but it’s not worth spending as much energy on them as on smaller, less important words, which help more with bringing in traffic and facilitating conversions (sales, subscriptions, bookings, etc.) There are people who choose a tree in the forest and concentrate on that single tree only. They nurture it, feed it, help it grow, but if they divided all that attention to the other trees, they would grow as well, resulting in a bigger forest. The biggest problem is when someone is adamant on raising that one tree sky high, even if it consumes more energy than the entire forest.
The results of search engine optimization
SEO’s results are the visitors
Online marketing is measurable. Better so, than the yield of a forest that stands still. These measurements are made inside Google Analytics. Do you have Analytics? Then please, try the following – open your account, click Acquisition, then All traffic, and finally, Channels.
Got it? In the upper right corner, you can see a date range – click on it, then choose Last 30 days from the Date Range dropdown menu. Then check the box next to Compare to, and choose either Previous period or Previous year. If all is set, click Apply.
Analytics then creates a report table for you, which shows the results of search engine optimization in the Organic Search row. This row shows the number of users who navigated to your site from search engine result pages by comparing the two previously set date ranges (for example, the last 30 days, compared to the same time period one year ago). You can also see the differences in percentages with and red or green arrows indicating whether the percentage shows an increase or a decrease compared to the previous period.
Are your arrows green? Then that means your SEO has improved. Are they red? Then it has become less effective. Well, these are the results of SEO. You may not rank better for a single, beloved keyword, but your overall number of visitors has increased as a result of your efforts.
Visitors then become customers. Which means profit. I’m not saying that there aren’t a few words that get stuck on SERPs, but those aren’t worth worrying about. There are several reasons why that could happen. For example, someone may have over-optimized that keyword or phrase, and so Google penalizes that particular keyword. Coming back from a penalty can take a long time – you can try it, and see whether it’s worth it, or not.
There’s a chance that you have become a victim of an SEO attack, or it may be that the keyword is so competitive, and would need much more energy than you’re already spending on it. You shouldn’t neglect it, but don’t concentrate on one single word only.
2019 is getting closer and closer. People don’t search by typing in exact match keywords into Google. Don’t try to please the search engine – try to please the people using it! They’re the ones who can bring profits. I’m not saying you shouldn’t rank as number one for the words relevant to your business. You should. But not at all costs, and not for every one of them.
SEO’s true results are the conversions
As we know, not every visitor becomes a customer. So to know how much your SEO is worth, you have to measure the purchases, bookings, etc. – the conversions. Most businesses in Hungary don’t have their Analytics configured to properly measure their conversions. So, this is the first thing you have to take care of. If you manage to do it, then you’ll be able to see results similar to what Marketing Professzorok achieved for their client, as shown in the screenshots below.
In the following images, you can see how the amount of visitors arriving from Google increased thanks to SEO, as compared to the last three years. The examples show the table and event venue bookings of a restaurant in Budapest.
The references of an SEO company
I know about a lot of marketing consultants, who excel at their own marketing communications, yet fail to achieve positive results for their clients. If you are looking for a marketing consultant, ask for their references – current ones, from 2018. Google’s algorithm changes constantly, and it’s entirely possible that a consultant ranked their clients as number one last year, but Google has since identified their methods as illegal SEO practices.
Naturally, every SEO company aims to rank high for phrases such as “SEO company” or something similar, so it’s important to only look for those who appear in the first 10 positions.
This leads to an interesting combination. I could tell you that my reference is that I ranked someone for the #1 position for “rainbow-drying generator”, so you should choose me, because I have good references. A layman wouldn’t know which phrase is hard to rank for, and which isn’t. But SEO and related words certainly are.
How should I choose an SEO company?
The other day, an acquaintance of mine posted a question asking who among their friends does SEO. Well, my daughter is only 14 years. She had learned a lot from us, but obviously, she’s not a professional SEO consultant. Even she could apply for this, as she knows this field. Many people replied. I did a bit of research them, out of curiosity. They weren’t even among the first 50 results for the phrases “SEO”, search engine optimization”, or “SEO company” (I searched in Hungarian, but you get the idea).
I get that some people are looking for a marketer, but if a marketer appears among the first 10 results for the word “marketing”, then they’re not necessarily good marketers. It just means that they know a bit about SEO.
You probably tried searching for these phrases on Google just know to see who the first 10 results are, right? What I don’t get is why didn’t my aforementioned acquaintance do the same? It seems so obvious that if someone is good at SEO, then naturally, they’ll appear among the top 10 results. As I said earlier, there’s a chance that someone can’t rank for a particular keyword, because their SEO “got stuck”, but they still could rank for others, right? Not appearing for any other phrases either? Then you shouldn’t bother searching for them anymore.
Choosing the right SEO counseling company in five steps
Let’s see what professional factors you should look for when trying to find yourself an SEO counseling company:
- See if they rank for phrases like “search engine optimization,”, “SEO company,” or “SEO”.
- Ask them for fresh references.
- Don’t ask them to rank your website for one particular keyword. Ask them to increase the search traffic of your website from X percent to Y percent in a given timeframe.
- Getting a visitor doesn’t automatically mean getting a customer. Create a system for measuring conversions, and ask them to increase the rate of conversions.
- Don’t bother with SEO on its own. Search engine optimization is only a part of a larger system, which is called online marketing. Ask for an increased number of conversions as part of a complex online marketing strategy!