Marketing strategies involving organic search, or SEO, have never been more complex. Brands are confused about where to deploy resources and investment, the industry is well into its evolution to enterprise marketing and data visibility is poor.
With paid media options that provide more easily trackable ROI, such as paid search, display and paid social, it's understandable why some SEO budgets are slowing. However, there are opportunities to market to your audience with SEO strategies that are not available through paid media channels.
Although increased monetization of search results pages has put a squeeze on organic real estate, organic’s share of traffic is still notably higher than other channels. Merkle's “Digital Marketing Report” data shows organic’s share at 30 percent, and other industry analyses show organic responsible for 30 to 50 percent of traffic online, depending on sector.
Still, we need a clearer view of the landscape and opportunities, while acknowledging key challenges. From this insight, smart marketers can invest in the right areas and prioritize those initiatives that will point their dollars toward performance and away from waste.
SEO Remains a Significant Opportunity for Brands
Despite shifts and challenges in the industry, SEO remains a significant and growing opportunity for marketers to support the customer journey, provide enhancements to mobile discovery and improve overall digital visibility.
SEO Supports the Entire Customer Journey
Search is core to online behavior. SEO addresses a wide swath of the everyday online activity that exists at every stage of the funnel, and especially at the broad top. Paid search, an important component of performance marketing, tends to be more transactional in nature. Organic search is best integrated into an overall strategy with other channels, such as paid search, and tends to be more exploratory. It represents a unique opportunity for brands to be visible to their customers when they're exploring, rather than only when they're transacting.
SEO Represents a Major Opportunity for Mobile
Mobile has overcome desktop as the largest driver of Google's traffic, and the SEO opportunities on mobile devices still represent first-mover advantage to innovative search marketers.
With responsive design and Google’s indexing of mobile apps and deep links, the differences between mobile and desktop experiences are blurring. Single-page applications and progressive Web applications make that connection even closer. Because of its standing between marketing and development, SEO is often a key stakeholder, managing app indexing, deep linking and other cutting-edge mobile opportunities.
SEO Presents Opportunities Not Available to Other Channels
Google's pace of innovation causes a continual release of products available to marketers in search and elsewhere. Some of these are monetized over time, but often are launched without paid inventory. Of these, we're most excited about Instant Answers, rich snippets, the Knowledge Graph, Accelerated Mobile Pages, Firebase app indexing, Google News, and local search.
Unique SEO Opportunities in 2017
Let's start with the king, the Knowledge Graph. This is the advancement Google has made to move toward entity search: the idea that people, places and things can be known, partly through indexing the Web and ingesting public and private data sources, and partly through machine learning.
For search marketers, it means there's often a prominent Knowledge Graph result with valuable real estate that a brand can directly or indirectly influence. More importantly, it means content efforts aren't rewarded by sticking keywords on a page a dozen times and stuffing it down a robot's digital throat.
Synonyms, nuance and topical understanding now trump keywords for robots.
We can finally write with users in mind, not search engines, and have it perform well in organic search.
The Knowledge Graph is partly fed through structured data. Schema.org, the open source standard, presents myriad opportunities for Web content to be marked up. This markup can then be used to create richer marketing messaging in the form of rich snippets and can be leveraged for local citations and many other applications.
Structured data can also aid, but doesn't directly influence, a page's chances of being awarded an Instant Answer. These large results dominate above-the-fold real estate and result in dramatic increases in CTR and traffic acquisition.
Let's explore something that hits close to home for anyone who's ever struggled through a long flight with sluggish Wi-Fi speed. There's no more primal way to delight your audience than with a snappy, hyper-fast Web page. And one of the easiest methods available to do that in search results is through Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP.