SEO – Art or Science?Feb 15, 2021
By Rob Stross
So, cards on the table at the beginning of this article – I’m not a "hands-on" SEO expert by any means and am not about to give you a series of SEO quick fixes to boost organic search. Sorry – about that. Search online for these if you want to find them!
However, having been hands-on at the early stage of both WeSwap and Directflights.com I have had many years’ experience of managing marketing budgets and teams in digital start-ups and trying to find answers to those tricky SEO questions we’ve all be faced with ...
- How much do I need to spend on SEO compared to other performance channels?
- Why is there no short-term impact?
- What if google changes an algorithm? Is all that investment wasted?
- White hat v black hat? What on earth does it all mean?
It’s certainly not straightforward and there is not one size fits all, but I’m happy to share some insight into what worked and what didn’t work for us at WeSwap and how we successfully navigated our way through to deliver an effective SEO strategy that helped drive acquisition costs down.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) combines strategies, techniques, and tactics to improve search results. SEO marketing includes elements like content creation, public relations, link building, social media as well as technical SEO – meta tags etc. The only thing that’s guaranteed about SEO techniques is that they will change over time. Yesterday’s techniques fade as new priorities emerge. It’ a moveable target.
Ok so firstly in house or agency?
Not even close. In-house all the time for us. Get a rounded individual with SEO knowledge and motivated to deliver who buys into your long-term vision and is willing to learn and keep abreast of the ever-changing SEO landscape. Although we launched with agency support at Weswap, moving in-house was a game changer for us. The ability to be agile and work as part of the marketing team makes it easier to see the bigger picture and understand what you are doing to support or hinder the SEO process and advise/amend/tweak accordingly. Make sure their KPI’s are SMART and put all the blocks in place to help them deliver. I had nagging concerns the meter was constantly ticking with any SEO discussions with an agency.
Should I be paying for an SEO audit?
I guess that makes sense in principle, but you really need to fully understand this and have in-house expertise to fully appreciate the value of this. It is very easy for any agency to pick holes in what you are doing or have done, suggest ways to improve and then charge silly amounts to rectify this. Arm yourself with in-house expertise first before you go down this road to make the most of this.
PR and SEO – How do they work together?
Useful content on relevant, high authority websites with backlinks to your website is highly valuable and can really help improve your SEO rankings. That is a given, so isn’t this the same as PR? Absolutely.
Follow backlinks, are the name of the game when it comes to link building. But where do you find them? As a rule of thumb, a backlink is set up as follows when it has been placed there for an editorial reason. So, another reason to think about reviewing your SEO budgets to possibly reduce SEO and increase your PR spend.
Essentially any investment in PR to generate high quality online backlinks from trustworthy sites will boost your SEO rankings as well as drive other important business top of the funnel marketing drivers. Most trade and consumer titles will also have a digital presence so make sure you are pushing the agency to deliver not only on content and coverage but also with suitable links from the content where possible. Ideally have these backlinks as KPI’s for your PR agency. Awareness and SEO value – a win win.
Content Strategy – keyword focussed or audience centric?
Moving away from a keyword-first-driven content strategy and into an audience-centric one will put you in a better place for creating SEO content that converts. Don’t get me wrong — there's still an important place for keyword research. But it belongs later in the process, after you've performed a deep dive into your audience and your own brand expertise. The key to connecting with your audience is to develop your unique content angle that delivers on your audience’s pain points.
Having a clear and consistent content strategy delivered across multiple platforms and really engaging with your customers and their needs and wants. Oh, and make sure you are hosting the blog – that’s a common mistake (and one we made at WeSwap). You need to be hosting blog content yourself not via a third-party website to get any SEO value from this.
So back to the original question – an art or a science?
Most definitely an art for me. There is no silver bullet or quick fix when it comes to SEO. It’s about doing a lot of things well and when that is aligned with a great product, you’ll start to see success and start to see your acquisition costs coming down
Scientific models don’t tell convincing stories or know why your audience buys your product. You do. Ranking well in search engines is also the tip of the iceberg – unless underpinned by an amazing product, clear market positioning and slick UI, it won’t help achieve your goals. With so many moveable parts, how it can possibly be anything else but an art.