Rhea: Invest in SEO
Invest in SEO
As the internet gets increasingly cluttered with information, products, and advertising, the need for differentiation is now stronger than it ever was before.
While many companies invest in paid search solutions to lure in customers, paid search can only take one so far. In a study conducted by GroupM UK and Nielsen, a whopping 94 percent of users chose to click on organic (non-paid) search results rather than sponsored advertisements, which appear at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs).
So why would companies invest in paid search at all if they could just get their pages to the top of a search engine’s organic results? The answer is, because it’s not that simple. Bringing your page rank up in organic search results requires investment in what is known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which has, in recent times, become an indispensable part of the marketing mix for businesses.
SEO means relevance
SEO is an important investment for businesses given internet users’ overwhelming preference towards organic search results. This is due to a number of reasons, but the most important one is trust. Most internet users are aware of the fact that sponsored results are paid for, commercially motivated, and can be manipulated to match their search specifications.
SEO, on the other hand, ranks pages based on an algorithm that checks whether the information provided on the pages is relevant and credible. This reassures users that the link they are clicking on is certain to deliver the information they are looking for. Similar to being wary of television or magazine commercials, consumers tend to steer clear of clicking on paid search results.
SEO builds credibility
In addition to this, brands build their reputations through SEO. A mobile phone brand, for example, that does not turn up in the first page of search results when one is looking for a mobile phone, reduces the brand’s value and visibility. This would be further compounded in the case of a brand whose only results on the first page are sponsored results, as it gives the impression that the brand is unable to deliver relevant content to the user unless it is paid for.
But just how important is it to get to that top spot in the organic results?
The same study analyzed the click-through rates of organic search results for brand versus non-brand searches, to see how important it is to be among the top three organic results. It turns out that for brand searches, 80 percent of users click on the very first result, with another 6 percent and 4 percent clicking on the second and third. Similar statistics for non-brand searches showed that 35 percent of users clicked on the first result, followed by 15 percent and 11 percent for the second and third results respectively. Therefore, being among the first few organic search results can lead to significantly higher visibility for a brand.
SEO paves the way for future business opportunity
Investing in SEO gives a business not only the chance to capitalize upon present opportunities, but also paves the way for future opportunities as well. Consider the example of a bank that is offering savings accounts to its customers. While it ranks in the top ten search engine page results for the keyword “savings account”, it may also be ranking in the top 20 results for the keywords “fixed deposit account”, or “current account”. By not taking the opportunity to pull itself up in the page rankings for these keywords, the bank would be losing business, since approximately 75 percent of internet users tend to click on links that appear in the first page of search results.
SEO is a long term investment
In SEO, you pay for you want to achieve. Getting to the top ranks of search engine results pages takes patience and investment, but once a brand makes it to a prime position, the effort will pay off. Generally, smaller companies prefer to invest in paid search rather than SEO, as it delivers a quicker return on interest in a shorter period of time. Though the effects of investment in SEO may not be as visible in the short term, it is definitely important to invest in SEO in the long run.
The process of optimizing a website is dynamic, and takes time to understand. It involves understanding exact customer needs, the ways in which they search for it, and the competitive landscape. Though many SEO “experts” claim to be able to bring up a page’s rank in the search engine results page in a matter of weeks, it is important to understand that SEO is about quality, rather than quantity. Merely populating a website with search keywords is not the solution.
Once your SEO strategy is in place, however, you will not only have a better understanding of your customers, but also be able to effectively deliver the value they are seeking.
SEO ties in with word-of-mouth and social sharing
Research by MarketForce has indicated that 81 percent of online customer purchases are influenced by social media. Nielsen also estimated that approximately 92 percent of people trust recommendations given by family and friends. It is clear to see that a brand’s online community is one of the biggest influencers in purchase decisions.
Content shared on social networks are directly relevant to SEO related parameters, and can help a brand gain higher recognition in social circles. In addition to this, a study recently conducted by comScore suggested that 63% of offline purchases are made after doing research online. Therefore, ranking higher in organic search results not only exposes a brand to its immediate community, but to a vast number of potential customers as well.
SEO drives relevant traffic
The same rule for relevance applies to businesses as it does to customers. SEO helps to drive more relevant traffic towards web pages. This is because when a customer visits a site through SEO, the business can be assured that he has reached there by looking for information or a product that is relevant to the business. The intention behind the search is clearer, in this case.
Customers who turn up through paid search, on the other hand, may not have been looking for information directly related to the product, and may have clicked on a sponsored result if it matched some of their search criteria. While this may eventually result in a conversion, the customer intent that was visible through the SEO search is missing, and makes for a poorer quality lead.
SEO is analytical
SEO is not about poking around in the dark until you hit upon success. Sophisticated performance and tracking tools help to measure the effects of SEO optimization in the long run. As the competitive landscape and customer search habits change, so can a business adapt its SEO strategy accordingly. This is a cornerstone to success in SEO strategy, as it is important to keep your page updated with relevant content as per search behavior.
Therefore, it is clear to see that SEO not only gets a brand higher visibility and credibility, but also creates real value for both, customers and the business, by matching search behavior with search results.
In spite of these findings, a large majority of brands continue to invest more heavily in paid search rather than SEO. Forrester’s Interactive Marketing Forecast indicates that marketers spend on average, 88 percent of their search marketing budget on paid search. Fundamentally, this seems imbalanced, as the click-through rates for organic search results, at 94 percent are significantly higher than those for paid search results, at 6 percent.
While many businesses shy away from SEO given its long turnaround time and difficulty in finding organic traffic, it remains one of the most important investments for a company that wants to build a convincing online presence. Building an integrated marketing strategy that encompasses SEO, paid search, social media, and content marketing, is likely to show the strongest results.