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The role of SEO in 2020

September 19, 2019
Janne Lemmetyinen

On a scale of 1 to 10, how tired are you of hearing how Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, is going to miraculously fix all your website issues?

This topic has been discussed to death and then beaten with a stick for good measure. A good number of people running websites are numb to the idea of SEO and just let it be as is. As a result, both organic and paid landing pages are in a perpetual state of neglect. The poor quality of the pages reflects in both the quantity and the quality of traffic your site gets. Sound familiar? I would wager that 99 sites out of 100 are like this, but even so, there seems to be no impetus to rise above the competition, as anemic as it might be.


Why is SEO so hard to master?

SEO, unlike most other marketing efforts, requires constant upkeep. It requires fresh and engaging content in the form of text. Videos are up-and-coming. On that topic, YouTube, too, can be SEO-optimized and help your content rise to the top. SEO is an all-encompassing effort because if you want to keep up, it will have to include your new landing pages, your overall communications and all the while it should reflect the role that you’re assuming online. It’s a lot of work and there’s no one in the company dedicated to the task. If there is, they’re tilting at the windmills of an organizational hierarchy that get in the way of making impactful changes on the company website. Add to the mix the fact of how hard it is to show the board the potential monetary value of your SEO efforts…and you have a lot to tackle. Maybe we should just leave the site as-is.


Why should I even bother?

Think of how you generally use the web. What’s the type of content you find reliable when you search? Do paid ads compel you, or are you more likely to gravitate towards the first organic results? There’s a good chance that you’re running an adblocker or three, so you didn’t even see the ads and the thing you’re looking at are the sites that got their stuff together and decided to optimize. Even if your search wasn’t commercial, you can be sure that the company had a goal in mind when they optimized the page for you to find. They might be building trust through sharing expertise, offering expert reviews on-demand, or simply offering a resource that arouses your interest just enough for you to submit that contact form to ask for more info. Consider the fact that at the end of the day, the buyers in the B2B sector are just people and their purchasing habits during office hours follow the same pattern as they do off the clock.

When we’re talking about B2B, you’re not going to do an online search and make a purchase valued in the hundreds of thousands or even millions based on that search or its results, but you can be sure that buyers are using Google to scope for potential partners. And guess what? The ones that end up in consideration are often those who rose to the top. They did it on the merit of what they had on their page. It’s those who get a contact request and eventually get asked for a quote. Websites as lead generators are comforting in that what happens there is always measurable and as such, you can put a very clear value on the leads you get, if you put in the legwork.

It’s very easy to neglect Search Engine Optimization. You have no budget to do it and there’s internal resistance to any and all changes on your website. There’s an assumption that the monetary value of these actions can’t be measured. People inside the company love how the site looks. This is true even if it is in all reality a poor experience for the user in that they can’t find what they’re looking for and you’re not doing anything to help them. Far too many sites are nothing more than a pretty picture or a mixed bag of stimuli pulling the user in several directions rather than pointing towards a clear goal. Think of a website that you enjoy and how you navigate there. Compare this to the context of your website and your core products/services.


What you should actually be doing for your SEO

Ok, we’ve established that SEO is controversial, often hard to grasp and very easy to neglect. So, let’s discuss the ways to get out of that pit.

-Assume direct control. Have that wrestling match with all the people who have a vested interest in your website and figure out who’s in charge. Meaningful change requires that someone takes ownership. Whether that person is you or someone else with a clear vision, there needs to be someone quite literally dictating what happens next. Democracy is dead.
-Create guidelines. As you’re now in charge of how your site is going to be developed, you must also inform people how it’s going to be from now on. There’s a calendar on how new content is created and what elements to focus on. A tone is set, and it carries over between posts. All new content goes through you or another person with an understanding of how SEO works and contains the message you want to be sending.
-Make your site clear. The most compelling bit of content is lost if it’s posted on a site that is not easily navigable, is hard to look at, or lacks structure. You know where your core business comes from, so you rearrange your site hierarchy in such a way that the important content is front and center, with other pages pointing towards it. There are clear calls to action across your site pointing towards the one goal that is most important. Divergent calls to action are removed. You remove annoying and unnecessary elements from your site like header images that take up the whole screen or carousels that do nothing but annoy the viewer. Seriously, get rid of any and all carousels (revolving images) that you have on your site.
-Get links. Got a close partner you’ve worked with for years? Ask if you can be a guest writer on their blog and include a backlink from there. Are there local industry pages and are you involved in them? If not, get involved and ask them to include a link. Links are important and in the eyes of the search engine will help highlight the role of your site in the matrix of your industry and increase its relevance.

What’s more, you should investigate the possibility of creating videos if possible. In addition to optimizing your core pages for the keywords you’re looking to promote organically, you should also create YouTube content to match those words and embed it on your site. The two will help each other.


In closing

I dipped into the user experience in writing this, but SEO and U/X are often intertwined so it made sense. SEO makes it so that users find you; U/X makes sure they have an easy time while they’re there and a compelling reason to return. The point I’m trying to get across here is that SEO is more than writing copy where you’re planting your keyword X times on a given page. That’s just one part of the puzzle—and you shouldn’t leave it there. When writing copy, write to the person you’re looking to reach. Share your expertise. Offer reviews. At the top of your funnel, simply educate your users who came onto the site using some generic term. In the next step, use the terminology you taught your users at the top. Track how your labour bears fruit and in doing so, make your SEO efforts measurable. With the right tools and measurements, you can absolutely qualify leads and the channels they took and thus ascribe a monetary value to your SEO efforts.

Don’t let SEO be a bogeyman. Don’t fear that bit of internal confrontation it requires for you to take charge and convert your site to be what you’ve always wanted it to be. And if you’re not quite sure what role you should assume online and what your site should be doing, ask us; we’re more than happy to help.

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Janne Lemmetyinen