In this guest post, Salmat Digital’s head of search, Andrew Lane (pictured below), says modern marketers who ignore internet search do so at their peril…
Three quarters (72.7 per cent) of marketers in the mid-tier sector invested in their website in 2016. And one in three (36.1 per cent) would invest more if they had the time or money, which makes it the most important of marketing channels. This is legitimate considering a website is not a simple channel, it’s effectively a company’s digital doorway that allows people to enter its universe. While social media and email are key tools for driving people through the door, a large number of marketers are currently placing little or no investment in ensuring their website can be found in search engines. This is a huge missed opportunity, and here is why.
SEO and SEM are different practices, but they serve the same objective: be positioned high-up on the first page of results in search engines to increase visibility and drive qualified traffic from interested people. The more competitive the market, the more challenging it is to achieve this.
SEO focuses on optimising websites to be more search-engine friendly, which means creating relevant and authoritative content that will improve the website’s organic visibility and indexing.
SEM focuses on buying keywords in an auction-based bidding system so when customers type those keywords into Google, a company’s website appears in the ad section.
SEO and SEM are essential considering the importance of search engines in driving traffic to a website. According to Roy Morgan, Australians spent 552 million hours googling in 2015, and 86 per cent of Australians aged 14-plus visited the Google Search page at least once during an average four-week period in 2015. More importantly, more than 90 per cent of people don’t click past the first page of results!
So unless your company is addressing a very niche segment of the market, it is unlikely your website will appear in Google’s first page of results without Search investment behind. Despite that, only 12.4 per cent of marketers in the mid-tier sector invested in SEO, and only six per cent in SEM in 2016. Even more shocking is how little interest there is in training on Search. Only eight per cent and 5.6 per cent of them intend to train respectively in SEO and SEM this year.
Unfortunately, search remains one of the most misunderstood tools for marketers in the mid-tier sector. Data show that this is the channel where marketers feel their skills are most lacking, driving their decision not to invest. Mastering the basics of Search can be complex. The search landscape is constantly changing. It used to be that Google would update their algorithm once or twice a year and the internet would go crazy analysing what it meant – and updating best practice. These days, the algorithm is in a state of constant flux.
But mid-tier companies must consider the importance of search and start to educate themselves if they want to improve the performance of their online business. Investing heavily in a website and neglecting Search is like investing a considerable amount of money in the best car on the market, but forget to buy petrol. This is throwing money down the drain.
The first step is to recognise the importance of search to your marketing strategy and make the necessary investments in education. I’ll admit that it’s not always easy to weed out the noise from the facts online. Plus, there are a million short courses claiming to illuminate Search that aren’t always worth the investment. The good news is that you don’t need a huge amount of money or resources to develop good search practices; it’s a common misconception that understanding search data is only for a select few, or requires a huge financial investment.
Then it is time to define and launch your first search campaigns, and make sure they can be efficiently combined with existing investments and traditional channels. The third one is to develop a Search strategy that will effectively place you at number one on Google. The second and third steps can be tricky at first, so you might consider the help of a partner when launching your first campaigns and define your first strategy. They will be the best support for you to improve faster and quickly become a search master, before your competitors do!
In any case, marketers can’t keep neglecting search and should get serious about it now if they don’t want their expensive websites to be a useless investment.